Aster and Isöl made a jail break, as goats are prone to doing. They escaped their fenced area and indulged in some free-ranging around the mountainside. I didn’t think much of it; I know they’re not going very far and I don’t mind them browsing new area. A few hours later, however, something seemed amiss. I couldn’t hear the bells on their collars jingling. They were either very far away or holding very still. Goats are like small children; when it gets too quiet, you get nervous.
After some scouting around, I actually found them hiding under the front porch! I poked my head under the porch (which had a tall open face downhill) to see a very strange scene. Aster is stalk-still, staring into oblivion, his and chest slathered in frothy green slime. Isöl is pacing beside him, restless, sniffing his brother and stamping his feet.
Isöl looks up at me with bulging eyes, “Jen, you gotta do somethin’! You gotta help him!”
Poor boy, he was more concerned for his brother than I’ve ever seen a goat choose to be concerned about anything else.
I got both boys back in their pen. Aster was producing projectile vomit of green foam every so often. He was unstable his feet and miserable.
I went back home and had a think on it. The only explanation was the poisonous bog plant False Hellebore, which grows in our draws. I had destroyed it in their pen, but Aster must’ve gorged on a bunch while out enjoying his freedom. Dadgum goats! So I loaded up a huge syringe with hydrated activated charcoal and marched back down to the barnyard. I flushed the full dose of AC down his throat and made sure it didn’t come back up right away.
I spent the rest of the day rampaging through the forest with false-hellebore-bloodlust, destroying every plant I came across, whilst intermittently revisiting Aster and re-dosing him with more syringes of AC. By evening he’d stopped vomiting and seemed stable. I’m sure he felt like crap. He and his brother snuggled together in the loafing shed. Isöl never left his side.
The next day Aster was feeling much better. His backside was caked in the crusty evidence of charcoal-black liquid poo. His chest was a ghastly mess of crusty green
chunks and charcoal stains. But he felt okay. His breath smelled okay. His appetite was healthy and he ate with a normal vigor. He was up on his feet like nothing had happened.
The next few times I took the boys hiking, Aster would sniff false hellebore and quickly turn the other way. Yay! Then I made the mistake of scolding him for giving it a curious nibble. Everything is a game to goats. It only took one reaction. So now they will seek out false hellebore stalks when we’re hiking and they’ll wait until I’m looking, then quickly put it in their mouths and wag their tails because they know it’ll get a reaction out of me.
And it will! Dadgum goats!
Thankfully though, false hellebore is only toxic in larger quantities (that’s relative; while I’ve read 4oz. of leaf can kill a sheep, the point is that
one nibble isn’t going to hurt, but a whole 3 foot stalk will) and I haven’t had another goat pull the same stunt on me. In the mean time I’ve mercilessly ravaged the false hellebore in my immediate environment. I normally don’t like eradicating a species like that, but you know
what, they can grow everywhere else on the mountain, just stay out of my barnyard!
Normally goats can be trusted to not kill themselves while foraging. I assume this was the first time Aster had ever interacted with falsehellebore. The goats and pigs both nibble it incrementally, but I assume they each individually experienced eating enough to get a stomach ache and learned to avoid it. Aster just made the mistake of gorging on the plant without first learning how it would affect him.