Something very sudden, and very sad happened this week. Night Hawk, our little buck, became very, very ill suddenly and died. I believe he had Stargazing, or goat polio – not a contagious disease, but caused by a vitamin B1 deficiency. He was growing, in appearances in good health, although he seemed behind developmentally. He was still very babyish and not acting bucky at all, when he should have been.
The evening before he had been peppy as usual, and eagerly ate grapefruit sections out of my hand. The next afternoon, he was staggering around, blind, and quickly declined as we tried to figure out what was wrong. We ran to the store and got needles and B vitamins, but at that point he was collapsed and barely breathing. It was too late.
In retrospect, I think he was too dependant on our big scoop of feed we would give him. I was wanting to make sure he got enough to eat, and so he would grow, but I wonder if it was too much and he didn’t get enough hay. B1 (thiamine) is produced in the rumen in normal conditions, but too much feed can interrupt it. Apparently it is a common problem when goats are hand-fed. It is also possible he had a genetic pre-disposition to it. It is a metabolic disorder. While he was very sweet and loving, he was never very vigorous. His twin died right after we picked him up from a virus that swept through the goat herd at my friend’s farm.
The truth is, goats we have bought from other people never do very well. They are the only ones who are ever sick or have ever died. All the goats born on our farm have always been vigorous and healthy. I’m not sure if we just have hard conditions? We don’t use chemicals or processed feeds. They tend to get a high-forage diet like they are supposed to. Could it be that those goats are adapted to that and need those things? And our goats have adapted to our conditions? I suspect our goats would not do well in a conventional situation. They would want browse. I wonder if the chemical wormers would make them sick. They have never been exposed to that sort of thing.
Mirin lit a big fire of weeds from the garden in honor of Night Hawk last night, and we buried him in the orchard. It’s been particularly hard for Clothilde. They were very close. She ADORED him, and fed and petted him daily. While he was sick, she sat by him and “read” him a book to help him get better. So sad. He was a charming little fellow, and we’ll miss him – but he was not necessarily a good buck for us.