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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.


Coping with Animal Deaths on the Farm

The llamas

I've been intentionally staying away from writing because last year was horrific.  We lost animals right and left, and no matter what I did, it didn't help. I'd like to say the veterinarians helped save them, but that would be a lie. I would like to say that the veterinarians knew what happened, but that's also a lie.

Bad Things Happen

The bad news was I lost every single baby goat. Every. Single. One. That included the so-called healthy ones. And every single problem was different. When I paid for a necropsy on one kid, the veterinarian contacted me and told me I had a very healthy, dead baby kid. What the hell was I supposed to do with that?

I got three other llamas in late September. By the end of December, I had one llama left, because the so-called expert llama veterinarians couldn't figure out what was killing them. One veterinarian even went so far as to claim I starved my llamas. When I pointed out that Sid and Llorelei had the run of the barn and could eat as much hay as they wanted, he started talking nonsense how my llamas couldn't digest the very hay they had been raised on. I called BS.

It took me talking to an alpaca breeder who had dealt with the same issue seven years ago who wrote a white paper on the disease. I lost my 21-year-old gelding, Sid, to it and almost lost Llorelei. The other llamas, who are dead now, brought the blood-borne disease into the herd, but from what I've read, at least one out of four llamas have it, and the numbers may be closer to 100 percent. It was so close that Llorelei almost died. Almost. I pulled her though, but she is terrified of me because I was giving her up to 5 shots a day.

The Weather was Awful

El Nino is to blame for this crap weather and the stress on my animals. I bred my goats later in 2014 thinking I could avoid the scary part of the cold weather in 2015 and ended up with bacteria blooms. El Nino made the weather warm and nasty wet. This really stressed everyone.

I'll be going through my notes about the goat deaths and hopefully, you'll learn something, and maybe even prevent possible deaths. This year, I bred for early delivery but still only have one goat kid, Blondie, on the ground. She's doing fine so far, (knock wood), but I know how quickly a goat can go down. I lost one kid during birth (the sibling to the kid we named Blondie), and despite my efforts, he just didn't live.

If I've learned anything, it's how fragile life can be. In the afternoon a goat kid can be alive and fine — three hours later, dead. It happens that fast.

My Turn in the Bucket

I had two dog deaths (one due to cancer; the other due to a weird intestinal torsion the vets tell me they don't know why it happens and there's a 95 percent chance the dog will die), one cat death (22 years old with kidney failure), seven baby goat deaths, and four llama deaths.

Yes, it was awful. But I learned some lessons I'll be sharing with you. And I learned that even when you do things right, stuff can still go terribly wrong. I'll also be talking about things I'm doing now and what I look for when I have sick animals.

Maggie Bonham is a multiple award-winning author, editor, and publisher who is a canine and feline behavioral expert and science fiction/fantasy writer living in the wilds of Montana. She raises horses, Alaskan Malamutes, cats, chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys, a llama and 14 ornery and loveable goats. Maggie is the publisher of both Sky Warrior Books and Garnet Mountain Press, which publish science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and nonfiction. Find her on Facebook and Twitter, and read all of Maggie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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