RIP Double H

Our Suffolk ewe Double H hadn’t been happy for a while, but for the last few days she’s been really bad.  She couldn’t always get up on her own, and she was coughing a lot.  She wasn’t coming to food, and when I tried to give her some food directly she wasn’t really interested.  She’d try a bit, and then wander away.

At first I thought it was because the other sheep were crowding her, so I managed to get them all out of the way so she was on her own with the food, but it made no difference.  Given her loss of condition, she was starting to look particularly boney, this was a very bad sign.  In my experience if an animal is still eating then there’s hope, if they’ve stopped then it’s likely they won’t survive.  Yesterday she was even worse, I had to help her up every time, and she was even less interested in food.  She’d look at it for a bit wander away and stand in a corner of the animal restaurant or the little goat shed.

Alex and I had a talk about her and decided it was probably best to get a vet out, with the likelihood that we’d have to put her down.

The vet came out to have a look, and we all agreed that she needed to be put down.  It was really sad, and Alex and I both held her as the vet gave her the injection, and we felt the life drain out of her.

It’s always very upsetting when an animal gets sick, but at least she was fairly old, at least six years by my reckoning and possibly eight or nine.  The saddest thing about it is that we’re likely to lose most of the rest of the Suffolks, and the remaining three mules, over the next year or so.

Wrath’s troubles (don’t read if you’re squeamish)

The other morning Alex went out to feed the animals and noticed something rather alarming.  There seemed to be a red ball of stuff hanging out of Wrath’s back end.  It was the size of a small melon and had some blood coming off it.  This was not good at all.

She called the vet who said it sounded like a Vaginal Prolapse and that we’d need to put it back inside her, and quickly.  Unfortunately due to our ongoing handling issues this is not a trivial thing to do, and so some discussions were had about the use of a tranquiliser on a long stick and then a man with a dart gun.  The vet was going to ring someone she knew and get back to us.

I went out to see Wrath a little later and mostly she looked OK.  There was a bit of blood, but certainly nothing hanging out, as you can see below.  We rang the vet and called off the search for a tranquiliser dart man as clearly the required immediate treatment wasn’t necessary.

So I researched what might have caused it.  Normally this only happens when cows are calving, often near the due time.  However, it also mentioned that it tended to happen to cows who were older, and Wrath is starting to get on a bit, she’s thirteen or so now, and also those who were a little overweight.

Wrath and Avarice are both looking rather large at the moment, and I think both of them have really been stuffing their faces with grass over the summer.  They haven’t been up to see us much until recently, probably because the grass has been so good.

So she’s a fat, old cow!  Poor Wrath.

Stage one of the treatment to prevent further prolapses is to get Wrath’s weight down, which will mean feeding them less than we normally would over the winter.  They have plenty of reserves, especially around their rump areas, so they’ll be fine, but it does mean there will be a lot more mooing to show they are hungry.  Hopefully they’ll get down to a more reasonable size fairly quickly and we can then start giving them a little more feed to control the mooing.

Stage two is as yet undetermined.  Clearly we’re going to have to give them access to less grass over the summer, but that’s not entirely trivial as all our fields are a little large.  Still we’ll work something out!

Quick Update

We’ve been bereft of broadband for a few days.  Not due to the inclement weather, but due to a change of supplier and some self-induced complexities.  So time for a quick update:

Bertie – managed to get up on his own yesterday when Alex went to feed him.  Still needed a bit of help today, but seems to be getting stronger.  Hopefully he’ll be getting up on his own again tomorrow!

Double H – footrot seems to have gone, but she’s still not overly happy.  The other sheep push her off food and she’s rather listless.  I gave her an extra portion of food this evening, and stood by her to stop the others from stealing it, which seems to have helped a little.  She’s quite old and isn’t up for fighting the youngsters.

Boris – out and about happily, but still limping quite badly.  We’re going to have to bathe her hoof again, and give her another injection.  Tomorrow hopefully…

Wrath – a few issues about which I will write more later.

Everything else seems fine, and relatively unphased by the dropping temperatures.

Bertie Update

Bertie still isn’t well, and still isn’t able to get up on his own.  He’s eating well when he gets up, and definitely taking advantage of the bucket of water.

The problem seems to be his back legs, he just can’t get them into position.  At first I had to hold him from behind and push him up and he’d eventually get everything in position.  His back right leg in particular keeps knuckling over until he gets weight onto it, but once he does he’s fine.  I’d changed tack a bit by holding his horns to give him something to push against, and that has been helping.

This morning he nearly managed to get all the way up and all it took was a gentle and swift hold on his horns and he was up, and moving towards the food.  I have hopes he’ll be able to get up on his own in the next few days.  Maybe the rest and extra food will have done the job.

In the mean time I have to keep an eye on his straw.  It’s slowly building up into quite a bed.  As he tends to stay in one position for an extended period all his poo and pee are in the one place, the poo usually in a nice little pile.  When I get him up in the morning and evening (and the occasional other point), I make sure he gets fresh, or at least fresher straw, back where he’s taken to lying.  We’re nearly out of straw so have ordered more, and if this goes on much longer we’ll probably have to do a full refresh.

Wrath’s wound

Wrath and Avarice are getting a little more aggressive around food now as the food value of the grass continues to drop.  This means I spread out the feed for that field into quite a few piles to give the OAPs and hangers on a chance at it before the two cows hoover it all up.

As Wrath ran to the food this morning, mooing triumphantly (possibly), I thought she’d opened up the wound on her udder again.  I had been walking away from them, but quickly turned back to investigate.  It turned out to be a maple leaf which had become attached to her.  The wound itself has healed up nicely, with only a small scar to show where it was:

Bertie and Boris

Bertie was better this morning, he got up a little easier – though still needed help.  He went for the water, and then ate heartily.  I’m starting to think he might get better.

A little while after I fed the animals I looked out and saw that Bertie was still standing, which I thought was pretty good.

Much later I looked out and saw that Bertie was still standing.  Excellent I thought!  He’s stood for much of the day.  Then I looked again and realised that it was actually Boris.  So eager was she to get in to see her brother that she managed to untie the baler twine and knock over the hurdle I’d held him in with on one side.  Or maybe she’d just battered it.  Unfortunately it looked like she’d knocked poor Bertie over again as well.

I went out and moved Bertie out of the area, and also Moby, who was enjoying some of Bertie’s hay, and put the hurdle back up.  As soon as I did Bertie rolled back over and looked much more alert.  I think he might have been playing passive to avoid more damage from Boris.  I tied two loads of baler twine around the hurdle, and hopefully it will keep her out.  She’s a crafty one though…


Determining the order of dominance is very important to animals (and to humans, though people try to pretend it isn’t).  With the animals dominance is mostly determined through violence, though usually it isn’t particularly dangerous.  Over the last three days there have been three incidents of varying severity…

Bertie and Boris

Bertie isn’t well as mentioned in several prior posts.  He’s still not getting up, and often I’ll help him stand up, leave him standing and return to find him slumped on the ground.  The other goats have been hanging around him, mostly I think to steal his food, but Boris has been particularly assiduous in her attentions.  “Aaah,” thought I, “she’s concerned about her brother.”

No.  She isn’t.  Yesterday I’d got Bertie up on his feet, given him some hay and solid food and wandered off to start feeding the others.  For some reason I had to go back to the animal restaurant, and there I saw Boris administering her version of love.  She rammed Bertie just above his back legs, totally wiping him out, and then stepped over his head to get to the food he’d been enjoying.  He looked completely dazed by the experience.  After that I put two hurdles up so the other goats couldn’t get to him.  He seems much happier with the arrangement and I haven’t seen him totally sprawled out in such a manner since then.  But it’s clear – Boris is the boss, of Bertie at least.

Muga and Haan

Until this week there has only been a small section of fence, maybe six feet, where Muga and Haan might meet.  They may have met, but it hasn’t been obvious.  Now there’s a much longer stretch and over the last couple of days Muga and Haan have been sizing each other up.  Mostly there’s been some fake charges, and a little bleating and some disdainful shakes of the head.  They have also managed to charge each other a couple of times, the resounding crack of their heads echoing across the fields.  In the process Muga has wrecked the strand of electric wire along the bottom of the fence, and I think that might also have stopped more ramming.

Muga at least has been taking out his anger on some other posts.  Haan, other than his little dance with Muga, seems much more relaxed and hasn’t caused any problems.  He’s a young ram though, so who knows what he’ll be like in years to come.  We’ll probably need to keep them at least two fields apart.  Or double up the fencing…

I think it was a draw.  No dominance agreed…

Bernard and Gaffer

Now that all the weaners have gone I felt it was time to get all the sows together in one place.  It’ll make it easier to feed and manage them, and means that at least one of our pig areas will be rested for a while.

Moving them is easy, just shake the bucket of feed and lead them along.  Soon they were all together, food was on the ground and all was well.  For about thirty seconds and then Bernard and Gaffer kicked off.  Rearing up and trying to bite each other’s ears.

I’ve not seen two sows fight quite like that before, they really were having a go at each other and making quite an horrendous racket.  They’d shared a fence for several months and there must have been some harsh words exchanged, and now it was time to settle it properly.  I figured they needed to work out their differences and then they’d be fine.  Also, there was very little I could do to intervene, the old advice about not getting between two fighting dogs has got to go threefold for pigs.  After a minute or two it calmed down to the usual fighting, with them just pushing at each other’s side, and then a little later it seemed that it was all agreed.  It wasn’t until I fed them this evening that the result was revealed.  The dominance of that little group starts with Bernard on top, then Hacker and then Gaffer.  Gaffer had clearly lost that little fight – and probably the next round with Hacker which I didn’t see.

The good thing is that they don’t really seem to hold grudges as all three of them were in the hut sleeping together quite happily.  Before I disturbed them with food that is, when the dominance was clear to see as Bernard pushed both Hacker and Gaffer off the first pile of food, and Hacker pushed Gaffer off the second pile… then Bernard came round again to push Hacker off the second pile, she then pushed Gaffer off the third pile, and Gaffer moved round to the first pile.  This merry-go-round usually goes on until all the feed has gone.

Another incident the other day also made me think of dominance, specifically the pecking order.  I was getting some food for the chickens, which involves bending down to get feed from the bin we store it in, when the cockerel jumped up and pecked me in the middle of the forehead, before landing back and staring at me insolently.  It hurt, and I responded violently – I threw the feed in my hand at him.  Which really had no effect on him, and he just started pecking away at it.  I did also speak severely to him, but he seemed to ignore that as well.  Still, I’m counting that as a win for me.

Worried about Bertie – Wednesday update

Apologies for not updating on Bertie for the last couple of days, too many other things going on…

Bertie had continued much as before but seemed to be getting worse again.  he couldn’t get up on his own, and this morning when I got him up he slumped almost immediately back down again  His poo was back to normal, so it seemed like it was something else which was causing the problem, so we got the vet out.

The vet looked him over and thought that he might have hurt his back.  He was pleased that Bertie was still eating happily, but also noted that it looked like Bertie might be a bit constipated.  In fact we watched him as he really strained to do a poo.  The vet’s suggestion was that we feed him some grass, as it might help move things through.  Fortunately we still have plenty of that!  He also gave him a steroid shot, and some multi-vitamins which should hopefully give him a boost and help heal whatever is wrong.  We need to continue getting him up at least twice a day, and make sure he’s on dry straw.

All in all it was actually quite positive, I was a bit worried that he might say Bertie’s days were numbered.  He also asked how old he was, and when I said he was about eight the vet said that old age would likely be playing a part.  I still think of Bertie as one of the young goats we bought to keep our old goats company.  But that was six years ago…

More updates as he hopefully improves!

Worried about Bertie – Sunday update

Bertie was unable to get up with help again this morning, and went straight to the water when I did get him up.  He was hungry and ate the normal feed, and a load of hay when I brought it out to him.  On the upside his poo was solid – so definitely making progress there!

I took him more of the scours mixture, but I don’t think I did it very well as he didn’t guzzle it in the same way as he has the past few days.  Alex has been mixing it up and she clearly has the knack…

Hopefully he’ll be up and about later.