Monday, May 7, 2012
Mary Beth, Goat of Destiny
As I write this, I am cooking Oreo the Goat. Oreo the Goat was the mother of Mary Beth, my bottle baby. While I was sorry to reach the conclusion that Oreo needed to meet a quick death, it actually ended up being in Mary Beth's best interest that she was already being fed on a bottle. Mary Beth and her brother Timmy were born on a cold January day. She was named after my current intern from Ohio State, and almost mirrors her sunny disposition. Oreo made it clear from the start that she had no problems with her daughter, but there was no way in the world that she would feed her. In contrast, Oreo allowed Timmy to nurse without problem, but was deadset that Mary Beth would not be allowed the same nutrition. Thus, I became Mary Beth's surrogate mother . . . and Mary Beth learned to drink her milk from a recycled Yuengling bottle!
If a new mother rejects a baby, I have found that this typically means the goat lacks proper maternal instinct. In that case, the goat has no place on a working farm. It will be sold, for the betterment of the rest of the herd and of the human. Every creature on this farm must contribute. If an experienced mother, however, rejects a baby, I have found that there is usually a reason why this happens. God has gifted humans with brains that cause us to analyze our behavior, but animals are blessed with the simplicity of acting with an instinct that involves no need for reason. Oreo was an older goat, and was thinner than I would have liked. Her instinct must have told her that she could only raise one baby. Timmy was the baby she chose, and Mary Beth became my baby.
Mary Beth has become a superstar visitor to local schools. Her first visit was to a pre-school near Ashville, where she entertained numerous little children . . . who all wanted a turn to pet the baby goat! This was a quick trip, where she was able to stay outside. Although Mary Beth was not a fan of riding in the Goatmobile, she gradually adjusted. Her second event was an educational day at Plain City Elementary sponsored by Madison County Farm Bureau. To my surprise, the school chose to place a Goatherd and a goat in a classroom! Mary Beth was quite a professional: she relieved herself outside the school after we arrived, and then calmly followed me right through the front door of the building! We got our fair share of double-takes as students and teachers observed me taking "my kid" to school! The picture at the top of this post shows Mary Beth entertaining a classroom of students. Although I could tell she was tired by the end of the day, I was impressed with the calm manner with which Mary Beth handled a public appearance. Truly, she was made for the limelight!
Sadly, Oreo began to go downhill quickly when Mary Beth & Timmy were almost 3 months old. I found her in the barn one day, unable to get up. The other goats were out grazing, but Mary Beth & Timmy had remained inside with their ill mother. As I examined Oreo, I realized that at her advanced age this was not an illness she would recover from. I could treat her -- with an antibiotic and with a de-wormer -- but more than likely, she would still pass. I decided the most humane thing to do would be to end her suffering and give value to her body. I moved Mary Beth & Timmy to live in a small pen in the front of the barn with my new calf E. Shackelton and Mop & Fuller the Goats.
Once a friend was able to arrive to help me, we moved Oreo from the barn. I typically butcher animals by the hydrant so I have plenty of water available. Oreo's blood pressure was very low, and she passed quickly when I bled her. I was once told by a vet that there are two things that can kill an animal: the one big hammer or the fourteen little hammers. Sometimes death is triggered by a major thing, but other times it is a number of small items that combine to cause illness. In Oreo's case, she was elderly and was dealing with a heavy case of parasites. This was combined with lungs that were not in the best condition and a swollen gall bladder . . . and these were just the things that a simple goatherd & butcher immediately detected. While I hated to say goodbye to this longtime member of the herd, it was my responsibility to show her the respect of a quick death. When humans were given dominion over animals, we were also given the profound responsibility to treat them with love and respect. This dominion is a great power, and thus requires great responsibility in our human behavior.
Mary Beth & Timmy are adapting to their new location. When I examined Oreo, I realized that she had stopped producing milk, and therefore Timmy is not struggling due to a quick loss of dairy nutrients . . . he had already been forced to stop drinking much milk. Mary Beth is quite used to humans, and her relaxed attitude is helping Timmy to adjust to being around me more. Oreo's meat is going to feed the Pyrenees pups. She is keeping them strong, and has left a legacy in her daughter -- a goat that is educating many young people on the wonders of farming!