In Memory of Shirley


Tracy HouptGood days on a farm are often extremely good. Bad days on a farm are sometimes extremely bad. It reminds me of the poem my mother used to recite to me: There was a little girl, and she had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead; when she was good, she was very, very good. … But when she was bad, she was horrid!

We had a bad day recently, when we said goodbye to Shirley, our 3-year-old Boer goat. Shirley got a bum rap in this life. This past fall she contracted a parasite, meningeal worm, which is carried by deer. Lucky for them, it passes through their systems with no harm done. However, slugs and snails can spread it by crawling over deer droppings; if a small ruminant accidentally ingests one of those slugs or snails, the parasite gets “lost” in him or her and wanders around the spinal column, causing itchy lesions that often result in some level of back-leg paralysis.

Last Christmas Day I noticed one of Shirley’s back feet dragging a bit as she walked. Four days later, she was, for all practical purposes, a two-legged goat. That’s pretty sad in any circumstance, but at the time Shirley went down, she was five weeks away from delivering her first babies. These were to be the first kids born on our little farm, and they had been much anticipated. Because Shirley was our only pregnant doe, we had all of the proverbial eggs (ahem, kids) in one basket.


We are fortunate to have a veterinarian who knows a lot about goats and raises them himself. He knew which de-wormers to prescribe that would be safe for the unborn kids. We administered the two medications, then spent the last five weeks of the pregnancy worried about complications like a prolapse of some sort. Shirley just soldiered on, eating heartily and nourishing her growing babies. (Goats with meningeal worm typically eat and drink normally.)

On day 149 of her gestation, we were pretty sure the kids were on their way. By the time the vet got to us, all he had to do was reposition the breech kids, and we welcomed Opie (a buckling who looks like his Boer mama) and Ellie (a doeling who looks more like her Sable Saanen dad).

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