For us here at Cota Farms, the most difficult aspect of animal care is knowing when not to intervene. I suspect this is a dilemma for all small farmers. Often, there is nothing that you can do to heal an animal once an illness progresses to the point where it gains your attention. For example, we once had Boer goats here on the farm because that is what many other farmers in the area had and we didn’t know any better at the time. These goats are very sensitive to certain parasites and some bacterial infections. We have since discovered that those farmers who had success with these animals drug them on a regular basis. They must also be coddled through our nasty winters.
Once these goats start to show signs of disease, it is very hard to heal them. I confess I expended great effort on more than one occasion trying to save a goat, when in truth I was only prolonging the poor animal’s distress. They all died anyway, just a few days later than they would have. It was heart breaking and we eventually got rid of these goats. This was not good animal care. Our mistake was having these particular goats in this area in the first place. Since we were trying to provide drug free meat to the local markets, we did not routinely feed and inject them with antibiotics, wormers, and other medications.
It is standard procedure for many meat animals to be treated against the onset of disease, treated with drugs. These drugs have time periods spelled out by the manufactures, in which they should not be use prior to slaughter. Even so, the accumulation of these drugs in our environment is coming from somewhere, and there is a demand for untainted meat. The only way to get it is through a small farmer. Government regulations do not allow for the disclosure of drug information in the meat you buy at the local grocer. Indeed, we are not allowed to know if the meat is genetically modified or even cloned! Imagine how these laws came to pass.
But back to the issue, sometimes, we can make a difference. It is lambing season as I write this and we occasionally step in to save a lamb that has been rejected or neglected. When an experience mother rejects her lamb there is usually a good reason and it is best not to interfere. After having some experience with this, we are able to distinguish between those lambs that can be saved from those that can not. Fortunately, this is a small percentage of the lambs, unless there is a bigger problem. After the first time or two, adopting a lamb is not so glorious and is just more work. We have found that it is easier to bring the lamb into the house where you can give it the attention it needs, bottle feeding for one thing. And of course you can’t just keep it in a box, it needs to interact and have exercise, much like a puppy, and after a short time that is just what you will have, a puppy that can never be house broken. So you pray for an early spring when you can get your new puppy outside and wait until you can introduce her back into the flock.