Friday, September 17, 2010

We're going to lose Bridget

This poor girl came to us on Mother's Day, with a broken jaw, pneumonia, and scars from a recent coyote attack. I truly believe she would have died, if left where she was, because no one was treating her for anything. So we thought she was going to have a good life with us, a great life. Being loved, and healthy and growing up cared for.

She got sick over the weekend. My description over the phone to the vet at CSU told him it was one of three things - she had a blockage in her mouth, pneumonia again, or rabies. He told me a few things that would differentiate, and I took her temperature, and felt confident it was pneumonia. We gave her antibiotics and hoped for the best.

The antibiotics should have worked within 48 hours to relieve her symptoms. Her symptoms were also not getting worse. Her temp remained high. Her breathing was not labored. She was not acting funny or walking like a drunk man. So it didn't seem like rabies, and if it was pneumonia, it wasn't going away or progressing. So I called the vet (something Larry doesn't like to do)

You can read about what she has here:

I don't want to get into too much detail, but here are a few key facts I gleaned from what I read:

1) she has a 90-100% chance of dying, probably within 10 days of seeing symptoms
2) it's untreatable
3) it's carried by sheep (strike 2 for our sheepies)
a note here - sheep carry it, but don't get the illness. It is transmitted during lambing season, and the virus can stay latent for up to 70 days before showing symptoms. That timing is just about perfect. So do the math on this bit - Bridget got it when Cindy and Alice were giving birth in late late spring. Marlow is NOT sick. He didn't get it, and the girls won't lamb again until november or december, and Marlow will be gone. So Marlow is safe... which brings me to
4) Cows don't transmit it to each other. Marlow can't get it from her, he can only get it from a sheep that is shedding the virus, and they do it when the lambs are 2-3 months old, they don't know why.
5) It is REALLY RARE IN CATTLE! Especially in the US. There is a a 40% transmission rate to cattle, if they get it. This disease is super super susceptible to deer and bison. Sheep carry a different virus than wildebeests do in Africa. The wildebeest strain is much more virulent. So it's more common in cattle in africa that are exposed to calving wildebeests.

So basically, what I am getting at is - this thing transmits essentially one time a year, to 40% of cows that are exposed. We just happen to have sheep that carry this virus, and gave it to Bridget. DAMN IT.

Our options at this point are a) never raise cattle again, b) cull all our sheep so we can raise cattle or c) cull all our sheep to remove this virus and the caseous lymphadenitis that they have and start over with a new flock of sheep (the we test for CL and the OHV virus) and wait a season to let the CL shed off the pasture before we bring in new sheep.

If I've ever been frustrated with farming before, THIS is making me want to throw in the towel completely.