Can I just start by saying that I HATE drama?
Really. I do.
I’m definitely more of a “peace-and-quiet-and-good-tilled-earth” kinda guy. I bend over backwards to avoid unnecessary drama in the workplace. I do everything I can to reduce drama in family interactions. Heck, I don’t even watch television or movies all that often because I can’t stand the drama!
It seems like I’m always going out of my way to rid my life of excess drama, and then what do I do?
I go out and buy some flippin’ goats — and bring in more drama than I could have ever possibly imagined!
Monday morning, I woke up just before dawn (sadly, I didn’t wake up to Ricky’s crowing). Then I rolled out of bed, put on some clothes, mixed up some bottles, and headed out to feed the little kiddos.
When I got to their makeshift pen, I was greeted by a happy, tail-wagging Skunk. Not an actual skunk, mind you. Just our little black and white striped goat kid, named Skunk. His twin sister, Edelweiss, was nowhere near as vigorous.
She was standing lethargically in the straw, her shoulders hunched, ears drooping, a far-off look in her sad little eyes… Almost the exact same posture Skunk had during his close shave with death, about 3 weeks earlier.
There was one striking exception though: Edelweiss’s abdomen appeared to be bloated as round and tight as a regulation WNBA basketball!
Now, forgive me if you already knew this, but goats are ruminants — meaning, they have a 4-chamber stomach which allows them to digest all sorts of fibrous/woody plants.
The largest, and arguably most important chamber is the rumen (hence the name “ruminants“). You can think of it as sort of a large fermentation vat. The goat spends a good portion of his day meandering around the pasture, eating a delectable meal of dyer’s woad and last year’s kochia, biting off mouthfuls of plant matter and swallowing it all down in one gulp. Afterwards, when things have calmed down a bit, he’ll find someplace quiet to “chew his cud” (i.e. barf up mouthfuls of vegetation, chew it into a pulp, and then swallow it back down again). The cud then makes its way into the rumen, which is where the real magic happens. Trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms get to work, breaking things down into a more digestible form. One of the byproducts of this bacteria-driven pre-digestion is gas — and lots of it.
(Which is why you’ll often hear all sorts of flatulence coming from our goat pasture).
Bathroom humor aside, it’s all a pretty amazing process, when it’s working properly — bacteria breaking down plant fibers into digestible sugars and fatty acids and all that jazz…
Unfortunately, sometimes things go awry.
Sometimes the “rumen bugs” get so active “doin’ their thang” (digesting stuff and putting off gas), that the animal just can’t fart/burp fast enough to keep up with it — which can quickly turn into a downright deadly situation.
Such was the case with Edelweiss.
The poor little thing was so bloated she could hardly move. When I picked her up to get her out of the pasture, she let out a long, heart-wrenching, blood-curdling scream. One of those high-pitched wails that sounds more human than animal.
As quickly as I could, carried her over to the back porch, ran inside to mix up a syringe full of baking soda and water (‘cuz sometimes that can help balance things out in the rumen), and rushed back outside to administer it to her.
She didn’t want to swallow, but I eventually got about 7mL down her gullet — which actually seemed to make things worse.
I started massaging her abdomen, trying to work out gas bubbles as best I could. But her gut was just getting harder and harder by the minute, and the poor little thing was whimpering with each and every breath.
I could tell my efforts weren’t really helping, so with one hand still massaging Edelweiss’s swollen abdomen, and the other hand clumsily navigating my smartphone, I started searching Google for any other simple remedies.
(Because, let’s face it, I definitely didn’t want to resort to puncturing her rumen with my pocketknife. Not with a 4 week old doeling. And NOT on a Monday morning!)
After a quick internet search, I found several sources suggesting that I force some mineral oil down her throat. Apparently, that can help with some forms of bloat. So I rinsed out the syringe and gave her some.
If I thought her screaming was bad when I picked her up the first time, it was NOTHING compared to the screaming that ensued after giving her the mineral oil! I’ve heard some pretty haunting sounds in my day, but boy — the sad, shrill wailing coming from our little Edelweiss that morning sure ranks among the top.
It kinda broke my heart to see her in pain like that, but all I could really do was keep holding her and keep massaging. Although, in the back of my mind, I was already formulating a game plan to puncture the rumen if things got much worse — because, in my opinion, a hasty (but hopefully sanitary) stab wound to the rumen is much better than a slow, painful death by asphyxiation.
Anyway, the two of us just sat there on the back porch. ‘Weiss, whimpering in my arms while I forcefully massaged her swollen abdomen.
I’m not sure if it helped or not (it probably didn’t), but I quietly sang the Edelweiss song to her from “The Sound of Music:”
Every morning you greet me
Small and white
Clean and bright
You look happy to meet me
Together, we watched the golden sun rising in the east, and with it, came a hint of relief — Edelweiss pooped all over my pants and started passing gas periodically (out of both ends).
She still wasn’t out of the water yet, but at least it was something!
I continued to massage and monitor her for then next hour or so; long enough for Lindsey and the munchkin to wake up and eat breakfast (and long enough for me to miss the bus into town). But I’m happy to say, the bloating went down almost as fast as it came.
I ended up being quite late for work that day (mostly because I decided to spend the rest of the morning planting potatoes in the garden), but at least our little Edelweiss is still with us.
Yes, those stinkin’ little goats have brought a lot of drama into our lives, but we’ve sure been enjoying the ride!