Saturday, March 9, 2013

Rose; and then there were six

As of today we are down to six goats, which is the number we started with six years ago this spring. Today we had friends come up and kill and butcher one of our first milkers, Rose. It was one of the hardest decisions I've made. I took the kids to town. We went to the toy store and the library and when we came home she was gone without much of a trace. Rose was one of our first four doelings we brought up from Washington. She and Xanadu were both around eight weeks when they showed up in a crate together. I warmed up milk, poured it into bottles and put the bottles into six pack holders and carried them up the hill with one year old Noah on my back, three times a day for a couple months that summer. I bonded with our first six kids more than any that have come since. I thought I would keep our first four always and take care of them into their old age even when they were done producing kids or milk for us. But that is not how it went at all. We lost one of our first four to an impacted abomasal. Thankfully I still have her daughter Zuri, who has always been one of my favorites. Then last year I sold Xoe. I was just getting into downsizing the herd and found a good home for her. We lost the first buck a while back and the second one this winter. For the last year I've had Rose and Xanadu, their daughters and grand daughters. Out of the original six, there is only Xanadu left.

Last winter Rose was supposed to be pregnant but she ended up with some sort of uterine infection. We gave her antibiotics and it seemed like she was back on track. We decided not to breed her and give her the year off. She went back into heat in March, and she was always super vocal when she was in heat. So I talked to the vet and we thought that her body must be recovered and it would be ok to breed her again. She ended up having what we think was a false pregnancy also known as a cloud pregnancy. Where the doe thinks she is pregnant but her uterus just fills with fluid instead of kids. The vet came up this fall and ultra sounded Rose's uterus when she didn't kid. She said that something was wrong with her uterus and that I should search Metritis when looking for solutions. There really didn't seem to be any solutions. A text book I ran across said that some attempts have been made to put a tube up into the uterus to flush it out, or maybe apply medicine or antibiotics topically? I can't remember exactly because it seemed rather far fetched and a little too late for that.

After some herbal research I decided to give Rose one last chance and for about five to six weeks this fall I gave Rose and herbal drench twice a day as well as a coconut herbal suppository daily, the idea being that the suppository of herbs would nourish and heal her uterus. She came into heat a few months back and I re-bred her, hoping against the odds that she'd recovered. This past month she has been oozing goo, which is what happened last winter when we realized that she wasn't pregnant. She has also had a staff infection this week on her udder and belly which I've been washing with herbal rinses and smearing with salve. I suspect that dealing with uterine issues has lowered her overall immune strength.

I had lost all hope that Rose would ever be able to be bred or milked again. She is going on six years old, which is just approaching middle age. People often breed their milkers until they are ten or eleven, and then the does continue to live a couple years before dying of natural causes, which is what I'd hoped for all our milkers. If I had a large barn and an endless supply of cash, my decision may have been different, but I don't. I am not opposed to feeding and keeping one or two wonderful does into old age and past their reproductive years. But the idea of keeping Rose as a pet for the next several years really wasn't an option I was willing to consider. Ok, I did consider. Rose has always been very well behaved for me, but she isn't overly friendly with strangers and I have to watch her around my kids as she'll butt them if she gets a chance. So, finding a home for her as a pet was pretty unlikely.

I've always loved Rose's udder and teats. She has been our best overall producer with the longest lactations. She also had the beset conformation. Her topline was as level as could be, her rump one of the widest and most level I've ever seen. She never had trouble kidding. I always hoped she'd have a white or light red doeling like herself, but all her white kids were bucklings, except one doeling that was born weak that we lost.

Rose kidded four years in a row. She kidded to six bucklings and three doelings. We have her daughter Zinnia; going on four, Zinnia's youngest daughter, Clary. I have a friend who has Bramble, Rose's second and only other daughter as well as Bella, Zinnia's first daughter. Then we have friends in Tok who own Bella's twin Blue, who just kidded yesterday to a buckling and doeling. So Rose lived to be a great grandma. We also have some friends with the only intact buck out of Rose. I don't think either of her daughters inherited as wide and level a rump as Rose had. They are both beautiful does however, as are all three granddaughters.

This morning the kids and I put her on the stand and fed her treats and grain. She had no clue as we thanked her for her life, milk and kids, but we said it just the same. It has been a sad decision to make, but one that I've known may be coming for over a year now. So it wasn't sudden. It is time to make room for kidding season, new lives. I have to say I am relieved to have more dried herbs, kelp and alfalfa for the pregnant does. The grain and hay will stretch even farther now. I'd like to think that Rose enjoyed her six years with us. She had a good place in the herd. We tried to give her a healthy and happy existence as a dairy goat.

Rose five years old, summer walk, 2012

Rose with her first doeling, Zinnia, 2009
Rose cleaning her son, second kidding, 2009


PatsyAnne said...

Emily, I sat here reading this on a dark, cold Sunday morning, crying. If I cried reading about Rose and what she meant to you and your family, I can only imagine how hard it was to make that decision, to let Rose go. It was the right decision, you did what was needed to be done. Life on a homestead is hard at times, oh you have wonderful fulfilling times but the work is hard, the hours are hard, the life is hard and the day-to-day decisions are hard. I read your blog and wonder that you all find the strength to go on - but then I read between the lines, the love in your family, the excitement in your "voice" when talking about the small things that mean so much, what the children do (and don't do), lessons learned (and taught), art created and food shared around a family table, jokes told, sweaters knitted, goats and chickens (and turkeys) tended to - there are times I can't figure out how you two manage with only so many hours in a day. Know that far, far away, someone reads your blog and loves you all like you part of my extended family.

Tara said...

It sounds like you loved Rose very much, and gave her a wonderful life!

Emily said...

PatsyAnne, you see us clearly. I look back and I'm not sure how we've done it either. Life is getting easier. The kids are getting to be more of a help, and I'm beginning to know my limits and show some restraint :) Didn't mean to make anyone cry. I was trying to purge my conscious. Emily

Denise Wilhelm said...

So sorry to hear about Rose, but I completely understand your decision and probably would have made the same one. So tough to have to follow through. I'm glad you didn't have to actually do the deed yourself. Hugs!

Plickety Cat said...

Emily, I admire everything you tried to keep Rose healthy and productive. It's always difficult to make the decision to put an animal down, whether it's a household pet or a working barn animal... but sometimes the most loving and responsible thing you can do is end their lives before they become completely miserable. I'm sure you gave Rose as happy a life and as peaceful a death as is humanly possible, and I know you'll continue to do so with her progeny. ::hugs::

PatsyAnne said...

I didn't "make" me cry, I cry at the fact that you had to make a decision that was hard and you didn't back down, you did what you had to do. I cried because it hurt you yet you showed that you have what it takes to go on. And, honestly Emily, I cry at some tv commercials also (LOL)...
Take care dear family, sun will warm you and wind will cool you - rain will wash over you and plants will nourish you and tonight the sun will set and the moon will rise filling the sky with billions of stars. Look up and rejoice for you are exactly where you are meant to be at this moment!

marylee said...

Well I am crying too. I love your account of Rose joining your family and the journey of your lives together. You have such courage Emily. I see pictures of Magic and get teary - just thinking about all the joys, sorrows and growing we did together because of her. My how those animals enrich our lives. I am less bonded with the goats - though I love to see them and hear their stories I know what they mean to you. Thank you for sharing. As always - so proud of you.