Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hoggy, Soggy, Sickly Days

The weather's been brutal this month; rain then rain, heat and humidity, more rain, followed by more heat and more humidity. It's the perfect storm as far as parasites and stress are concerned. Maggie's Farm Forecast says "80% chance of livestock disaster." And we've had it.

Stubby Dave (One of the three porcine "Daves" hanging out in the future sheep pasture in back) was hit last week. We knew something was up when he declined dinner. We knew it was serious when he was not tempted the next morning by a juicy wad of leftover pizza. All day Stubby lolled in the mud, his teeny-but-cute eyes following us as we moved along outside the fence. He was definitely out of sorts.

A day later with no change, we called our vet. Now, Dr. S is a typical wonderful country vet. He was swamped (Weather related no doubt) and suggested-- after a short phone conversation--that we give Stubby Dave a shot of our fancy new one-time-only antibiotic.

Sure, Okay....

Stubby was so lethargic it seemed at first that the task would be a snap. But as soon as we put on our boots and filled the syringe, he grew instantly alert. He gave a few inquiring squeals as I straddled him and pressed his shoulders into the mud. The needle went in and Dave-- lethargy forgotten-- exploded into the far corner of the pen, the tip of the needle riding along on his hip. We sloshed after him, trying to snag it, which we did, then started all over again.

Dave was sick enough to slettle back down in the mud after a slow-motion chase, and we tried again. Same result (Minus the needle coming apart). We tried again, and again.... By this time, we were stinky and sweating and thoroughly done with hanging out in the pig pen.

I remembered the woman who sold us the Daves telling us that the only way to hold a pig was by its back legs. Dan gave that a try. Not such a good idea once the pig is 150 or so pounds... he received a serious splattering of mud for his trouble (The most odoriferous, disgusting mud imaginable, mind you) before releasing Dave for another slow pursuit.

Persistence paid off in the end, and Stubby Dave finally consented to treatment. A few anxious days later he was back tussling for scraps with his brothers.

In the meantime, we had to treat a ewe for parasites and just today, Dusk, one of our youngest ram lambs, succumbed quite mysteriously. The stress of the constant heat and rain couldn't have helped. This is the first death we've had in 3 years of sheep, and it is worrying, especially as there was nothing obviously wrong with the little guy. He was hot and a little lethargic yesterday, but still feisty and fine. Today: gone. I've heard late season lambs struggle the most and this one was late... and small, and born to a yearling ewe. But it hurts nonetheless.
In truth, every time we have an animal illness or set back, I begin to think about giving the whole farm thing up. In the sadness of the moment, anything seems better than facing another sick, miserable, hungry or otherwise needy animal and not knowing exactly what to do about it. But the next day, I am up at dawn (or thereabouts anyway) pausing in my chores to "take stock" of the peaceful flock, and it all seems okay again.

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