Winter is in full swing and with it the cold temperatures and snowy weather. Whether you raise goats for companionship or profit, keeping them warm and dry is essential to their good health.
So how do you make sure that your goats are not exposed to the dangerous elements? While some of it involves common sense, others considerations are not as straightforward. What follows are eight things to keep in mind when caring for goats in the winter:
Goats create heat from the inside out. Goats who are fed only grain and no hay can freeze to death since roughage is required to create heat. Hay, silage, beat pulp shred, brush, grass and fodder are all acceptable roughage.
Insulation is critical. Insulating your barn will allow goats and other animals to stay warm and comfortable.
Drafts are bad but ventilation is necessary. Cold air on the floor of the barn can accumulate toxic gases so proper ventilation is needed to push cold, unhealthy air out and bring warm, clean air from the barn ceiling down. Improper ventilation, however, will create drafts that will blow cold air on your goats leaving them susceptible to pneumonia.
Fur must be kept healthy. Goats grow furry coats in the winter. Most breeds have a two-layer fur coat with long hairs on top and fluffy cashmere underneath. To ensure coats remain healthy, consider feeding goats supplements with minerals that support fur growth such as zinc or cooper.
Avoid coats and covers. A goat that is shedding a great deal or is ill may require a coat or cover but healthy goats do not. In fact, coats on healthy goats can lead to fur rubbing off.
Proper hydration is essential. In the winter, water is vital to avoid dehydration. Goats rarely eat ice or snow and hate dirty or stale water. Therefore, always provide goats with plenty of clean, fresh water to prevent dehydration.
Active goats are healthy goats. Unless it is bitterly cold, windy, raining or snowing, goats should go outside for a few hours each day to create heat. It also provides fun and excitement. To get goats moving consider multiple feeding stations, toys and climbing platforms.
Keep goats off the ground. Goats are most comfortable sleeping on platforms or on deep piles of bedding. Deep bedding and platforms also keep goats from lying on cold dirt or concrete which will pull heat from their bodies.