I had Jacob take this picture a few days ago when I was pretty sure that all the goats in this pasture were going to die. They may all still die, but the outlook isn't quite as grim, and hopefully my goats will survive. We've had an outbreak of the barber's pole worm (Haemonchus contortus)--an incredibly harmful parasite that will take a healthy goat down in a day, much less a kid with a weak immune system. This parasite is usually a problem in wet weather, which is something we have not had much of lately, so we were quite shocked to find this was a problem. We've been battling coccidia and other parasites, but until we took the time to do fecal samples on some of the animals we had no idea that this particular parasite was the culprit in the deaths of several animals. It's fucking depressing actually. You walk out into the field, which looks empty now that only about 16 of 25 goats are still alive, and all the animals just look sick. The thing about goats is that you can tell when they feel good. They frolick and get into trouble and carouse the high pastures. Lately, they've been staying down in the lower pastures, and many of the animals that are still alive have bottle jaw, which is basically a premonition of hard times. I have yet to see bottle jaw go away in spite of medication--usually at this point the animal is so infested and anemic that it doesn't survive.
So far, my two goats do not have bottle jaw. I am crossing my fingers as I write. This morning (after a good dosing of cydectin last night), my goats were actually in the high pastures feeding, which was extremely encouraging to me. These are the first animals I've become really attached to since my dog of twelve years died, and it makes me very nervous to imagine that they might die. And I suppose they aren't out of the woods yet. Until the weather cools off they will be in constant danger of infestation. The first year is the toughest. Next year they will be more resistant, and hopefully with some good nutrition I can strengthen them a little better.