23 March 2009

Piglet The Goat Kid

I have given up trying to figure out the names that our children come up with for various animals on our farm. As long as it's a certainty that the animal in question will eventually be going off to the butcher, I don't mind too much. (The two most recent goat kids we had butchered were named "Naughty" and "Less Naughty," respectively...and our children now seem to be recycling those names for the latest twin male goat kids.)

Which brings us to Piglet. Who, despite the name, is a goat kid.

Last Wednesday, Queen Anne's Lace delivered a pair of beautiful kids. After just a couple of days, however, the male kid was developing problems. He was struggling to get up and nurse, and had a raspy noise in his lungs. Homeschooled Farm Girl immediately realized something was wrong, and reported the problem to Mrs Yeoman Famer.

This proved to be a very good move. Had she come to me, I would have told her "It's just the male kid. We'll only be butchering him anyway, and his meat isn't worth the veterinary bills. And besides, at just two days old, he doesn't have the reserves to survive whatever he's sick with. Which is probably pneumonia."

MYF also diagnosed pneumonia...but took a different approach. She simply announced that she was taking the kid to the vet clinic in the next town over. Period. I ran through my objections, to which she listened politely...and then insisted that we should do everything in our power to save this kid. Because in her opinion, we'd discovered his pneumonia early enough to do something about it.

I grudgingly agreed, and got back to work. MYF sped off to the vet, and after spending some time in the waiting room (enduring odd/curious looks from all the people who had brought more conventional pets), the vet confirmed our diagnosis of pneumonia. Most likely, the kid aspirated some milk while nursing --- essentially "sucked it down the wrong pipe," getting moisture in his lungs. In the chilly barn, it didn't take long to develop into pneumonia. He gave the kid a shot of antibiotic, and then gave MYF several more syringes of antibiotic to inject over the next days. He suggested we keep the kid in our warm house, and bottle feed him until (1) he was stronger and (2) the barn warmed up a bit.

So, since Friday afternoon, we've had a goat kid living in an old laundry basket in our family room. How our children thought up the name, "Piglet," I'll never know...but it's not something I have any desire to argue about. The wood stove keeps that whole room very comfortable, and Piglet has been thriving. Homeschooled Farm Girl has been a big help in milking Queen Anne's Lace, and in taking the kid out to her in the warmer parts of the day to nurse directly. Fortunately, Queen Anne's Lace has not rejected or forgotten him; she bleats urgently as soon as she sees him, sniffs his backside approvingly as he nurses, and bleats plaintively when we take him back out of the barn.
Needless to say, the laundry basket is pretty tight quarters for a growing goat kid. With MYF's permission, our children let him out a couple of times this weekend (right after he'd relieved himself), and let him romp around the downstairs of our house. Everyone thought this was great fun, though MYF was of course concerned he might try to piddle on the carpet. "Maybe," I joked, "we can train him to a litter box and keep him in the house."

"Yeah!" the children cheered.
"Can't you just see it?" MYF replied. "Him trotting up and down the stairs. Kicking his legs up on the walls, like the other goats do in the barn. Probably smashing windows. And making the whole house smell like goat."

We all had a good laugh...and hope he'll be well enough to move back to the barn in the next couple of days.

And, yes, I have eaten my full serving of crow. I'm glad MYF took him to the vet, and have told her so. It's a tough balance, having livestock. There is a definite "utilitarian" component to farm animals, and it's much more pronounced than it is for pets. We simply cannot justify squandering resources on an animal that isn't "worth it." But there is also a humanitarian component to raising livestock on a small organic farm. In a sense, God has given us temporary custody of these animals...and we have a responsibility to exercise good stewardship with them. That means having a heart, and sometimes making personal sacrifices on behalf of an animal's welfare --- even one which, at the end of the day, might be of borderline monetary value.

In this case, I think we struck a good balance. Piglet's vet bill was $55, and it will eventually cost $40 to butcher him. That will make his meat more than twice as expensive as the meat from a kid with no medical issues. But given the quality of what we'll be getting, I think it's still a bargain compared to buying meat at the supermarket.

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