Keeping Goats Safe and Healthy in Extremely Cold Weather
Like almost everything else, goat management becomes more difficult in the winter. And when temperatures dip to dangerous levels, health problems such as pneumonia, parasites and food rot become more prevalent. When cold temperatures are coupled with wet weather, the stakes get even higher.
What follows is a guide to managing your goat herd in exceptionally cold weather. By following this advice you will help keep your goats safe and healthy, especially young kids born in the cold.
- Always shelter kids born in cold, wet weather so that they can maintain their body temperature. A heat lamp is a good option provided you keep it away from bedding and walls and make the cord inaccessible to chewing goats. A windbreak may be all that is needed if there is no wind chill or precipitation. You should note that calves are bigger than kids so kids will need more shelter than calves.
- Goats eat a greater amount of food to maintain their body temperature in the cold weather. That’s why it is so important that quality hay or other livestock feed is accessible to them at all times. If body condition is deteriorating despite that fact that goats are consuming the maximum amount of dry matter, roughage may need to be replaced with things like grain, which is more energy-dense. It is important to remember that changes to feed must be made gradually.
- In order to stay warm, goats may crowd together. While this does indeed help to keep the animals warmer, it also may cause a rise in respiratory diseases and even injuries. It is important to monitor these crowds to make sure the animals are safe. To protect smaller animals from injury, you should provide a separate space for small goats and young stock to gather.
- Frozen water and snow will not provide goats the necessary amount of water and you may be required to break ice several times a day. Since water pipes can freeze in very cold temperatures, frost-free pumps are an option in areas at a higher risk for freezing. These pipes work by allowing the water to recede below ground after it is turned off. Pipes should be insulated with pipe wrap but keep in mind that goats will likely try to chew this wrap so it must be protected. Despite your best efforts, all types of pipes may still freeze and water may have to be dripped in. In such cases it is essential that any overflow is directed away from the watering area or ice might restrict access to it.
Keeping goats safe, healthy and warm during dangerously cold weather can be a challenge but is possible by planning ahead for such weather emergencies and employing good management techniques.