Sunday, July 20, 2008

Meet Voldemort

This is Voldemort (a.k.a. The Dark Lord or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named); affectionately known as "Voldy." He is a young wether (a castrated male goat) with a penchant for escaping from the pasture, queen anne's lace flowers, and banana peels. He's either an American or a French alpine (the two breeds have so much physical variation in them that it's impossible to tell them apart unless you know who sired them). He is probably the most people-friendly wether we have, as he enjoys following you around and being scratched behind the ears. He's my favorite, and I have plans to adopt him so he doesn't go to the butcher. There are some wethers that I really wouldn't mind seeing in the pasture one minute and on my plate the next, but Voldemort has earned a special place in my heart. He's not the most attractive goat, but he's a sweetheart, and just quirky enough to have some human-like properties. That's the trouble with raising animals for meat: there are some that you just get attached to. I have visions of Voldy and I going for hikes together, him being the pack animal. Maybe not so far-fetched, as I hear that hiking with goats is not altogether a new practice. He's loyal, anyways, and since goats are social animals he wouldn't wander off on me. That hook you see around his neck is Jacob's goat-catching crook. Very useful for when you need to catch them to give them medicine. They seem to have a sixth sense about when you're going to give them something unpleasant.

Right now we're giving all the baby goats corid treatment for coccidia. That's basically a protozoa that causes diarrhea, weight loss, the weakening of the immune system, and even death in grazing animals. It's practically unavoidable unless your grazing animals eat hay and grain only. It's been running through the herd like crazy, and with corid treatment you have to basically shove a syringe that contains 3cc corid per 20 lbs of goat into the goat's mouth, eject the fluid, and hold the goats mouth shut to make it swallow. It's not pleasant, but it's necessary. You have to repeat this treatment for five days in a row for it to be successful. This, for us, means catching roughly 75 kids every day for five days, measuring them with a weight tape, and administering the corid. Not fun, not easy. The best way to catch a goat is by the hind leg or beneath the neck. Obviously you don't want to hurt them, so you don't put them in a death grip, but they're slippery little things. You can hold them still between your legs while you measure them around their torso just behind the front legs with the weight tape. Then, when you determine the dosage, you try to shove the syringe in their mouth. Imagine a little kid at the doctor's office clenching his teeth with the doctor trying to swab his throat. It's pretty impossible to make someone unclench their teeth. So you just keep pushing it until they open their mouths a tiny little bit, and you shove it in and release the corid, trying to shut their mouth before they can spit it out. Ideally, if you shoot the corid into the back of their throat they can't spit it out, but I'm not good enough at it yet to be successful with that. I had to readminister meds to some goats because more leaked out than got in.

I guess my point is that not being organic in the case of goat farming can be more work than being organic. I'd be curious to know how small organic animals farms do it.

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