I am so glad I am a goat farmer. I can officially complain and whine around and have a very good excuse for doing so. In fact, I can be considered a professional whiner and still get some respect because, after all, I am a goat farmer and itĎs my job. I mean not to necessarily whine all the time, but be a goat farmer.
Weíve just had the Artic Blast of 2007 end today, I think. If it hasnít, Iíll whine, I mean, tell you about it later. Weíve had the longest lasting Artic Front stay in our area in over 22 years. I must not have been a goat farmer then, because I donít remember the last one. Oh, I mean I must not have been born yet, thatís it. And, if my husband Lee tells you weíve been married over 33 years, just remember if he doesnít get his naps, things seem a lot worse then they are.
This Artic Blast of Ď07 would have had to raise the temperature most days to get to freezing, it was that cold, all the time. If we were fortunate, it got up to ten degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and we considered it a heat wave. One night it was ten below zero F, which wasnít unusual, but the wind chill dropped it to twenty below zero F.
And, what were we doing during this cold weather? Why, kidding, of course. You have to do something unreal to find enough to whine, I mean, complain about, so it was kidding for us. Then, there was that fear that the electric would go out and the heat lamps would not be available for all the new babies. I kept whining, I mean mentioning this to Lee, every day, several times a day. There is one thing we can depend on. In times of stress, our electric will go out. You think it would occur to us to get a really good generator to always keep on hand. Well, the thought does occur, but when we see prices of over a couple thousand dollars, we both develop amnesia.
So what is wrong with this bitter cold, other then the fact that whatever expression you stepped out of the house with is froze on your face until you step back into the house and thaw your face out? One complaint is water.
Our goats are in a variety of pastures and pens. We run a hose everywhere to keep tubs and buckets filled. In that artic weather, the water froze in minutes, two three inches thick at first and thicker every hour itís outside. In order for all the goats we have to get enough water to keep them from becoming sick, we had to constantly be filling and breaking out ice all day long in their buckets and tubs.
You might break the ice once, but did you ever notice how quickly it ďhealsĒ itself and comes back together like one of those piece puzzles, stronger then ever? You have to take out several pieces to leave some type of opening for a little while for the goats to get a drink. Better yet, scoop out all the ice pieces and the goats have a little longer time to get a drink before it freezes solid again. Usually, I donít have a shovel to scoop with and after I break the ice with the clean heel of my boot, I use my hands to scoop out the ice chunks. To say I have chapped hands, is an understatement. If it wasnít for all the Crazy Glue I use to cover all the cracks in my chapped hands, I wouldnít be able to use my hands at all. Oh, a bit of advice, buy plenty of Crazy Glue for winter for all those sore cracks on your chapped hands. Also, the Norwegian Formula lotion from Neutrogena works best for me for severe winter chapped hands. Supposedly all the northern fishermen use this lotion on their hands. I donít know if itís true. Itís an odd thought that big northern fishermen carry their favorite lotion in their rain slickers, but who knows.
You might whine, I mean, speculate, that those goats better get smart quick and get their water when you break it out. Okay, first we are talking about goats. Next, we are talking about goats with herd bosses who get their water first and by the time the ones on the lower end of the herd are allowed to water, the water is froze solid. So, several times a day, I was out in the Artic Front, breaking out water for the goats and checking them over. I also started watching what expression I was wearing when I first stepped outside, because it froze on my face. I didnít want to scare the goats or the neighbors.
One thing I can count on during frigid weather, if the goats are not getting enough water, I can count on someone in the herd getting goat polio. Their rumen gets totally knocked out of whack without enough water and there you are, treating goats with goat polio. So, trust me, itís easier to just go out and make sure all have an opportunity to get water.
And, wouldnít you know, absolutely one of the oddest things to have ever happened to us did happen and it was partially caused by the Artic Front. We had an obese, heavily bred boss doe (she got the best and most of everything edible) who started getting a small prolapse every time she laid down. When she stood up, it went back in. So, no worry so far, right?
The first night it hits ten below zero F and the next morning at still ten below zero F, this doe runs down with the others to get her breakfast, and what do I see? A frozen prolapse, size of a large grapefruit, sticking out of her. She canít get it back in because it is now frozen solid. When she had bedded down the night before, it had an excellent opportunity to totally freeze.
What on earth? Thinking fast on our frozen feet in spite of our froze expressions. We must have been dumbfounded that morning when we first stepped outside and saw the temperature. We caught the doe and put her in a stall and put a heat lamp on her.
In a few hours the prolapse had thawed but wasnít going back in. Lee gloved up and I held the doe and he tried putting the prolapse back in. The prolapse was still too large and when he pushed one end in, the doe immediately pushed it back out. Why? Remember what a doe does if you put your hand in her during kidding? She immediately starts contractions, and this was what the doe was doing.
So, we needed to make the prolapse a little smaller and definitely do things differently. I remembered an old farmer recipe to making absolutely huge prolapses more manageable and went to the house and got my powdered sugar and I picked up a Vet Wrap tape bandage. If you could put a belt or soft rope or something of that nature around the flank area and make it snug, the animal will stop pushing. Another old farmer trick I remembered. Iím full of trivia. Every now and then itís useful.
I held the doe, Lee gloved up again, squirted the prolapse with gentle soapy water to wash the manure and hay off, then he dusted the prolapse with the powered sugar. The prolapse then seem to lose a lot of its moisture and became more manageable, and then very very slowly, he gently eased the prolapse back in. I got the red Vet Wrap tape that tends to stick to itself and is stretchy enough to not cut off circulation, and I wrapped it around her flank, out of the way of the kids in her big belly and not interfering with the udder, and I put a big bow in it, on top of her hips.
When she felt the snugness of the Vet Wrap, she didnít push, the prolapse stayed in, and she looked quite stylish with the big red bow on her hips. We gave her a shot of penicillin and turned her loose in a small stall so she couldnít move around much. Of all things, this has worked. After a couple of days, she had somehow untied her bow and took the Vet Wrap off, but it had done itís job. The prolapse never came out again.
So, now that the Artic Blast has left us and it is now 40 degrees F, what on earth could I complain about? Well, sure, the snow has melted, but we have inches of deep ice all over the ground and hillsides where we walk to care for the goats. A thick sheet of ice with standing water on it. Even an Olympic skater couldnít stand up on the stuff.
Dogs, goats, cats, people are all taking sliding falls, and shooting past where they originally wanted to go. The only way to walk on the ice is go one teeny tiny step at a time. Walk like a turtle. Maybe not be as speedy as a turtle, but go slowly and carefully. Well, at least Iím not frightening animals and people with frozen expressions. I just have to make sure I donít fall on them.