Our beloved Izzy had always seemed to have trouble putting on weight, but a few weeks ago when her knees swelled and she was having trouble walking, we took her to the vet. He wasn’t terribly concerned but, almost as an afterthought, suggested we run a CAE test.
We were shocked when it came back positive. We had purchased Izzy from a reputable breeder who sells high quality show goats and judges county fairs all over our state and the country. But when I contacted him he told me that, since we bought Izzy, he had had positive CAE tests in his herd.
So we knew how Izzy got CAE. Now we had to figure out how to deal with it. There are people who try to manage CAE positive goats, but we made the difficult decision to put Izzy down. I don’t think she would ever have been a healthy goat.
It was tough, but we were comforted by the fact that almost all the rest of our does were bred. We were looking forward to an exciting spring. Our vet, county extension agent, and all our goat-raising friends assured us that CAE is not transmitted by sharing food and water or even through breeding – only through milk, colostrum, and blood. So, at this point my only real concern was that when we first got goats, we had vaccinated all the goats using the same needle. I know. I know. Very stupid. But again, everyone assured us that the odds of transmitting CAE through a shared needle were highly unlikely. I believe this is true. But unfortunately for us, the odds did not go in our favor. After testing the rest of the herd, we discovered that two more of our goats, Miss Barbara and Duchess, were also CAE positive.
What a blow! Again, I called the breeder our CAE came from. He insisted that some of the country’s top breeders have CAE positive herds and that there are ways to manage it. In fact, he is managing his CAE herd. Here’s how:
- He will breed all of his goats in one day.
- He is planning to take off work the week they are due and be there when they kid.
- There are nipple shields you can buy to keep a baby goat from nursing. (I think he has these.)
- He will milk the mamma goats and pasteurize the milk and colostrum. Pasteurizing kills CAE.
- He will bottle feed all the kids with pasteurized milk.
By doing these things, he should be able to prevent CAE from spreading to the next generation of goats from his herd. Since Miss Barbara and Duchess are symptom free (as a lot of positive goats are) he agreed to take them, so we did not have to put them down. I wish him luck. But there is no way our family is up to that kind of herd management. In fact, we felt perhaps it was time to reconsider if we were up to goats at all
Even though we’ve never been serious goat farmers – it has really been a hobby – it has still been time-consuming. But goats are fun, loving, and relatively easy to care for. Goats have been our thing (and I’m a big believer in having a “thing” with my kids). We’ve learned a lot and had fun too. But lately it hasn’t been fun. And what we’re learning has been heartbreaking. So the question for us became, it is worth it? Maybe that is a question that a lot of hobby farm and homesteading families have to answer from time to time.
On the one hand there is the notion that there is virtue in sticking with something even when it gets hard. Plowing through and reaping the rewards of sticking it out. I like that notion. I believe in that.
But on the other hand, there’s baseball. Charming Chet made the 9 Year Old All Star Team this year. This means lots of practices, late nights at the ball field, and travel. It also means asking Charming Catherine to do more than her fair share or, worse yet, asking grandparents to fill in when we have to be gone.
And the truth is, with half our herd gone, our hearts simply weren’t in it anymore. The kids felt disappointed, discouraged, and defeated. Between losing three goats and the beginning of baseball, now seemed like a good time to give up on goats.
Selling the rest of the herd was not a problem. There are plenty of people in the market for goats this time of year, especially bred goats. But I should point out that we were completely forthcoming with our herd’s history. Even though I still believe CAE is not transmitted by living together, I informed all potential buyers that we had had CAE positive goats on our farm. I made sure the family who ended up with Miss Jill, and Dawsy, and Natalie had a copy of the full CAE report – for the positive and negative goats.
As our regular readers know, That’s How You Learn is our motto. Usually that motto serves as a great inspiration to try something new or as a way to excuse a silly mistake. This time what we learned were hard lessons about raising livestock and about our own ability to balance farm life with other activities. It wasn’t easy saying goodbye to our goats, and it wasn’t easy admitting we were in over our heads. But it does feel good to know I’ve done the right thing for my family. I hope we will be able to have goats again in the future. In the meantime, the buffalo, the chickens, the ducks, and of course baseball are enough to keep us busy.