Rusty is the boy I didn’t want. When I picked up my first bottle baby “Gracie”, the farmer really wanted me to take this little boy too. He said “If you are bottle feeding one, you might as well feed two” and then he offered to sell this goat for $50. I’m not trying to make bank on goat farming. I really want them to eat all the undergrowth on a 15 acre area we have fenced and the truth is they are just too cute to resist. But I also know that in order to pay for their winter hay and a little grain for the girls, I will need to sell some of the offspring each year. I can only have one intact male goat/Buck for my herd and I already have one wether (a sterile male goat) in my herd. I didn’t want to add another goat that will require feed, minerals and other costly maintenance. But I couldn’t resist the $50 deal on this boy so I took him.
Rusty ended up being a really sweet boy. I was told that both he and Gracie had been on the bottle already. He was supposed to be 2 weeks old and she was supposed to be 4 weeks old. This meant that I would need to bottle feed them for around 4 weeks total, twice a day. I had all my supplies ready and even found a local farmer to buy goat milk from each week. It took some effort, but I was able to get Rusty to finally take the bottle. Gracie never took to it, but I did get her to drink some from a bowl each day. Both babies were eating hay and some grain each day too. Within a few days, they both got sick with Cocidia. It’s common for baby goats to get this, especially if they are stressed out by being removed from their mom so young. I treated them both with medicine and they were both doing really good for around 4 weeks. That’s when I spoke to the farmer who sold them to me. I was confirming with him about some vaccines when he told me he was wrong about their birthdates. They were actually 1 and 2 weeks old when I picked them up.
I knew this was a critical error or omission on his part. This omission made a huge difference in Gracie’s growth. I’ll share more about that when I introduce her next week.
I bonded with Rusty. He was so cute, snuggly and lovable. Just a few days after we finished building the Goat Barn and getting everyone settled into their new shelter, Rusty got sick.
I teach on Monday’s at our homeschool co-op so I went to the barn to take care of everyone before I had to leave at 7:15. As I walked into the barn, I noticed Rusty wasn’t getting up. He was too weak to stand. His body temperature was dangerously low. This is bad news for a goat. I immediately found a substitute teacher and loaded Rusty into the back of my car for the drive to the goat veterinarian. They drew blood and did some testing, then decided to treat him for worms because he was very anemic. Goats can be infected with a variety of worms, and the worst kinds cause severe anemia which can be deadly. The veterinarian said that based on his age, he likely contracted them before coming to live with us. She gave him a shot at the office and sent me home with one to administer at home in 24 hours. She also instructed me on feeding him and trying to keep him warm.
He did ok that afternoon, eating grass and drinking water. His body temperature even came up to normal. I sat outside in the warm September sunshine with him that afternoon.
My husband was out of town so I set up the dog kennel in my bedroom for Rusty to spend the night inside where I could keep a close check on him all night. Tuesday morning I woke to the sound of Rusty grinding his teeth. I called the vet and they assured me that we just needed to give the medicine more time. His body temperature was dangerously low again, so I turned off our central air conditioning. I brought a space heater into my bedroom and sat on the floor with Rusty in my lap while the warm heat blew in our direction. It was blazing hot in my room, and his body temperature slowly rose again. As I was caring for him, I researched to see if there was anything else I could do for him. I found a recipe from a trusted goat mentor to treat a downed goat. After sending Noah to the grocery to pick up the items needed and preparing the downed goat recipe, I carried Rusty out to sit in the warm sunshine. I planned to feed him the recipe with a syringe, but as I settled into the chair while holding him, Rusty took his last breath before I could even try. I sat in the sunshine for a long time holding him, sobbing at the loss of my little buddy. I tried everything I knew, but it just wasn’t enough.
What I’ve learned about Goats:
Goats are not “easy”. They like to escape. Goats will over eat. They have a specific diet- one that does not include cans! Goats can get sick with pneumonia, upset stomach, a cold, and a plethora of worms. I also think goats are “easy”. I know, I’m contradicting myself. But it’s also true that goats are “easy” because IF you keep them fenced and pay attention to their health, you can have a lot of fun with goats! They have big personalities! You will fall in love with them and it will break your heart if you lose one.
There is a lot more to caring for goats than just keeping them fenced and providing water. You need to be aware of what is normal for each goat. When sickness comes, they can die so quickly.
I lost Rusty in September and it has taken me 5 months to write about it. I mourned the loss of that little goat almost as much as his stall mate Gracie. She cried for days. She and I helped each other through the loss of little Rusty.
His little life was not a waste. I learned so much in the time that I cared for him. I am extra aware of the signs and symptoms of sickness in my goats. Losing Rusty probably saved my whole herd. After he died, I treated the entire herd for worms. ( I know you are not “supposed” to do that, but I couldn’t bear the idea of losing another while waiting to see if anyone else got sick.) I have collected and printed a whole binder of information for treating a wide range of goat illnesses. I spend time every day assessing the condition of my goats. I know I am not fully prepared, and I will probably make mistakes, but I feel much more prepared for sickness should it darken our barn doors again.