Reality check

syringesPeople who don’t keep livestock think that having dairy goats is like some sort of fairytale honeymoon. You go out to the paddock, fill a pail with fresh milk, and life is all strawberries and cream.

Reality…is a bit different.

You wake at 5 am to the sound of the goats whining at you. You stumble out of bed wishing that you could sleep in, just one day, but you know you can’t—the milking has to be done, whether you feel like it or not. You go out to the paddock and open the gate. You wrestle desperately with four goats who all want out the gate at once, trying to tease out the one you want. While you heave the gate shut behind her, the loose goat decides to eat those lovely ornamentals you just planted.

You pull her away from your flower beds and head her to the milking stand. She baulks at stepping up, because yesterday the neighbour’s irrigator was hitting the stand while you milked, and she was spooked by it. You cajole, then threaten her up onto the stand. You start to milk her, and she kicks. When you pull back to let her calm down, you discover why she doesn’t want to be milked this morning—she has a cut on one teat, and milking is reopening it. Your hand is covered in blood, but you can’t stop—she’s got to be milked.

You manage to milk her out while she dances around, trying to upset the pail. You get her back into the paddock and repeat the circus with another goat. When you get back inside, you strain the milk, and realise that one of the goats has developed mastitis.

You spend another couple of milkings trying to isolate who is infected, and whether one or both sides is infected.

When you finally know only one side of one goat has mastitis, you go to the vet, who decides that this time, she’s going to give you a systemic antibiotic for it, not the local udder injection like you expected. All that work figuring out exactly where the infection is was a waste of time.

For the next three days, you inject the goat with antibiotics. An intramuscular injection that’s as painful for you as it is for the goat. She hates the injections, and by day three absolutely refuses to get on the milking stand where you give them to her.

Now, for thirty-five days, you need to continue to milk, morning and evening. But instead of making cheese and ice cream, you have to throw the milk away because it’s laced with antibiotics.

So, yeah, it’s all strawberries…hold the cream.

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