My husband and I live on a beautiful little farm here in rural Kentucky. We take great pride in caring for what God has graciously given us and that applies to both the land as well as our animals. Unfortunately our little piece of heaven is located in the middle of an Amish community and we have several Amish families living on our street including the family next door. The English, as they choose to call anyone who is not Amish, were here long before the community was established and have been relegated to being second class citizens. The image most people have of the Amish is based not on actual facts but rather by images portrayed in television movies and romance novels and are not even close to truth. Many of the choices they makes as to how they live their life are their business and do not affect us, however many of the decisions they make do directly affect those of us that live amongst them and negatively. Recently we were impacted by some of these choices and it did not cost them a thing, but it cost us dearly.
I love goats so when Jackie consented to letting me get two dairy nanny goats I was thrilled. It didn’t take long to find two and while Jackie was not a big goat fan when they came to the farm, they won his heart over in a very short time, though for a while he denied it. We named them Lucy and Heidi. We bought half of a billy-goat and at the first opportunity we breed them and they both settled. Baby goats! I was so excited and they would be due in early spring. Shortly after we bred the goats, an Amish family moved in next to us and right away they started accumulating animals which they purchased from auctions and sale barns. Anyone who is familiar with keeping livestock knows that when you bring an animal home from any venue the first thing you do is to separate it for a while to make certain it doesn’t have any illness which it could spread to other animals. This is a precaution the Amish choose not to take and once we noticed they were keeping directly next to our property we took steps to keep our animals away from the fence so as there could be no direct contact between our animals and theirs. Crisis averted, or so we thought.
Finally after a very long, cold, wet winter March 1 arrived and the countdown to Lucy and Heidi’s due date began. Each morning I would go to the barn feed them their breakfast and check all their vital signs. Then on the morning of March 21, 2014 as I got to the barn it was quite obvious labor was impending not just for one of them, but both of them. As fate would have it, Jackie had left the farm to go do a small welding job so until he returned I was on my own. I had left the girls for just a moment to go to the house to get some warm water and some towels and by the time I got back to the barn, there looking at me was two of the most beautiful, precious little goat kids I ever laid my eyes on. Heidi had her twins, a little boy we called Samson and a little girl we called Delilah.
At first, both babies and mother seemed to be healthy and things progressing, however after just a week Samson became obviously sick overnight. He had awful diarrhea and we wasted no time getting the vet to the farm as diarrhea can take the life of a young animal within a day. After a very thorough exam they vet told us he was infected with a parasite infection called coccidiosis which is nearly always a death sentence to a young goat. Being somewhat familiar with the condition, I was in shock because the area where the animals are pastured must be infected by an animal with the parasite, they do not naturally occur in the soil and Jackie had not had any animals on the property. Then the vet happened to look and see the nasty, filthy conditions that lay up against our property. He began to explain how this deadly parasite found its way onto our property. What we failed to realize was that when it rained, all the manure and the parasites and disease it contained and that they allowed to collect and not clean up at our fence line would wash all over our hay-field and a good part of our pasture, hence infecting our goats. We were told that the goats would need to be treated on a regular basis for the parasite since there was no way to clean the soil. Soil samples confirmed the initial report and all the other goats tested positive for the parasite.
Despite desperate attempts to save his life we lost Sammy that night. His young little body was just too damaged. While Lucy and her four kids were infected they showed symptoms but they are treated regularly with the special wormer. Delilah however was affected as well and it was a constant battle to keep her healthy. At the first indication of loose stool we would put her on the five-day treatment regime and start her on supplements. She would clear up and be fine for a while, that is until two weeks ago. She started with the diarrhea and we began our treatment program, including having the vet do a fecal examine. This time however, our attempts to get her back to health were futile. We just couldn’t get the diarrhea to stop. Then she stopped eating and when she quit taking the electrolytes out of the syringe we knew it was time to let her go. It was heartbreaking to say the very least. It’s never easy to lose a life, but it is even harder when you bring them into the world.
As a Christian I struggle and my struggles change from day-to-day just like everyone else. Often I think I have some emotion, some sin under control and then something happens and I realize how very, very far I fall short. Since the loss of my little goat, I struggle with bitterness. To me it was such a senseless loss that could have been totally avoided if common courtesy and good animal husbandry and hygiene would have been practiced. We have a personal responsibility to be kind and considerate to one another and to never think ourselves more important than everyone else. And above all else, we have a responsibility to care for the animals that God gave us.
Until we meet here again, I pray God bless you and keep your family safe.