I swear, this has been the spring of many babies at Poplar Spring! I asked Dave today if it has been an unusual year, in that sense, because I don’t remember this many babies arriving last year. I gather that there have been some more than usual, but in general there are babies arriving year round. And that’s true enough of this past year as well – Emily, the blind calf, arrived about a year ago. Newman, arriving as a six-month old goat, came sometime this past fall. And there was Hermie, the itty bitty chick rescued from a reptile show in September or October, and then the five baby chicks that came in early November, I think. In December or January it was Petey and Otis, two baby pigs rescued from an abuse situation, and then more recently it was Sally, the flying nun, and the two baby lambs (Billy and Butch) and their momma (Betty). So it has been pretty continuous.
Today there were four babies! Two more baby goats, four days old, and two baby pigs, who had never even seen straw until just a few days ago.
Sadly there was some awful news today as well. Sally died this past week, primarily due to the negligence of the vet clinic. It is hard to comprehend, really, that the sweet little goat that was so full of life and happily performing acrobatic feats off of the pigs just two weeks ago has died. I can remember how she felt as I carried her two weeks ago from the pig yard to her stall in the goat yard for her nap.
She’d wormed her way into all of our heart, as babies have a tendency to do. As hard as it is when any of the animals die, there is something comforting in being able to say “they had a good life at PS, and had a chance to be comfortable in their last years” when the animal is older. Sally was only a few months old, and her death is the kind where you can only say “it shouldn’t have happened.” She’s not the first who has been lost to the negligence of the vets – you can imagine the struggle any sanctuary has finding vets who will treat “farm animals” with the same consideration and competence we demand of those who treat our cats and dogs and other pampered pets. Terry and Dave actually had taken Sally to a vet that is 3.5 hours away, because they can only trust the local vets for certain procedures, and even then they aren’t always happy with the service they get. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.
We need some animal rights people to become large animal and bird vets and live near the various sanctuaries so that the sanctuaries can depend on qualified people who understand just how seriously the sanctuaries take the health of their residents. I know that all sanctuaries deal with this issue.
Spending time at the sanctuaries tends to drive the cycle of life home. For every moment spent in grief over the loss of one, there are moments of joy over the saving of others. Today was especially bittersweet, with the new baby goats.
Leo, just four days old today, arrived this past week with his brother. They seem quite big for just being four days old! You can see their extreme youth in their unsteady balance, and in their focus on nursing from whatever they can find that seems vaguely nipple-ish. Fingers are popular, but they’ll make do with jackets and noses as well.
Lenny is the bigger and bolder of the two, though they were both very friendly and had no hesitation in approaching new humans and demanding food of them. They’re an “alpine breed” and their story is very interesting, as it highlights the misconception of the “friendly family farm.”
It starts with a woman who went to a small family farm that sells goat cheese. I can fill in the blanks and make some guesses – she probably believed that small family farms were “better”, perhaps she believed in buying locally, and in any case she made the effort to go to the source to buy her goat cheese.
What she found there horrified her enough that she purchased six one day old babies, to save them from being sent to the market for slaughter. The woman running the farm with her husband was more than happy to sell these babies for $15 each, since she’d likely get from $1 to $5 at market, and selling them for a greater price at a younger age both maximized this woman’s profits and minimized her expenses.
When she picked up the baby goats, instead of the goat cheese, she witnessed a baby being born. The goats are bred spaced throughout the year so that there is never a downtime when there are no goats lactating. And so the babies are born year round. This woman watched the baby being born, after which the husband scooped up the baby and dumped it in a manure bucket and carted it off. As if it was waste. Which, to them, it is. Their money comes from the cheese, the babies are simply a by-product of a process they need to make happen in order for the goats to produce milk. The babies aren’t allowed to nurse at all because, as the husband told the woman-rescuer, it would cut into their profits.
So the woman who now had her eyes opened wider than she could comfortably bear about the dairy industry, having witnessed the horrors on a family farm first hand, came home with six day old baby goats, and quickly realized it was more than she could handle on her own. And that is how Leo and Lenny came to Poplar Spring this week.
Since this post is already incredibly long, I’ll just keep going!
Mork and Mindy are the two piglets who arrived this week. They actually came from the same vet clinic that killed Sally, for a bit of irony. They were used, essentially, for vet students to learn procedures on. Most years what happens is that the piglets, bought at market, are used for this purpose, and then sold for slaughter. And yes, this is a vet school doing that, which I find chilling. This year they brought the two piglets to Poplar Spring instead. Mork and Mindy lived their entire lives on concrete, in cages, except when they were being prodded, bled, and having tubes inserted into them. They were driven down, a 3.5 hour ride, in cages with no bedding. When they arrived at PS, it was the first time they’d ever seen straw. Can you imagine? Clearly they are loving their new home already, though they’re still quite frightened.
They’ll be rolling over for belly rubs before long, I have no doubt. Mork is on the left, having buried his face in the hay. Mindy is the cutie on the right.
Billy, Butch and Betty are mingling with the rest of the sheep and the goats now that they’re clear of all parasites. Many of the sheep are a bit frightened of them, but with the babies as ambassadors it won’t be long before they are all comfortable with the new trio. Billy is the white lamb, Butch the brown lamb (though technically they’d call it “black”!) and Betty is their mom.
I realized as I watched them today that I have never had the chance to see babies grow up with their mom at PS. And indeed, it is an unusual event to have the moms arrive with the babies. There was one cow years ago who arrived pregnant, and so there is a mother-son pair of cows, but Stewart was grown long before I ever visited PS. It will be interesting to watch Billy and Butch grow up under the watchful gaze of their momma in a community of fellow sheep.