Sorry for the infrequent blog posts this week everyone. I feel like I’ve spent the last two weeks putting out fires only to have another one spring up a few feet away.

Long story short, I told you that when Agnes contracted listeriosis we weren’t sure where she got it. The bacteria can live in the soil for years in a dormant state, but it can also be found in feed, water and just about every where else.  This is terrifying because you can’t keep the disease from spreading because you don’t know where they are getting it from. The disease is rarely passed from animal to animal, but the same source can keep infecting the others.

While we searched for the source of the disease, animals in New York continued to get ill. We lost Chipotle, a yearling buck, and one of the O twins, Ophelia last week. One of Beatrice’s kids, Katie, also contracted listeriosis but she is still hanging on.

In addition to treating the infected animals with penicillin, I had Emily, Andie and Harry scrubbing down all of the handling equipment with bleach and rotating the animals through different pastures in  an effort to stop the spread of the disease. It seemed to be working until the animals in the Vineyard started getting sick.

So far we have treated Daisy, Alabama, Salina and Jekyll for listeriosis and every one of them responded to treatment immediately. Sheep are better equipped to handle this kind of thing, because the are less fragile than Angora goats in the first place but also because they have more fat. If there is good news about the Vineyard animals coming down with listeriosis it’s that there is now no question as to the source- the ONLY thing the two flocks had in common was hay from a single delivery. Hay that, upon close inspection, had mold spores growing inside it.

The hay must have been baled wet, something that should never be done. Because of it I have lost three lovely animals and nearly lost a whole lot more. We have destroyed the rest of the hay shipment and informed our hay broker in case anyone else is having the same problem. I should be angry but I’m just too tired from anxiety and grief to get mad. The farmer we buy hay from, is one of the best men I know and he clearly had no idea there was any potential danger, or he never would have sold it.

As a side note, knowing that I was feeding my animals the very thing that was killing them is terribly upsetting. Obviously there’s no way I could have known the hay was diseased, but it still makes me feel bad, like a mother accidentally giving her baby poisoned baby food.

The past two weeks have been a big set-back for the farm, but I’m not giving up. I’m just going to rest a bit this weekend and regroup. No animals have gotten sick since we removed the hay and, for now, that’s good enough news.