Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cold Weather Goat Care: Goat Shufflin'

If you are reading this Thursday morning there is a good chance that it's about 9* out there. We've had a pretty good cold snap here and this is the coldest night and morning. With weather this cold there is only one thing to do.... Goat Shuffling. As in, every day I'm shufflin'.

Oh Nibs...

With such cold weather looming I felt I had to take action with the goats. For the last couple days I've had Debbie and Dahli separated from Nibs and the babies. Mostly because I can't tell if Debbie is pregnant and also because I caught Darla and Daisy milk stealin' off their Grandma Debbie. So the best solution was to separate them. I shoveled out one side of the turkey house and marched Debbie and Dahli right over there. They hated it. "Tough!" I said as I locked them in.

They aren't suffering.

In truth the turkey house is the best spot. You'd think those fool goats would be happy in their luxury accommodations. Nope. "Too bad!" I said as I locked them the next night. The complaining continued.

Nibs and her chicken-friends start to gather solar energy. That roo is stew on legs, btw. Soon.

Goats do pretty well in cold weather. As long as they are out of the wind, dry, well fed, and well watered they should be just fine for whatever winter throws at them. Our goat winterization program includes bedding them down in deep straw, putting tarps on the outside of the goat house to keep the wind out, and a stepped up feeding program. Mostly you want to feed more hay as that keeps their rumens ruminating which feeds their internal furnace.

The hardest part is keeping them watered. Goats are very happy to get warm water during winter. We don't "top off" their buckets with warm water, we bust out the ice, dump the bucket and start with all warm water. Putting out cold water from the outside tap is largely ineffective. First the water will freeze faster (or so we have determined) and also... they might not drink it.

Normally we don't feed the fickle inclinations of goats... but they really need to keep up with their hydration. So I fill up a couple of buckets of warmish-to-hot water from the tap and haul it out there. I'm careful, tho, not to have it too hot. Sure the goats can take hot water but if your chickens get to it first and scald their crops... well then. Might as well get the axe. So warm water is fine.

My sad snow covered wheelbarrow. Someone should put it in the garage.

Next, don't skimp on the hay. You might cringe to see those silly goats waste all that hay that you've paid good money for... but don't worry. What the chickens don't pick thru will be fabulous compost for your garden. Keep pouring on the hay.

Our next step for cold weather goat care is..... get those door open. Yep. Get those goats outside. Actually get them into the sunshine like Nibs in the above picture. It is a fact that goats are solar powered. They will lay there and soak up the sun and love it. Again, make sure they are out of the wind and dry.

Even if it's not sunny we still open all the doors. Fresh air is essential for livestock. This is why our critter buildings are not air tight. Remember that all those pooping machines out there are creating ammonia with all that crappin' and peeing. The buildings need to breathe to make sure your livestock don't develop respiratory problems.

What about little jackets? Hand knit sweaters? Heat lamps? 

Nope. Nope. Nope. Not here. First, we need to make sure we have stock that can tolerate the weather. One of the primary factors in deciding what livestock we have is their weatherability. Are they appropriate for this climate? Yes? Then they can stay. If not then they need to move along.

We only deploy heat lamps in the most dire of situations or during kidding season. And then only after we have carefully considered the conscious decision, "Is this worth the risk of burning down the hen and goat houses?"

But don't we have heat lamps on the meat chickens and turkeys? Yep. But most of the poultry aren't bat crap crazy. I've seen the goats do the most ridiculous things - especially if there is any kind of power cord involved. As a species I am surprised that goats have lasted this long especially considering their own foolishness.

So what do we do on the coldest night and most frigid morning?

We heap them all together in the warmest spot. Don't forget your animals will generate their own heat - the more bodies the merrier. During exceptionally cold nights we've heaped all kinds of strange bedfellows together.

Right now all of the goats are shoved into a smallish, or should I say, "cozy" side of the turkey house. The other side of the turkey house has five mammoth meat toms and TurkZilla... and they have a heat lamp. Between the poultry-only heat lamp, the close quarters, the deep bedding, and seeing how the turkey house is the most protected outbuilding we have.. I'm fairly confidant that everyone is going to be just fine.

Now as soon as the sun clears the horizon I'll be out there shuffling Nibs, Darla, and Daisy back to the goat yard when they can soak up the sun. Debbie and Dahli will be enjoying the soft glow of electric heat from the turkey side. Then they will all get a big shake of hay, a scoop of feed, and lots of warm water.

Happy Thursday everyone! Are you shufflin' your goats today?


Mary, Windy Meadows Farm said...

I'm an Ohio girl as well, and yes, it's 8 degrees here! Heat lamp on the chickens, and goats "cozy" as you say. Great to read about how you take care of them, it's our first year with goats...actually, it's only been 6 months. Lots to learn!

Maple Creek Farm said...

Goat shuffling as well here. Also currently shuffling horses, pigs, chickens, & my wife to keep them all warm & happy. :)

David said...

Nice tips! Nibs looks pretty content sitting in the winter sun.

SixSchlabies said...

Besides hay, what else do you do as a feeding reginment for your goats in the winter? I have sheep and goats and am looking for the most economical way to feed them all through the winter. Brrr...if it stays this cold,this will be a really looong winter. We've burned more wood than usual so far.

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