They dont tell you about animal loss in any of the homesteading books. Unless you are a pro, caring for a newborn animal is serious business.
We had two baby goats born a day apart. The first was sickly and we took her to the doc twice, got lots of antibiotics and watched her carefully (I even learned how to give her shots). The second one was born to an experienced mom and looked well feed. He did seem to pant in the heat but was spry, nursed frequently and looked good. We watched him but left him with mom, mostly because she already had lots and lots and lots of babies. This afternoon he was unsteady on his feet and had trouble latching on. I took him inside the house to cool him off, and he wanted to nurse. So I took him outside but he had trouble latching on. I tired to milk mom and her milk was not flowing so well, still he found that udder. My plan was to check in two hours and if he was still doing poorly, I would prep some goat formula and supplement him. When I checked, he was already gone.
I feel awful. In hindsight I should have supplemented him at first sign of distress. Now I am not a novice baby goat owner, last year I hand raised a kid who was rejected by his mom, but I do not have 4-h or in depth farming experience. My knowledge was acquired in books, online forums and trial/error. Today it turned out not to be enough.
I think that is a serious flaw with the homesteading movement. Book make it sound so wholesome and romantic. In fact is hard work, that requires you to be part farmer, part doctor, part animal surrogate mom. Mistakes have real consequences and animals suffer and die. As a sign of respect to this little calf, I am going to be a lot more respectful with our little ranch from here on out. I am going to work with area farmers, ranchers and others who can become my mentors in the this ranching adventure.
If you are thinking of sustainable living or homesteading and I hope you see this blog post. I hope it makes you think about the responsibility you have towards the animals you acquire, and get adequate training support group beforehand.