The goats have mostly been OK, except for Ishy. A couple of months ago she started behaving quite strangely. At first she was just a little slow. Then she started eating less, and then after a couple of days she got to the point of just standing and shivering. It didn’t help that the heavens seemed to be permanently emptying. When she first started behaving oddly I had checked her out, including looking at her hooves. One of them was pretty bad with scald (footrot), so I treated that. We got the vet out to see her, and he gave her a dose of antibiotics, and said we should call him in a couple of days if she didn’t get better.
Well, for the first day it didn’t seem to make the slightest difference, and I really thought she was on her way out. Then it was like one morning someone had switched the light back on, and she was back to, almost, her old self. Pushing for food, and going out exploring with the others. It could have been the infection was related to the foot problem, and by treating it both internally and externally, we resolved it. Or it could have been something else, it’s difficult to tell with goats! Moby didn’t seem bothered during the whole episode, I think she thought Ishy was just being attention-seeking.
After that scare we’ve had no problems, and they’ve enjoyed the summer. We had Boris sheared so she wasn’t too warm, and she’s just about at the stage where her fleece looks perfect. In a month or two, or if it rains heavily again it’s going to look dirty and scraggly, but we can enjoy it in perfect shape until then!
Howard is still being his pushy old self. He’s a bit grumpy with me as I’m not feeding him at now, during the main part of the summer I’ve only been feeding the pigs. So he has to watch me walk across the field with a bucket of feed which he just knows he’d like… it’s a trial for him, it really is.
Having sorted out the bulk of the sheep I thought it worth checking on the goats. The pygmies were fine as usual, and Howard’s fleece was coming off naturally, but Boris needed some attention.
Her fleece is so thick that it keeps her very very warm. It also hides lots of nasty lice and suchlike. I tried to shear some of the fleece off to help cool her, but after twenty minutes of struggling with it I’d managed to cut away a patch about a foot square, and not even get it close to her skin. I gave up and concentrated on dagging her. Her bottom was fairly messy, but as much because her fleece was so long it would catch almost anything coming out!
Alex had also asked me to look at her face, both to treat it for lice and to clear some of the fleece out of the way so she could see. I did my best to clip around so she could see, and did get a lot away. I’m not sure she was happy with her hair cut though:
Then it was hoof time. She had scald affecting all four of her hooves, and I treated them all with blue spray, and trimmed the hooves back down to the right shape. I’ll probably need to do her hooves again in another couple of weeks to get the scald under control. I’m hoping that, combined with the warm weather should clear it up completely, for a while at least.
Then I put spot-on onto her. This kills lice and other such nasties. I put an extra bit on the back of her head to deal with the ones which had been bothering her face.
Her MOT was completed with a good spraying of Clik, and when I finally let her go she trotted off with only a brief admonitory bleat.
We do need to get her sheared soon though – or maybe I should try again…
One of the positives of the cold is that the ground becomes nice and hard, which means the bacteria which cause footrot and scald have a much tougher time of it, and it’s less likely to spread between the animals as their hooves aren’t sinking into the mud. On the downside it does not appear to have had any impact on the animals who already have footrot, such as Boris. She’d started limping again, and was going so far as to not getting up properly on her front feet. This morning I flipped her over to get to her hooves.
The front two were fairly bad, with typical scald. It was wet and warm between the two halves of the hoof, which is exactly what the bacteria like. I trimmed and sprayed the hooves and hopefully they’ll heal properly. Also, hopefully she won’t get a repeat infection as it’s only six weeks since I last treated her. While I can handle Boris easily on my own dealing with Ishy, an animal half the size, required the two of us, with Alex holding her and me doing the trimming. She had some minor infection, which I treated and then we sent her off.
White Face was also limping quite badly this morning. We managed to catch her, and with Alex once again doing the holding I had a look at her hooves. I have to admit they looked fine to me, and I wonder if she’d strained her legs in some other way. We’ve dug up an area next to the animal restaurant and laid the hardcore ready to turn it into a nice big concrete area, which means that the area is quite rocky, so maybe she hurt herself on that?
We also wanted to take a look at Moby, but as soon as she saw what was happening she scarpered, so we’ll grab her at feed time either tonight or tomorrow morning.
Doing the foot treatment in the cold was particularly harsh this morning as it was still sub zero. I couldn’t use proper gloves, as then I wouldn’t have been able to feel the hooves properly, so instead I wore some blue latex gloves. While this protected my hands from the worst of the spray and muck, it did nothing for the cold. Bring on the spring say I!
When I went out to feed the animals last night Bertie was lying on his side unmoving. I thought he might just be being lazy, but closer inspection revealed that he was in fact dead. I’d really thought he was getting better, he’s mostly been getting up on his own, and I was thinking that fairly soon he’d be back out in the fields. I suspect the very cold weather took it’s toll and he was relatively old for a goat, at somewhere between seven and a half and eight years old, but still very sad to see him go.
I often called him Bertholemew, on the basis that was obviously his full name. He was always a friendly goat, and not just after food all the time. He used to wander after us when we went for a walk in the field at non-feeding times, and he charmed a number of our visitors over the years. We will definitely miss him.
Here he is a couple of days ago:
And here’s how he looked shortly after he arrived in May 2006, chomping at the grass with Boris (on the right) – the shed in the background was destroyed only weeks later by Bertie, who for some reason took a distinct dislike to it and battered it down:
I went out to fix the electric fence today, just the three points where it was touching the wooden posts, as mentioned in my post a few days ago. While I was out I saw Howard, Boris and Moby down in the lower field enjoying the slightly longer grass which is still there. I knew Bertie still wasn’t up for a trip of such distance, it must be four hundred yards or so, but it was a little strange not to see Ishy. When I was back up at the animal restaurant I saw Ishy sitting in some straw looking a little sorry for herself.
Meanwhile Bertie was up and about, which is great. He’s been getting himself up without help for the last few days. I have hopes he’ll be out in the field soon.
Looking at Ishy I was worried she might have scald problems, so I grabbed my trusty foot clippers, some blue spray, and a latex glove for my left hand and went to catch her. She’s a feisty little customer is Ishy and as soon as she saw I was trying to grab her she scarpered. It took me a few minutes to slowly back her into a corner, and then I managed to get hold of her.
I flipped her on her back on a pile of straw to soften the blow, though she particularly dislikes being on her back and still struggled a lot. I started to check her hooves. The first thing I realised is that we hadn’t looked at them for some time as they were all rather overgrown, and caked with mud. We’ve been having to deal with the goats hooves quite a bit recently with all the scald problems, but clearly we’d never had to sort out Ishy. All four were in real need of trimming, and despite her struggling I set to. There didn’t seem to be any signs of scald which was a distinct positive. Twenty minutes later and I let her up, and then gave her some food to make her feel a bit better.
Goat hooves grow much faster than sheep hooves, and need regular trimming as they aren’t worn down by our nice soft pasture. I’d say probably every two months is about the right sort of frequency, and I’ll need to set up a reminder for myself so I don’t let them grow so much again.
We’ve continued to give Bertie special attention. He still struggles to get up, but is making it on his own three out of every four attempts, which is better than it might be. Once he’s up though he’s unstoppable and rushes over to the nearest food with vigour, and even pushes the others out of the way. It’s heartening to see, but I suspect we’ll probably need to keep helping him get up for quite a while, if not forever.
Here he is, getting stuck in with Boris beside him:
We have four different breeds of sheep, and some crosses. Two commercial breeds, the Mules and Suffolks, and two native rare breeds, Borerays and Soays. The Borerays and Soays come from eponymous islands in the St Kilda archipelago, which is out past the Outer Hebrides on the way towards Iceland.
So one would think that the two native breeds would shake off the rain as if it were nothing, and that the commercial breeds would be big wusses and insist on hiding under cover (like the goats, who really do hate the rain). In fact it’s quite the opposite.
Yesterday during the heavy rain the Mules and Suffolks were out and about in the fields, chewing the grass as if nothing was up. The Soays were nowhere to be seen. The goats were sheltering in the animal restaurant, but no Soays there. I looked along the tree line where they often rest in the shade when it’s sunny, nothing. I then looked in the last place left in their field, the old pig shed next to the footpath. All of the Soays were in there, looking quite pleased with themselves for being out of the rain. They were so happy that they didn’t even run out when I came to the entrance, something they’d normally do without question. Wusses.
Then on the way back I looked for the Borerays. They too were sheltering, in the pig hut in their orchard.
It would appear that the native breeds have seen a lot of weather, and decided they didn’t like it much, so they’ll enjoy whatever cover they can get. I guess that shows some intelligence on their part!
Every now and again we get licks for the sheep, goats and cows. These have additional nutrients which might be missing from the grass, and in the case of the ones we’ve been getting recently, a load of sugary stuff to give them additional energy.
We don’t have any specific nutrient concerns, but we’ve always found that the licks do well, and seem to keep the animals happy. The original licks we got were like sandy foot long cubes. There was a holder for them, but it never worked particularly well, so the cube would get knocked around and eventually crumble, and quite a lot would go to waste. Now we get them in orange buckets, and a lot less is lost. Also the orange buckets are very useful when they’re empty, though the handles are a little bit fragile.
The buckets are really heavy when we first get them. We put them in the middle of the fields, and a ring of mud soon forms around them from where the animals gather round.
Once they’ve started getting through it a little more it obviously gets a little lighter, and then takes up a peripatetic existence around the field. One day it’ll be down by the gate, the next near the water. This is because the animals tend to be a bit pushy around it, and slowly, or sometimes less slowly, they move it. We know it’s empty when it’s up against a fence lying on its side.
The lamb at the front of the picture is the one I didn’t properly castrate. He’s rather a pushy little character and has just knocked a whole bunch of other lambs away from the bucket, and then walked away swaggering.
Bertie is finally up and about on his own! I’ve only had to help him up once in the last few days, the rest of the time he’s been able to get up on his own. He makes a bit of a meal of it, but he gets up and I think it’s getting easier for him. I even saw him out in the field yesterday, for the first time in weeks. He’s also making sure he gets his food in, and not letting the others push him off, which is another excellent sign of progress.
This morning we thought we’d take the opportunity to treat all the goats for footrot/scald, as Boris and Moby have been limping again, and Howard looked like he was slightly favouring one of his hooves. We prepared the footbath of hoof phast, and then did all four hooves of each of: Bertie, Boris, Howard and Moby. Ishy was out and about in the field, and doesn’t seem to have any rot issues at the moment, so she missed out on the bathing. They don’t like it a huge amount, but with me holding them, and Alex keeping the hoof in the foot bath to went fairly smoothly. We also injected Boris, Moby and Howard with anti-biotic to hopefully completely kill off the footrot bacteria.
Everything seems fairly happy at the moment, with the exception of the cows. They’re definitely hungry, both mooing rather aggressively whenever they see us, but until they’ve lost some of the extra weight they’re carrying we’re going to be keeping them on short rations.
People often ask me what the animals do when the weather is like this, and indeed all over winter. We don’t have any substantial shelter for them so the sheep and cows stay out in the fields. Some of them, especially the older ones will find shelter. Duchess, our old Boreray ewe, overnights in a pig hut we keep in the sheep orchard and the old Soay Rams stay in their nice little hollow among the trees.
All the rest seem to lie down wherever they want to. When it’s really frosty it’s possible to see where they’ve been lying. This morning the sheep were a little less feisty than usual, probably due to the cold, and I managed to get a couple of photos to show their winter MO.
Lying out in the open:
And here I’ve disturbed one of the mules, and you can see the warm patch she’s left in the grass (and the two behind from where the Soays were):
If you feel their fleece on a morning like this there is frost in it, but pushing down to their skin it is possible to feel how warm they really are. Fleece is wonderful stuff.