Friday, May 15, 2015

No Burps: An Unhappy Balance

Last week one of the Goaty Boys got sick. He was fine during the day but in the evening when it was round-up time to head to the pen we noticed Duke standing alone in the doghouse. He looked . . . sad; head down, his usually perky tail flat and limp. When he slowly walked towards us we saw that his body was full and distended. That is to say, more full and more distended than usual.

Now here's the thing about goats: They have four stomach compartments, the largest one - the rumen- is where digestion occurs. The rumen utilizes microorganisms for digestion rather than digestive enzymes, it's a living fermentation vat. The byproduct of digestion is goat burps, goat farts, and organic acids. Oh, and don't forget those glossy black goat berries. Anyway, all is fine and well when there are lotsa farting, burping, and a happy acid:base balance maintained.

We help to maintain the Goaty Boys' happy pH balance by offering free-choice baking soda all the time. Yup, good ol' Arm and Hammer baking soda. We buy the mega-bag from Costco for the Boys to lick at will from plastic trays in their goat house.

The other thing to know about goats is when you introduce new foods to them you do it slowly so their happy little rumen bacteria gets just a small sampling at first, just a taste. So, no, goats cannot eat anything and everything (tin cans included). Well, maybe they can if you don't want to keep them around for very long. The Goaty Boys feed themselves by browsing the property. They get kitchen scraps and a scoop of COB (corn, oats, and barley), goat granola, as their bedtime treat.

Imagine our befuddlement to have a sick goat on our hands. For some reason Duke's rumen wasn't working properly and he was retaining gas, and lots of it. There's a name for it, it's called Goat Bloat. We gave him a dose of Canola oil orally, walked him, massaged, and patted his left side to help him to burp till it was time for everyone to go to bed, including us.

Early the next morning The Man and I were down at the pen hoping for the best, prepared for the worst. We found a miserable Duke, grinding his teeth and shivering, signs of discomfort and pain.

I got him moving around the pen, massaging, and patting his distended belly.

The Man left for the nearest drugstore with my list of OTC pharmaceuticals. We needed to get some immediate gas relief before the distention caused cardiopulmonary collapse, i.e. death. Invasive treatment included an esophageal tube and/or needle decompression into the rumen. We definitely didn't want to have to go there.

It's called "drenching" when you give a goat oral medications. Haha, very funny, to the person who coined that phrase. The Man and I covered ourselves and Duke with minty-smelling Milk of Magnesia, we also managed to get some in his mouth. I had poked a hole into the simethicone gel cap and squeezed what I could into the MOM mixture. We passed on the pink stuff.

Over the next few days we walked, and walked, and walked. All the other animals thought it was great fun and no matter how badly Duke felt he slowly followed along.

We added Probiotic paste to his MOM drenching. We watched his tail slowly come up, chewing cud rather than grinding his teeth, and knew that he was improving. It took a week for full recovery and by Saturday he was back to his usual goaty self. We couldn't blame him but he kept his distance from us for several days.

Since there wasn't a change in the Goaty Boys' diet we can only surmise that Duke overate some of the more lush, green weeds that has flourished this spring. Milkweed in particular can be problematic with pH balance. We're hoping we don't see Goat Bloat again (knocking on wood) but if we do I've heard that goats don't mind the taste of cherry-flavored Milk of Magnesia.

Happy Rumen, Happy Goat