At the end of last week we had some horrendous weather and the rain coming off the hills behind the house flooded the river so that the level rose by over a meter and this in turn stopped me from driving across the river ford. Being new to this piece of land I was watching with interest to see if the water was going to reach the paddocks where the pigs live. Luckily the river stayed a good 50cm below the river bank and disaster was averted. I do have an emergency flood plan in mind and would be able to get the pigs to higher ground but just the thought of moving the pigs back and forward are enough to make me sweat.
On Monday morning after the river had subsided I decided to cross over the river and build a waterproof house for the three goats that we inherited. They live wild in the 12 acre paddock at the top of the hill and, apart from a bit of foot rot, they seem very healthy and happy. I have been planning to move them over to the house side of the river so they can help me get rid of some of the weeds in the river flat but, without a trailer, it was looking like an impossible job. I digress. I built a house out of seven pallets and some old carpet type material just in time for the rain to come back again on Monday night. The rain subsided again and on Wednesday morning I headed over the river in Landy, I drove up the hill to the paddock and was pleased to see the goats around the new goat house. As I got closer it was apparent that one of the goats, generally the most skittish one, was not running away or moving at all. I pulled aside the carpet door and sadly found him motionless and recently dead. With no signs of illness or injury I am not sure of what killed him but the simple fact of the matter was that one of our animals had passed away.
Not knowing if the death was suspicious or not I called the Vet for advice, the receptionist told me that I should cover him up and the vet will call me back. Given that he was on the other side of the river and at some stage had to be moved anyway Claire and I decided to get him onto the Landy and cover him there till the vet gave us advice. Firstly, this is not a small goat, probably around 70kg, and the back of the Landy is a good meter off the floor so it took the two of us (Claire seemingly trying to imaging the goat was just a sack of harmless potatoes) to get him into the back of the truck. Having accomplished the deed with as much dignity as possible we headed back to wait for the call from the vet. When the call came it was just to tell us that it didn’t look concerning and the only thing left to do was to bury him. Damn, I knew I should have bought a tractor.
Two hours later I was standing by the Landy at the very back of the property having just dug a big hole out of clay soil and singlehandedly moved the goat from the truck into the grave. His last resting place.
It might seem odd to write a blog, one so graphic, about the loss of an animal but this was another seminal moment for me as I become a farmer. I have never had to deal with death like this before and needed to know I could, I also needed to know that I could do it with dignity and afford ANY animal the life and death that they deserved.
Our white goat is now at rest and for company he will have the sound of the stream and the beautiful Kiwi bush for his view: