Goats and good neighbors

The day started off with more trouble. It turns out that Sapphire, the mama goat, had another kid inside. After milking her this morning she dropped the kid – but this one was stillborn. What is worse, the kid didn’t make it completely out, and the “sack”was just sort of hanging out behind her. At first I didn’t know what I was looking at, and I certainly didn’t know what to do. After some frantic phone calls I loaded the children into the van and headed over to the veterinarian’s office, which happens to be only about a mile up the highway. They kindly coached me on what to do and sent me away with gloves, some sterilization powder, syringes, and oxytocin.

We rushed back to find Sapphire in sorry shape. I followed the vet’s directions and gingerly removed the fetal sack and the afterbirth with minimal bleeding. I then injected her with 1/2 cc of oxytocin underneath her skin near the top of the leg. Amy warmed up some water mixed with maple syrup: she wouldn’t drink, so I had to hold her head up while Amy fed her with a large syringe. We checked on her every 15 minutes and brought her a little grain or alfalfa. She wouldn’t touch the food for several hours. It was a rough morning, but by sundown she was out in the pasture again and “talking” to us in her familiar voice. She’s usually a little skittish around me, but this time she seemed to appreciate my attention and didn’t want me to leave …


The loss of our oldest steer was a big blow. I knew I would need some help pulling him out of that irrigation pipe, but didn’t know where to turn. We live across the road from a Portuguese dairy family. I thought they might have the equipment required to lift a 600 lb animal out of an eight foot hole. So I gave them a call, and they were over here within minutes. First the old man tied the chain around the thigh of the animal, and then the matriarch of the family lifted the front-end loader of their tractor. Out comes the cow: it wasn’t pretty. Chardonnay, the steer’s mother, had wandered away from the herd to observe this sad spectacle. She seemed beside herself with grief and was making lots of noise and aggressive gestures.

All I wanted was for them to help get the cow out of the hole: I was going to call a rendering service for disposal. But they offered to take the animal to their dairy and take care of the disposal themselves. Gratefully, I accepted their offer. When I thanked them and offered to pay for their services the daughter refused, saying “You’ve had to put up with our animals often enough!” This was a reference to two or three occasions when their herd got loose and trampled our orchard, breaking a few irrigation risers in the process. But they paid the bill I was only too happy to deliver at the time.

Later on this evening their son came by with a home-built metal fence that he had rigged up to install around the danger zone. He asked for access to the pasture and two extension cords. He was out there for over an hour, in the dark, installing this fence for us while we ate our dinner. A gift. Those are some good neighbors.

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