Losing Little Turnip Cake: A Hard Lesson in Raising Animals

We were overjoyed when Scout, our Nigerian dwarf, kidded a triple bundle of cuteness. Imagine how lucky we felt about her having not just triplets, but triplet doelings! One of the doelings looked like a mini-Scout with her light tan and black coloring and light blue eyes.

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Mini-Scout, we began to notice, would sometimes just stand and stare at you–or rather, through you. She also shivered a lot, like a chihuahua; we thought it was her being nervous with being picked up and held by us. Sean thought the name Turnip was fitting, and I adapted it to Turnip Cake after one of our favorite dim sum.

The first part of May brought some late April showers. Not expecting rain, we separated the mamas from their kids one evening, so we could start milking them the next morning. They all had cover and each other to keep warm, but the goat pen got mucky nonetheless.

The next evening, Sean found little Turnip Cake laying on her side, weak and wet. We brought her inside, gave her a bath, and fluffed her dry with a warm blow-dry. We fed her her mama’s milk from a baby bottle and wrapped her up in a baby blanket that was passed down to us. Then, we settled in for a quiet Friday night and watched an episode of Nashville together.

Little Turnip Cake basically gave us a crash course on taking care of a baby for the next few days. We let her rest in a makeshift cardboard crib; she was too weak to stand up on her own and cried almost hourly to either poop or pee. Over the weekend, we continued to bottle feed her, give her Pedialyte through a syringe, try to bring down her fever with baby aspirin dissolved in water, inject her with vitamin B complex, and finger feed her Probios probiotics. I called several feed stores looking for medicines, asking for Di-Methox 12.5% and banamine, in particular, to treat cocciodiosis and bring down her fever. None of the stores had them. By Sunday night, Turnip seemed to improve a little as she was able to stand on her own if we helped her get up. She continued to shiver, perhaps from having the chills, and cry every time she had to poop or pee. We had bonded a ton over the weekend and were deeply invested in her getting better. Either Sean or I would get up from bed and hold her in our arms out in the living room when she woke us up crying in the middle of the night. She seemed to trust us a great deal more and would walk towards me, and sniff me in her sweet, gentle way.

By Monday morning, however, she took a turn for the worse. Her poop had gone from clumpy the first couple of days to almost normal to watery. We had run out of Scout’s milk in the refrigerator on Sunday and had started feeding her Sterling’s milk. Could it have been that that made her worse or that we pushed too much milk too quickly on her? We had talked to a vet on Sunday, who said it seemed like we were doing everything we could. Sean brought her in to see him Monday morning and came home with Banamine-filled syringes and Lactated Ringer’s solution for subcutaneous rehydration. She was also given a broad spectrum antibiotic by the vet. Since she started having diarrhea, I stopped handling her to reduce any risk of infecting myself and my baby. Sean took over entirely, changing out her soiled puppy pads and cleaning up tirelessly. By Wednesday, she did not get any better. Her fecals showed “a small amount of coccidia,” which technically could have been completely normal (since all goats have some amount of coccidia in their feces). We drove to the vet to pick up treatment and were given amprollium, generic for Corid. I pushed to get Di-Dethox or Albon instead as I had read that Corid was not very effective in treating goats. The vet was in surgery, and the receptionist relayed to us that he said that Albon and Corid were the same thing, and they only had Corid anyway. We paid for the Corid and called around more feed stores. Upon asking about treatments available for coccidiosis (instead of asking for the specific medication name), Sean found a place that had the Di-Methox. We ran a couple of errands, had lunch, and went to the feed store and ended up picking up Sulmet, which is similar to Di-Methox, because it was in solution rather than powder form.

When we got home in the afternoon, Turnip was worse. Sean gave her the Sulmet and vitamin B shot. I held onto hope that she would get better now that we found the “right” treatment. Sean and I started arguing with each other, though, over how he was cleaning and doing things; he was overwhelmed, and I had no control because I was avoiding contact. After he cleaned up, he proceeded to give her more fluids. As he was doing that and apologizing to me for arguing with me, he commented that he thought she had taken her last breath right before he put the needle into her to administer the fluids. I looked over and noticed that she was no longer crying or moving and asked if she really was still alive. When Sean realized she was not breathing, he blew air into her and tried to resuscitate her. After a few minutes, we both began to sob. I thought that if I cried hard enough, that maybe she’d come back to life. But she didn’t. We lost her.

Poor Turnip was exactly one month old. I wish that she hadn’t suffered the way she did before she passed. I wish that Sean and I weren’t arguing and yelling at each other in her last hour of life. I wish she were still with us and playing with her sisters.

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Losing her was a tough and painful lesson. If we had known about coccidiosis prevention or had the right treatments and medications on hand, maybe she’d still be alive. Or we may have lost her anyway.  It crossed my mind that we should sell all our goats, so that we would never have to experience that again. But I realize that I couldn’t give up the joy that comes along with raising animals and loving them. I just hope that Turnip is at peace and happy at Rainbow Bridge.

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