Sunday morning, B. and I cried with joy. However, this season of raising animals for food and companionship has been tough. Tough.
Three (goat) kids have perished under our watch. One was stillborn, the second we had to put down because he was ill beyond surviving, and the third died just last week, while being born. We saw him gasping for breath, but he was stuck in the birth canal and couldn’t get a good one. Our assistance was too immature to be helpful. We learned much though, and I’m hopeful that next time I have to assist a birth I will be aggressive enough to make a difference!
We do have four healthy kids, although even that I say uncertainly. Two of them, a brother and sister just a bit over a week old, caught a virus causing sores on their behinds. We are attempting to treat them naturally, and seeing improvement, thank God.
Those same two youngsters wandered off in the woods with their mom on Saturday afternoon, and fell asleep God knows where. Their mom, a calm doe named Daisy, didn’t realize they were gone until many hours later, long after we’d noticed their disappearance. We searched the woods for two hours; Daisy screamed for them all night. Have you ever heard a Nubian doe screaming for her kids? Mercy!
They didn’t respond to her desperate calls, nor did they return — until the next morning, 17 hours later, very hungry for Mama’s milk. Right after I milked Daisy fully out. You see, I had feared they got off the property, got lost, and perished from the cold night or were snatched up by a small fox or wild cat. Daisy was uncomfortably full of milk, so I did what any hopeless goat milker would do. I drained her out, while she and I both cried for her babies.
Minutes later, B. said, “Mom, I hear a baby!” Yes, indeed, there they were, right outside the barn. They ran to B., who took them to their Mama. (This is when B. and I held each other and cried with joy at their return.) The babies, a meek doeling and a handsome buckling, suckled but got very little milk. They were hungry, though, and neither they nor Mama stopped the nursing for going on ten minutes. Nursing, yet not getting any milk. So B. filled a bottle with warm milk and we got some in their tummies.
Happily, both Mama and babies kept closer to each other after that. I hope they learned their lesson about staying together in the big bad woods.
This is what I keep thinking: “What is wrong with us? Why can’t we keep animals alive? Why can't we keep them healthy?” We’ve lost ducklings to predators and dietary deficiencies. Two kids are sick with a virus. If those two had not returned, we would have only two of seven kids left. Even though I can say that four are left, those are terrible odds. One more doe is pregnant, but not due until September. We pray, pray, pray that she kids successfully.
At times, I despair. I mean, I trust the Lord, yes I do. But, we live in a depleted and imperfect world. It feels like we are rowing upstream as we search for quality resources in conventional feed stores. Kind but helpless responses often meet my inquiries. “Cod liver oil for animals? Non-GMO and unsprayed seeds? Soy-free, preservative-free wild bird food? … Uh, I don’t think we have those… and I don’t think we can get them, either.”
And what about owner inexperience and mistakes, predators, cold winds, uneven udders, babies who milk only on one side, difficult births, illnesses… ?
What are we to do? I pray we will keep learning how to caretake the animals God put in our charge. I pray God shows us how best to feed them, nurture them, strengthen them, and keep them healthy and happy. They bring us joy, so much joy. We praise God for the gift of our animals, and we ask Him to help us shepherd them.
Have you been through a difficult season with raising animals? What did you learn? What advice would you give us?
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