Dairy Goats for Winter Weather
Tips for winterizing goat housing, feeding, and cold weather goat care.
By Danielle Westvang
Living in the Ozarks, it isn't unusual to begin preparation for cold winter weather
at the end of October. The weather is generally warm and sunny during the day
and cool at night. The first frost occurs at the end of October. The winters last
from mid November through the last frost in February or March.
for winter isn't generally something that you can do at the last minute. Barns,
grounds, and goat feed needs to be prepared so that everything is in place prior
to the coldest weather.
Preparing the Barn or Shelter:
are rather hardy animals, however they are susceptible to pneumonia from being
subjected to damp, drafty conditions. Goats can handle the cold temperatures if
they have a shelter to get out of the wind, and have a good undercoat to protect
them from the sub temperatures.
ideal shelter for your goats will have a door or enclosure to block the wind,
and precipitation from blowing in on the animals. Goats fair must better in the
cold without them being wet. The goat's body temperature will keep them warm.
lamps may be used, but take caution where you put them. Many barn fires have been
started when a heat lamp has come in contact with bedding. The dryness of the
bedding will cause it to ignite rather quickly.
prefer to lay up off the ground. Pallets are great for this purpose because they
allow the goat to get off the ground, and bedding can be placed on top of the
slats for added insulation. Pallets are also easily moved for cleaning purposes.
should be fluffed and rotated as needed. In the colder temperatures it may not
be as practical to fork the bedding out, or get a tractor up to the entrance.
Selecting bedding material that will drain well, and fluff up is a plus.
own experience last year taught me to look for alternative bedding rather than
hay or straw. My barn when constructed had 8 stalls. As the hay and straw packed
down, it made it more difficult for the stall doors to open and shut. The cold
temperatures and snow made it impossible to bring the tractor in to remove it.
This year, the bedding will be shavings with benches above the stall floor.
Your Goat Warm
when healthy, will grow a nice thick coat in the fall. Run your hands along the
spine of your goat and split the fur down the middle. The white fuzzy hair that
you will see is called the undercoat. The undercoat is what keeps the goat warm.
If you have a goat that doesn't have an undercoat, it may become necessary for
you to have a goat coat fitted for it.
coats can be made from fleece, or other warm material that fastens around the
goat with velcro or some sort of snap. There are companies that sell pre-made
goat coats in different materials, sizes, and colors, or you can attempt to make
have a Nubian doe that does not produce an undercoat. I noticed that she had trouble
staying warm, and when the temperatures would drop she would shiver. I purchased
a goat coat from an online auction site that was actually a large dog goat. The
coat was made with double fleece. The coat slips over the head, and has a belly
band that fastens on the other side with velcro. The coat was big enough that
she could wear it 2 seasons, and if it became soiled I could easily wash and dry
generally are able to keep warm and maintain body temperature if they are able
to cuddle up together, and are out of the draft. Kids that are born in the winter
need special care so that they do not freeze. Kids have a harder time maintaining
their own body temperature. Walmart carries knit dog sweaters that are usually
available around Christmas time. These sweaters come in a large array of sizes.
The average price is $3.95. This product is what I use for my goat kids. I purchase
10-15 of these sweaters each year. They are designed in such a way that they will
slip over the kid's head, front legs fit thru the leg holes. The sweater covers
the back to the tail as well as chest. The belly portion is usually tapered to
allow a more comfortable fit for bucklings. The sweaters are machine washable
and last for more than one season.
Runs or Play Yards:
if the weather is cold, goats will need to have ample time to run and jump around.
Exercise will help keep energy level high and lungs clear. As long as there isn't
a lot of wind or heavy precipitation, the goats are better off being outside playing
during the day. Goats prefer being able to move around and stretch their legs.
snow on the ground should not prevent the goats from having some exercise time
outdoors. Keep in mind that the snow and ice can get wedged between their hooves,
so take care to make sure their feet are properly trimmed and the ice is removed
as often as possible.
the coldest months, it may be necessary to feed a supplemental grain ration to
your goats because there won't be much forage for the goats. When the first snow
falls, there will be even less for the animals to eat without supplementation.
is one important way that animals maintain body temperature. Keeping good clean
hay in front of your goats at all time will keep their rumens active and energy
level high. If your goats appear to lose weight during the colder months, increase
their feed ration accordingly.
bails are great for paddocks or barnyards. Goats can feed continually off of the
round bails, and you can feed several goats off of one bail for a month at a time.
choice minerals and salt/mineral blocks should be available for consumption at
all times. Generally, goats will only eat the minerals when their body needs them.
is as important for animals to consume as it is for humans. Without water, animals
can dehydrate, and become sick. In the cold, livestock have a tendency not to
drink as much because of the temperature.
supply companies sell electric tank warmers which work great for outdoor troughs
that have a tendency to ice over. The tank warmers will maintain an above freezing
temperature. When purchasing a tank warmer, look at where the electrical cords
join the heater itself. Some cheaper model tank warmers get shorts in them, and
can give a shock to the animal as they attempt to drink.
investment is bucket warmers that plug in. There are several different sizes to
choose from, and are much handier to empty and refill.
winter, the temperature at my farm dropped below zero several nights in a row.
There was a concern that the goats were not drinking enough. The buckets would
be filled morning, noon, and night, yet ice would form and the goats would stick
their feet in the buckets to crack the ice. I went to the store and bought gallon
jugs of orange flavored Gatoraide. Gatoraide has electrolytes in it, and is used
by athletes to keep their hydration up during sporting events. I brought jugs
of really hot water out to the barn, and poured the hot water into half filled
buckets of cold water. This brought the temperature of the water up to about room
temperature. I then added a cup or two of orange Gatoraide to the mixture. I would
offer each goat a bucket with this mixture, which they gratefully accepted. By
doing this, I could ensure that each goat had plenty of fluids.
trick I used to ensure each goat was drinking enough fluids, I purchased bags
of oranges from the grocery store. I cut the oranges into quarters and then in
half. This made it easier for the goats to eat. Each goat would eat 3-4 pieces.
is a good idea to worm prior to winter. Goats that are housed in a more confined
or enclosed shelter have a greater chance of developing a worm related illness.
Whatever the wormer preference, it is a good idea to follow up with a dose of
a probiotic to restabilize the rumen.
Medications and Supplies
a look at the expiration dates and temperature guidelines for your medications
and other supplies. Many antibiotics require them to be stored at room temperature
or slightly below. The effectiveness of the medication will be reduced if the
recommended temperatures are exceeded.
goats that are outside in cold temperatures run a risk of frostbite. Udders that
have been clipped are unprotected and can suffer damage with over exposure in
freezing temperatures. There are various udder balms on the market that prevent
chapping, and wind chill protection. Bag Balm is also a good remedy for protection
goats are also more likely to have frostbite due to their long pendulous ears.
Udder balm can be lightly coated onto the underside of the ear for protection.
Another suggestion is using a light coating of Vaseline. Vaseline will not freeze
because it is a petroleum product. The downside to using Vaseline is that dirt
and grit will stick to it.
pair of socks can be carefully put over the ears of a Nubian and fastened with
a shoelace at the top in areas with extreme cold temperatures.
Supplies and Equipment for Winter Weather
Tank Heaters, and Bucket Warmers
Goat Coats and Sweaters
© Danielle Westvang - Printed in Dairy