Goats, like most other creatures, are fairly well equipped to deal with cold winter weather. We, as owners, simply need to provide the necessities for them to survive. That includes…
Goats require the bare minimum of a place to be protected from wind, drafts, snow, rain, etc. A barn is ideal, but sheds and other 3 sided shelters are a good start. If you do not have a shed or barn, but have an area that acts as a windbreak, you will need an additional shelter underneath to provide warmth. A calf hutch or extra large dog igloo works well, depending on the size and amount of goats for which you are providing warmth. Our goats have a large awning, closed in on 2 long sides; it provides good wind protection; but for warmth, they have a small 4×6 hand-built shed. (Leave a comment below if you would like to see a DIY goat shed post!)
Inside the shelter, you will want to provide your goats with extra bedding. An extremely thick layer of straw is great for supplying warmth, but does not absorb urine well. Therefore, we choose to add a layer of pine shavings underneath the straw.
Suitable Water Intakes:
In the cold weather, water will freeze. If you have access to electricity, a heated bucket will make life a lot easier. Unfortunately, we do not have power going to the goat barn. Fresh, warm buckets of water need to be brought out in the morning, evening, and occasionally during the day if temperatures are cold enough. Be prepared to wake up to frozen buckets in the morning, so ensure that your goats drink a lot before bedtime. Most of the time, goats will adapt to the schedule and understand how important it is to drink in the morning and evening when fresh water is brought out; it is their instinct to do so. If your goats refuse to drink the water that you bring out, and you are concerned about their water intakes, you can add some molasses to the warm water, or raw apple cider vinegar (if your goat likes it). Providing constant unfrozen water is especially important for those of us that own boys, as keeping their urinary tracts flowing is important to prevent urinary calculi. Some things that can potentially help with freezing buckets:
Using bucket insulators
Attempting to insulate around the bucket (set it down into straw).
There are many more creative ideas to help with bucket freezing. Please leave a comment below with any ideas and suggestions!
Keeping Goats Warm:
Most goats grow extremely fuzzy winter coats, as you can see in the picture above, of one of our handsome wethers, Freddie. Goats do not need to be blanketed, because this can actually prevent them from “puffing out” their coats. If your goat does not produce a winter coat, for a particular reason, then alternative options can be used, such as goat blankets.
When a goat’s rumen is active, and they are digesting properly, their body produces a lot of heat. Feeding goats extra hay in the winter and keeping it constantly available, can help goats to stay warm. Hay produces more heat than other foods because the long stalks of hay activate a goat’s rumen and stimulate it to produce more heat than other foods might. Make sure to provide your goats with lots of hay for them to munch on!
As always, if your goat is healthy it will be better equipped to deal with the cold. A goat with a weak immune system is a dangerous concern in cold weather. Basic immune support includes a good loose mineral, free choice kelp meal, supporting herbs of your choice, garlic, and more.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet, nor am I a licensed professional. I am in no way a “goat expert” and my opinions are only that of personal experiences, and my insights shared are not medical treatment suggestions, care suggestions, or any directions for raising goats at all. I am simply sharing my own personal opinions. Any and all changes to your goats’ health regimen, care, etc. should be approved by a veterinary professional or licensed professional. I also believe that every goat owner has their own way of doing things, so just as my opinions are my own, and cannot apply to anyone else, your opinions are also regarding your individual goats, and I welcome you to share them in a kind, constructive manner. Disclosure: This post may contain Amazon Affiliate Links, from which I will earn a commission.