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Monday, May 02 2016

A dear friend of mine once described me as being afflicted with "catastrophic expectations," where your mind races towards the worst possible conclusion to even the slightest bump in the road. She recognized the disease because she suffers from it too.  If someone is more than a few minutes late, we immediately assume they're dead in a ditch somewhere and begin making funeral plans in our heads. As you can imagine, a career as a crime scene investigator did nothing to dull my sense of catastrophic expectations, and neither does living on a farm.

It works like this:

If you have a favorite goat, that's the one who will die. If a particularly beautiful baby goat or lamb is born, that's the one who will die. If a calf is missing, the coyotes got it. That lump in the yard is a dead chicken. The bushes the Labrador just stuck his head inside will contain a copperhead. It happens often enough that things like that are always in the back of your mind.

If you have enough animals, someone is always in crisis, on the verge of crisis, or recovering from a crisis. Sometimes just right out of the blue, tragedy hits you. If you have sheep and goats, you are always worried about worms, coccidiosis, accidents, and predators. I just got coccidiosis cleared up in a wether who wouldn't maintain weight. He's starting to bloom. Now I have to worry about occasional diarrhea in one or both of the bottle baby goats. Is it the formula? Is it the spring grass? Is it the fact that they are now eating alfalfa and pelleted food too? They aren't sick, just runny every few days, so we just keep playing with variables.

Aja, the retired patrol dog, appears to have Inflamed Bowel Syndrome, which is in essence, a wasting away disease where her bowel is rejecting food. This is apparently common in some lines of German Shepherds. It can be somewhat controlled with the use of anitibiotics and steroids, but the longterm use of drugs brings its own problems, and they don't always work. Thus we find ourselves juggling her diet. Commercial dog food just doesn't cut it now. She does best on raw food, including raw meat, cooked meat, and cooked eggs. She looks like a prisoner of war now, but she is happy and so we continue to juggle her diet to find things her stomach will tolerate. I worry about her and don't see a bright future in the horizon, but we take it day by day. If she's eating, I'm happy. If she doesn't, my mind immediately jumps to catastrophic expectations.

This week we had a new calf born to our nasty tempered escape artist cow. This old bitch will kick a dog or toss a human in an instant. I've wanted to get rid of her for the last two years. Other Half has a lot more patience because she is a valuable cow who produces nice calves. She has always produced bull calves. I finally got Other Half to agree to sell her as a pair as soon as she calved this year. Someone else can deal with a cow that tries to kill stockdogs and leads the entire herd off the property.

Naturally Nasty Cow produced a heifer calf this year. Since we probably want to keep that calf, it means we still have to keep the nasty cow until her calf is weaned. When I first saw the calf, much to her mother's distress, she had fixated on Tiny and was trying to keep up with his little band of horses instead of her mother.

I guess one red butt looks just like another one. The horses tolerated this pretty well. Eventually her mother reclaimed her. The next morning the calf was missing. A veteran of "catastrophic expectations" I immediately assumed the calf had been killed by coyotes, or bogged down in the creek during one of her mother's escape attempts, and then killed by coyotes. We did eventually find the calf, but I won't stop worrying about her until she is large enough to fend off predators on her own. This kind of calf is definitely fodder for catastrophic expectations.

The Livestock Guardian Dog puppies are ten months old now and are right at the age where they want to escape their responsibilities and run the forest chasing hogs and deer. This is a dangerous sport. The hogs have little piglets. This week The Boyz disappeared for almost two hours. I was worried sick because I had just seen a herd of pigs near the fence where the goats were grazing. I drove off in search on a 4-Wheeler and ran smack into hogs with piglets. We parted company quickly, but being a veteran of catastrophic expectations, I was then certain both boys were bleeding or dead after a hog attack. Two hours later I found the little bastards playing in a watery bog beside our pasture like drunken frat boys. The entire time I had been worried sick, they had been having a party. I was not amused.

All livestock guardian dogs roam, it's in their DNA. It's why so many end up in rescue. You have to train them through that stage. Some never get out of the stage and you just have to adapt their environment so they can't escape. When Briar was this age she was horrible about climbing fences. Since she didn't leave the property, I really didn't worry about it until the day we saw her climb the fence like a giant white ape to attack the garbage man who fended her off with a trash can. Time for hot wire.  Briar eventually outgrew the stage and now she is a reliable guardian dog. And the Anatolians will be too, but they still have to be monitored through this stage. Thus it's time for tires.

We fitted them with wide Bite Dog collars and chained them to tires that they drag around the yard. It doesn't keep them from moving but it sure does elimate that digging under the fence and have frat parties in the forest. If you don't immediately see them, follow the drag trail of the tire.

Naturally this also feeds my catastrophic expectations because even though we've taken precautions, I still obsess about dogs hanging themselves, thus if the boys can't be loosely monitored, we still will lock them behind bars. It's just not worth giving myself an ulcer.   

If you live on a ranch, you get used to tragedy laced amid the beauty like a rattlesnake hiding in a field of wildflowers. It's just there. You can choose to focus only on the wildflowers, you can choose to focus only on the rattlesnake, or you can wear snake boots and keep on going about your day. I wear snake boots. I don't deny the snake exists, I expect it, plan for it, and work around it.  Some folks call that "catastrophic expectations." I call it planning for reality. If bad things happen, you're prepared. If they don't, you're pleasantly surprised.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 12:24 pm   |  Permalink   |  5 Comments  |  Email
I have been reading a lot lately about problems similar to Aja's in humans as well as many other diseases(diabetes and CKD!). They are finding gut bacteria can have a massive effect. Probiotics may be something you can look into - The wrong bacteria colonizes the gut and starts an inflammation cycle. Something to think about. In-between catastrophes.
Posted by Andrea on 05/02/2016 - 05:17 PM
Yep "catastrophic expectations" is my middle name. Seem to be getting worse the older and more imobile I become. Hence the lowering of animal numbers around here. Horses, donkey. alpaca, goats sheep dogs all gone to the bridge or well rehomed. 4 cats are all that remain and one of those is 15+. Briar's fence climbing [like a bear] 2 of my pyrs would get out over 8ft fence around garden into a well fenced top paddock and out. Electric cow kicker unit finely solved that "catastrophic expectations,"
Posted by Liz (Vic. Aust.] on 05/02/2016 - 05:35 PM
I've been home for 2 weeks waiting for a goat to go into labor. Today, I had to be somewhere almost all day, so I knew she would have them today. I was right. She had them out in the blazing sun and when I found them, I had to stick them in a water bucket to cool them down. Then I noticed that another soon-to-be-momma was missing. She's a first timer and wasn't due quite yet. Sure enough, she was off having her baby too. On a farm, if it's not one thing, it's another, sometimes both.
Posted by Patty on 05/02/2016 - 08:08 PM
Mojo was diagnosed with Inflamed Bowel Syndrome several years back. My Terv got down to 34 lbs, I thought I was going to loose him. Vet put him on all sorts of things including probiotics. What worked was science diet with hydrolized protein. The vet likes him to stay slim around 55 lbs (he is on the small side). I have to take him to Petsmart to weigh him regularly, since he now gains weight easily.
Posted by Rebecca on 05/03/2016 - 12:17 AM
We need to try that dog food. At this point we are keeping her happy. She has a large rectal tumor and I'm afraid of what kind of tumors she may have on the inside. But she's happy, and that's what matters.
Posted by Forensicfarmgirl on 05/03/2016 - 09:51 PM

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