Friday, April 29, 2016

The Hardest Part of Farming May be Accountability: What We Lack most in America

We are not raised to be accountable people often enough these days.

Heck, If you're reading this and under 60, you likely have felt at least some degree
of what I am talking about here.

We have a society that has long said, "Don't worry, someone will save you if things go too far."

Someone will be there, some program, some assistance, somebody will help and turn it all around with you, for you, beside you. For you. Instead of you.

We do it for our children, we do it for friends or family guilty of some minor to grave poor decision, and we expect it to be done for us, too.

We teach things like, "It isn't your fault," or "You did the best you could," or "Something in your past makes this behavior acceptable," and so I look around, and I see too few people broken over their poor choices.

I see too few people able to accept consequences when someone doesn't save the day for them. They cannot acknowledge a poor choice or even that fate dealt them a bad blow. They cannot take a mess and try to make it into something worthwhile in the aftermath. This is probably why addiction has encompassed our nation.

What does this have to do with farming, I suppose you will now ask?

I have found there is little else in America take makes you face your choices like farming.

It overwhelms you with the by-product of what you have done in the most harsh of ways (and in the most rewarding of ways, as well, to be fair), and it is very difficult to wiggle around your responsibility, your accountability. For better, for worse. It is on you.

To get to the point, for instance. . .

I have learned many things about animal husbandry over my lifetime.
Most things were learned at the cost of an animal's life. I'll be frank.

Because I did something horribly wrong, a creature dies, and I learn a lesson. I do not do it again, and I try to use it to teach others to do better, but I do not forget at what cost the lesson came to me.

I try not to beat myself up over what I didn't know if I made the effort to learn and somehow missed it, but I remain heartbroken over these things just the same. And I learn a lesson.

But what has happened here over the last week is not a case of I did not know.

I did know, and I did the wrong things over and over.

Goats are tremendously fragile and complex. They aren't for the faint of heart. They make you tougher because they need you to be that for them because that is the last thing they ever are, I guess.

Man has taken animals from another continent, selectively breed unnatural traits into them for a few hundreds years, and we try to make them thrive here in America. And they can, if you give the proper care. I've seen it. I've thought many times over the last 6 years I had my management under reasonable control and had enough knowledge, how this herd not only survives, but they thrive.

And I've let that sense of accomplishment get me carried away and take too many risks. I look out and think how grand they all look, and so I stopped being diligent in some areas. I've been lazy.

Accountability and farming. You can't get away from it.

And so, knowing the great risks of enterotoxemia from Clostridium perfringens, I still hadn't vaccinated everyone here with their CD/T. I just did not do it. No better reason.

Beyond that, taking it a step much further, I decided to change our grain ration, and instead of making the change slowly, I changed it overnight. Not once. Several times. Too quick. I know better.

Let us take it further and tell you I didn't even have the antitoxin vaccine on hand to treat in case of an emergency, knowing no vets carry it and it can only be ordered here.

Not one mistake. 3 huge mistakes.

So I set this lovely herd of animals I care so much for up for a gruesome, devastating illness. Because I have been fortunate to have goats for 8 years without encountering this one thing personally, I just decided to ignore the chances, I guess. I do not know what else to say.

 And day by day, another of my herd has come up with signs of the illness: Enterotoxemia.

We have lost one beautiful doe, Glory, 2 nights ago, when the illness went beyond the scope of what I could treat, and she died laying in my lap screaming because we could not even put her down humanely quick enough before she passed. It became clear she would never pull through too fast for me to do anything else but talk to her and apologize and know I caused this horrible fate. She cannot be replaced. Not only because they are all unique to me, but also because, from a farming standpoint, there is no way to replace her genetics or what she might have done for the herd.

Just so you know, if you see it, what you're dealing with:

I can only hope we will save the others. I am trying. Some are out of the woods. For one it is Too late. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That is no joke.

I go up and another has scours, and I can only sit there in the barn and feel hopeless. Unqualified and cruel.

How many injections can you give?
How many medications in an effort to clean up your own mess?

Sure, I have what I need now. I'm doing what I need to do now. But it is too late for my lovely blue roan 2 year old doe. It may be too late for my beloved 6 year old Saanen doe, Bianca. It may be too late for the buck I had brought all the way from Missouri to recover genetics of mine from a few years before that meant a lot to me. I hope not.

 I think we are in time to save the rest. I don't know if others will surface tonight with the symptoms, and I have few ideas how I can stand it if that happens.

So let me tell you one thing, if you lack accountability, give farming a try.

I suspect you will learn all you ever wanted and did not want to know about stark reactions to your choices and having no way around facing what you've done when you bury something you've hand raised that depending on you to do better. And you did not do better at great cost.



Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens

- Proverbs 27:23-27

"I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals, and other branches of a husbandman's cares."

- George Washington