Tuesday, 14 November 2017

It’s a coo-tastrophy!!!

I never thought in a million years I would be writing (from personal experience) about a heinous virus called rotavirus. It prays on the young and vulnerable and attacks with such harsh force and so quickly you don’t even get a chance to blink.

So how did we get this killer on our farm? Naivety and trust. I often wonder (in farming) whether believing in people is dam right stupid, but we did, and we brought two bobby calves from a dairy farmer (not a word spoken about sick calf’s). Did we ask? No, should have we asked? Some would say yes others like us didn’t know we needed to ask about something we had no idea about. I always thought rotavirus was something that only hit rest homes (city girl still lurks in me).
Once we got the calves home I noticed one of them was rather quiet, but we put that down to his personality. But the next day I noticed blood in his poo, his poo was yellow and a lot of mucous also. WARNING SIGN take note! Blood in poo and or mucous, put calf on Rotagen immediately!!. We had no idea, but I knew that was not normal, so I rang vet. We couldn’t see our usual vet so drove the calf (in the back of my brand-new Outlander) 40mins to Murchison vets, longest 40mins of my life as mal made me sit in the back with the calf!   He (the calf)   … (we will call this number three’s) all through my car. I was covered in shit and balling my eyes out (not because of poop) (had no idea at that stage we could contract this) but absolute fear of losing this little guy. Vet checked him out in the car, gave him a shot of antibiotics, showed us how to tube feed electrolytes into him and took poo sample for testing. It takes 24 hours to get results which (in hindsight) gave us no chance in saving this little guy. By the time we got the results and told to find some Rotagen (as there is a major shortage in New Zealand and would be another 24 hour wait to get it) time was running out. As quickly as we were tubing liquids in, it was coming straight back out. My biggest stress was wondering if I’m giving him enough, or too much?, as his tummy was huge. He fought on for another 12 hours before I screamed out to mal that his breathing changed, I was hysterical. Mal came out and we both tried to get baby up, tried to stimulate him (while Betty our other bobby calf sat and watched) We both stopped and held him while he took his last breath. He was six days old, his name was Butch, and he was loved. He wasn’t just a Bobby Calf to us, he was a baby, taken from his mum, driven to a foreign place and put onto different feed, his fate was sealed the day he left the farm and came to us. He was cuddled, patted, and instantly stole a piece of our hearts. Gosh I’m tearing up writing this.
I had been in communication with the farmer who offered a replacement, I hate that word, but it’s true we got another calf, but I asked if it could stay on mum, which it did for six days, and when we picked him up we immediately started  the rotagen preventative dose. The label states to keep them on that for five days, so I did. I followed all instructions; we had the foot washes, cleaned out the pen and sterilised with bleach etc… we did everything everyone told us to do. A day shy of his three week birthday he was dead. The same day I noticed blood in his poo, I instantly called the vet, rang the farmer to get more rotagen. Four hours later he was dead, he didn’t even get a chance to scour, his body shut down. I will never forget screaming (again) for mal to go get his gun! frantically running around the house looking for mal, not knowing he went into the calf shed (instead of getting his gun) sitting trying to stimulate him, yelling to get up. I quietly walked in and said “hun, he’s gone” we sat there for what seemed like only a moment but was well over an hour. Mal got up, grabbed the shovel and began digging.
Later that evening I noticed the cows behaving strangely down near the barn. They were gathered in a circle mooing, I walked down to investigate and was gobsmacked with what greeted me. Loretta had her baby!
One life ends another begins.
I thought ‘here we go again’ I ran up to the house grabbed Mal, we stood until dark (3 hours) waiting for baby to feed, it was more important than ever now, that baby got colostrum! She has entered the world at the worst possible time!

I don’t want the deaths of these babies to not mean anything as they were everything to us. If anything, sharing our story could help others. If it saves a calf, then these babies didn’t die for nothing.

What haunts me the most is if we had have known they were unwell or potentially could become unwell, we would have been prepared. Yes we still would have got them. They would have been shot if we didn't take them, and I wouldn't cope knowing that. We would have had all the protocols in place and rotagen would have started, and no unnecessary deaths. 
                                            A very sick Butch 
This photo breaks my heart. Here is Bam Bam with his mum. I felt I had let her down. We killed her baby. 

So here are some tips
I want to emphasise I am not a vet and this should not be used in place of a vet.

  • ·    Rotavirus is carried in every farm, it lays dormant and doesn’t usually cause any problems. There are carriers and finding them is almost impossible as you could poo sample a cow one day and get a positive result, then the next day do another sample and it’s clear. I wondered what started an epidemic then? 

I decided to ask a dairy farmer (not the farmer we got the calves from). 
He said
 Long rains cause cows to fight more bacteria from multiple places, feet, gut, skin etc. Their immune system get’s low, the virus activates and is passed to calf.

  • ·        First signs, Lethargic, quiet, depressed calf. BLOOD in poo or MUCOUS or both.
  •  ·        Call VET asap!
  •  ·     Inspect calves poo’s. I grab a stick and dig through the poop. Even if your calf has recovered still check poo.
  •  ·        If you are breeders, invest in Rotagen and get good quality electrolytes all from your Vet. It can be purchased in 500gram containers and has a shelf life of 2 years.
  •  ·        Get your cows vaccinated, this happens four weeks before calving so important to keep track on mating.
  •  ·        Bleach doesn’t kill the virus, get VETSAN from your vet.
  •  ·    Don’t even bother trying to clean out the pen. Move the entire shed and burn everything. The virus can stay for approx. 6-9months. So, if you have problems, give any future calves preventative dose of rotagen for 10 days. The packaging says five, our vet said that is not long enough AT LEAST 10 DAYS.

  •  ·        Probiotics CALF BREW get babies gut right after an attack. I give 10ml twice a day to calves as they come off the rotagen. Our Vet said to give this as well as rotagen when calf is sick as well.

  •  ·        If you don’t know how to tube feed, go to your vet or local dairy farm and learn. Invest in a tube feeder. We got ours for 68.00 from our vet.
  •  ·        If your calf gets sick, the biggest killer is dehydration. Don’t think they are not dehydrated if they are not scouring. Rotavirus attacks the gut, it stops electrolytes from absorbing into the system. Dehydration kills fast.
  • Just because your calf recovers doesn't mean it wont get reinfected, they can! 

Helpful sites:


Here is our surviving bobby calf we have named Betty Davis (because look at those eyes!!)
she is off the rotagen and on the probiotics. She will live a long and loving life with us on the farm. She is even more special now xx

To date our Vet cost is around 1500.00 and climbing. Our Vet advised us to vaccinate next seasons cows and even after that once calf born continue the Rotagen Preventative. No one really knows for sure how long the virus stays in the ground. And Yes Loretta's calf contracted rotavirus, but we knew exactly what we were doing and are currently winning the battle. 
Ruby had her calf a week later and within two days she started scouring also, again we were prepared. What helped our Highland calves fight this was keeping them on mum. It does mean I battle grumpy mothers twice a day as I grab the calves to drench the rotagen into them, which is not for the faint hearted. But watching the babies running around the paddocks makes all the bruises worth it.

Monday, 5 June 2017

PIGS its a shitty situation

yay!! finally have some motivation to write a blog post!!
So much has been going on here since my last post!!
 One future story will be about one of our ducks, You will never look at fungal creams the same again!

So I hear you ask?! what has prompted me to get off my butt and finally start writing again?!
Animals of course, you see we have grown (physically also) (and not vertically) we have new fury family members. We now have eight Highlands, Two bulls (one hummel) the rest are heifers. We have two yearling steers (for freezer) an extra goat (another future story) One less Ram (Mal says yum!)
That's my only gripe about growing our own food, Mal takes it upon himself to eat it for breakfast, Morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. I constantly remind him of his previous doctors visit where they told him he had high cholesterol, (no shit! I thought) and... all the way home I had to listen to him complaining that if he was not Maori his cholesterol would be in normal range, but there is a different range for Maori which he conveniently argued was discriminatory. He's good!!.. that gave him (in his head) the excuse to not change his diet. He constantly argued that he is in normal range (just didn't say which range), then one day he went into labour and delivered (complicated birth) a very impressive gallstone, (the big boss surgeon ended up doing the surgery as they hadn't seen a gallstone that big before...sigh!) Once settled in recovery, still completely off his face on god knows what, he proudly rattles his new pride and joy (yes he asked to keep it) and (yes he named it) JOSS STONE!! (for goodness sake)
The positive of loosing 'Joss' is Mal cannot eat to much fatty food. However Mal never goes down without a fight and much like his argument about the cholesterol range, the tummy cramps (biliary colic) caused by excess fat consumption, is never caused by eating meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

 I could keep going but really want to start discussing some things I have learnt recently. (I will continue Mal's logical all inspiring stories in future posts)

You see its my job on the farm to feed out (farming term) and do all 'nice' cares to the animals (Mal's the bad guy) as Highlands have bloody good memories..Loretta still hasn't forgiven Mal for the antibiotic injections, which did prompt us buying in yards with a race (yep I know some farming words ;) for those that don't know (like me a year ago) a race is a structure attached to the yards to confine the animal for treating, that is safe for the animal and us coo herders.
We have learnt that we need to be organised (which we are still improving) mainly Animal care kits. When you live an hour away from town, and something happens to one of the animals on a public holiday (usual time for the shit to hit the fan) it is important to have the gear at hand to sort it, and at times it can be a matter of life and death, and without sounding like I'm putting money before the animal, to replace a highland coo is not cheap, but more importantly no one wants to watch an animal suffer. So future farming folk...GET A ANIMAL CARE PACK even two. I am going to set one up in the barn as well as in the shed. I will list the contents of ours once it is finally sorted.
Because of the growth of our farm and diversity in animals, I thought it would be a good idea to try and get some practical experience in looking after their different needs. For example, goats, pigs, sheep and cows, so I contacted Vicky at The Animal Farm and asked if I could do one day a week (voluntary) to gain some experience. They have every animal you could imagine, and I can see how much she cares for them. I really enjoying going there, I find myself constantly smiling, great bunch of people!
I got to know Vicky through purchasing Loretta, Ruby, Billy-bob and also Winnie our Kune Kune Pig, we count our blessings everyday for these gorgeous animals, they give us so much pleasure!!
Well day two on the job and I show up at home with a one day old Large Black Pig. Honestly when I walked into the pig pen and looked in the house I almost lost bladder control! I have never seen a pig as big as that let alone be face to face with one. Mumma pig had ten babies and sadly rolled on seven, I fought back tears when I saw that, but I guess logic dictates why she has so many, as the chances of loosing a few would be quite high. And she wouldn't even realise it, but I felt for her. There were two little healthy looking babies hanging around mum, and one hunched over freezing cold, very lethargic and huddled in the corner. Every ounce of me wanted to jump in there and grab it but it was important for me to listen to those who new how best to approach it..well that what was running through my head. But before I knew it I had the baby under my jumper running for the gate, it was screaming which prompted mum to get very grumpy...never underestimate a pissed off humongous sow, she can move! but I was ahead of her until I got to the gate and it was latched..OMFG!!!!!  (I think I said that out loud). I did get it unlatched and to safety...but that scared the shit out of me literally.
So the little tiny wee bubba is a boy, he stayed under my jumper until warm enough to be placed on a heavily wrapped hotwater bottle . Later that day we tried to put bubba back with mum, but he was too weak to stimulate mum to roll over so he can feed. I don't recall much of that as all I was thinking was having to run out of the pen again...
So the decision was made to take the piglet (as it was felt he had a better chance of survival) I promptly put my hand up to care for him, I was already smitten.
So it has been four days since I took the piglet home, I have had a total of approx 10 hours sleep in those four days (Delirium is starting to set in) you see piglets...well very young piglets eat every 1.5hours, the process it takes to mix and heat a bottle takes longer than the 5 seconds it takes to gulp down the 20mls it has. Unbelievable. Now, at this point I want to let you know I had zero experience hand rearing a young piglet, I just figured it would be the sames as the orphan lambs we had....NOOOO! firstly...this is important for anyone in this situation. Try and get fresh goats milk and colostrum before buying Anlamb, which states is good for a variety of animals including piglets. But for our baby it became apparent going from mothers milk to formula was not being well digested, well that's what I originally suspected. Goats milk is the next best thing to mothers milk and kinder to baby's tummy. Whether you think baby has had colostrum or not, try and get some and feed to the baby as it helps bind its poop. (advise from a pig farmer a friend contacted for me) By day two baby was worsening, his diarrhoea got so bad, his feed would go straight through him, literally. I was freaking out. I rang the Vet who told me to dilute the formula (which I already did) and start him on electrolytes, well all I had was 6year old electrolytes for children with diarrhoea (Orange flavoured) which I told the vet, he said that would be fine. So I replaced two feeds with electrolytes. I was so concerned I was glued to google, researching every site, reading every article. I contacted my friend (and Lifesaver) Marlene (who has the milking goats) as she is an encyclopedia of animal health stuff, I also got on facebook and messaged the vet nurse who mentors me at the animal farm. One of the sites I discovered Pig Pal Sanctuary here's the link: http://www.pigpalssanctuary.com/  We found this site to be the most informative.
So at this stage I had gathered plenty of tips, one (which I should have realised) was giving baby probiotics, as (what I had read) if a young piglet gets cold to the bone it puts enough stress on its body to start the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, which in turn kills the good bacteria, which can be fatal. Another thing kept coming up in my searches was E-Coli, again bad bacteria, but only treatable with antibiotics. This is what got difficult, how do I know how sick the piglet is, is it E-coli? do I wait (hope and pray he survives the night) to get to vet? while I was battling my overactive brain (and extremely tired one) Piglet was declining fast! I was beside myself, panicking, crying actually sobbing, this went on for around an hour, I got so worked up I began to except his demise and just cuddled him. I gave up.
I contacted Lynn (vet nurse) and said how much he is declining, his diarrhoea was so bad it would just run out of him when picked up. Lynn said what he needs is something to bind him up, she said the vet will have something (but I knew he wouldn't make it to morning) I continued cuddling him, keeping him warm (number one crucial thing to do) (as for the first 3 weeks piglets cant control or maintain there body temperature). Warmth!!! and best way to check baby's temp is his ears.
I continued searching for that miracle, searching for home remedy binding agents....Something!!!!

By this stage I had managed to get two sucks of electrolytes with probiotics and a little bit of manuka honey into him. But it was just flowing straight through him. I just hoped something stayed in.
It was around 11pm when I stopped and thought...what do I have here? I went through all the medicine containers, the animal container in shed, fridge etc... and gathered an eclectic mix of medications. Now to google if they are suitable for piglets, and dosage etc
by around 1am I had everything sussed, but fear set in. What if one of these things kill him? but if I don't he will die.
I have to try, I got courageous, I figured I had nothing to loose, and if he dies and I didn't try, I would never forgive myself. So first up, antibiotics (this scared me) as it is injectable, but I didn't have a needle small enough so had to find out if I could give it to him orally, and if so what dosage?
all I found on google was a chicken site saying they give this to their chickens orally, nothing about piglets, so I was taking a risk. I measured a dose of 2ml and squirted it down his throat, next was scour ban (I had from our orphan lambs, but had no idea if it was ok for pigs. as our neighbour gave it to us in a jar, so no dosage or instructions, so googled it to find it is ok to use. no dosage though, so I guessed and put 1ml in his bottle. I ended up syringe feeding him by this stage.
Well that was it, I needed some sleep, and had to let things be what they will be. I set my alarm for 3.00am popped baby in his bed near the fire and I made up a bed on the couch. I was to scared to go to sleep as I had no idea what I was going to wake up to. But eventually I did fall asleep.
I was awoken my a screaming grunting noise, I jumped up looked at my phone, 4.20am, bloody alarm didn't go off (would have helped if I set it to am not pm) the piglet was starving, he was carrying on for food, so gave him the electrolytes, which he gulped down...woohoo!!! he went back to sleep, then 2 hours later he started again, so gave him diluted formula with scour ban in it. Still no runny poop. I was in shock, what a turn around! I couldn't wipe the smile off my face...what a relief!!!

Today he is 6 days old, and is thriving. Actually he is the best I have seen him. He wants to walk around, nuzzles etc and doing the most perfect poos! Who would have thought I would be happy to see a pig turd..Ha!

So here is the mix of found meds I used on piglet.
Enerlyte mix 1 sachet to 200ml of clean water
IBS Support is my personal probiotic, i broke open a capsule and sprinkled less than a quarter in the 200ml of enerlyte.
Tylan 200 injectable, is the antibiotic. I gave piglet 2ml orally.
Manuka honey I mixed in diluted formula. I wouldn't recommend using it though. I think piglet had E-Coli (Im no vet but he had all the symptoms and his poop was clear) so honey being sweet, feeds bacteria. I would certainly use this on cuts though.
Scour ban 1-2ml morning and night. I only gave him 2 doses.
What really prompted me to write this blog was the lack of information on how to bind the piglets poop. I looked everywhere trying to find a site that said use scour ban!!!
Also if the diarrhoea is profuse, stop milk formula and just give electrolytes. And if you can get the piglet to the vet (I couldn't)  This is just to be used in desperate situation, I don't recommend not getting your piglet vet checked.

We need to name him also any ideas floating around out there in cyber space?

Next on our piglet list is to get his foot checked, his mumma injured it, and he hasn't been putting weight on it. I want to get it sorted while he is young, and lite.
You see Large Black Pigs grow quite large (something I failed to mention to Mal) Here is the link to this breed of pig, very interesting read! https://www.rarebreeds.co.nz/largeblackpro.html
It says a male pig will grow upto 360kgs. I think if I say it to Mal really fast he will never notice :)

Wish me luck!

                                          Little baby piggy with Uncle Snoop