Wednesday, June 3, 2009

You just can't say...

When we first started out farming we said a lot of things about how our farm would be run and how we, as business people, would handle situations from land stewardship to animal health and everything in between.

What we have learned is that all that talk really doesn't mean anything. You can only make the decisions you have to make as you are faced with them, and you can't know what circumstances will have led to that point.

Early on we said there would be no vets. With great hubris, we would announce things like, "our vets will be Smith and Wesson"; because ultimately a good quality milk goat can be purchased for between three and five hundred dollars, so accruing a vet bill for $300 would simply be bad business.

But here we are. With $300 already spent to diagnose Loretta's cancer and another $120 or so to go to have her euthanized and incinerated. Which I think we may do tomorrow.

So how did we get here? It is a number of things, but here are the factors unique to this decision:

1. Loretta presented with symptoms we were unable to process into a diagnosis we could be sure of.

She had a slight facial paralysis, difficulty eating and controlling her tongue and what we though were swollen lymph nodes. No fever, which made us wary of calling it a simple infection. She did not respond to our first line measures including benadryl (in case it was bee/scorpion sting or snakebite) and an anti-inflammatory pain medication to help reduce inflammation and pain related to eating. Neither helped her at all. Having ruled out bite/sting, we started thinking it actually WAS an infection of some sort, even though she had no fever. We needed a prescription antibiotic anyway, assuming it might have been an inner ear infection or something dental, so we figured we might as well take her in to be sure what we were facing and to get the proper antibiotic. It wouldn't take much for a vet to figure it out if it were one of those two things. And we could get the drugs as well as a few backup prescription meds for our stash. Normally, we are our own vets.

When we got to the vet, she ruled out teeth and ears. She thought the swelling we saw on her neck were abscesses, not swollen nodes,and as I mentioned in my last post,you do not mess around with abscesses on a goat. Our management philospohy says you must culture the pus and isolate the goat until you can be sure you are not dealing with CL. So we did. We also had to address the appetite issues and the fact that if a goat stops eating for too long it can irreversibly damage its rumen. Total vet bill for blood testing, medicines, theraputic drugs and outlab CL testing - $300.

2. We recently had the world's worst farm experience in having to euthanize Jakarta.

Christian is still affected by that day in the barn and honestly is not prepared to do it again. And he is pretty sure that even though I offered to do it this morning, I am not either. I can't say. You can't know until you do something. You can talk big about shooting a goat - and a lot of people have no problem doing it. We are just not those people. Not yet anyway. This is something that may or may not change. Add to that the fact that we don't have a good place to leave the carcass (Because I REALLY don't want parts to come home in Trudy's weird pile) and we decided we may as well pay the $75 to have them dispose of the body, too. My guess is that the whole thing will be between $120-150.

So there we are.

We talked about all of this at length. We asked whether this made us "bad" farmers. We know it makes no sense financially. But here it is: It's who we are today. And what feels right for us in this specific situation. And in the end, that's all you have. You just can't say how you'll be until the time comes to be.

I hope we don't have hard choices like this again soon, though we are not so naive to think we won't have them again. This is part of farming and having animals. The very, very hard part. Does it make us bad farmers? No. I think I could argue that it is what makes us good farmers. Be the change you want to see. These are the farmers we are.


Kristin said...

You guys are great farmers...

I don't think you can ever be prepared for everything that pops up and kicks you in ass on a farm. I come from a farming family (mom, grandparents and aunts and uncles farming land and animals), and I have heard some really sad and horrible stories. Situations I'm sure they never thought they'd be facing...

By the way, my uncle is a livestock vet, so if you need anything at all, please let me know. He actually travels all over the world for the federal govt to help out with things like pandemic animal infections...he knows A LOT and has been farming his entire life...cows mainly, but he works with them all - pigs, sheep, etc. Let me know if you ever need anything!!!

Brandi said...

i think you are wonderful farmers. who wants a farmer who thinks it's easy? not me.

parenting is the same way. i was a much better mother before i had kids.

NoGrandmother said...

You are the people you are, and thus the farmers you need to be. Never feel guilty about that. said...

A bad farmer would do nothing. A bad farmer would simply let the goat be and dispose of a carcass in a few weeks.

You are not a bad farmer.

Caring makes you not a bad farmer. Bad English, good point.

Pam said...

Oh Lisa, reading this made me so sad. I think farming must be like parenting..."never say never." I DO know this to be true...being a good farmer and being a good business person may not be the same thing, but you ARE a good farmer.


Katherine said...

Very tough decision. You have been strong and honorable in how you've handled this as farmers and on Loretta's behalf.