How To Care For Your Goats In The Winter

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How To Care For Your Goats In The WinterWhen the weather starts getting chilly it’s time to start thinking about winter goat care.  Goats are pretty cold hardy animals, but they do need a little extra care to stay comfortable when it is below freezing outside.

How To Care For Your Goats In The Winter

While goats are cold hardy they will need shelter in below freezing temperatures.  My goats hate anything falling from the sky, and refuse to go outside when it’s raining, snowing, or hailing.

Because I have only two goats their winter shelter is a large dog igloo packed with straw.  They can sleep together for warmth, and the straw adds extra insulation.  Straw is a wonderful insulator, and easy to compost in the spring.

If we had extremely cold weather longer than a few days each winter and the goats would be spending quite a bit of day time in their shelter I would want a larger structure of at least 10 square feet per doe.

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Probably the biggest issue regarding winter goat care is making sure they always have fresh water available.  If their water is frozen they will not be able to stay hydrated.

The easiest method for my small herd is to bring them warm water twice a day from my house.  I use empty ice cream buckets because they are inexpensive and it’s easy to knock the ice out of the bucket before bringing it back inside.

If you have a larger herd it might make sense to invest in a heated bucket.

Staying warm in the winter will require extra energy stores from your animals.  The easiest way to support that is to make sure they have enough food to keep their rumen active, and to support their increased caloric needs.

My goats get a high quality grass hay year round.  One of my goats is very fat, and she had no trouble at all staying warm.  I noticed my other goat shivering on our first chilly morning and so I increased her grain ration.  The extra food helped her regulate her body temperature much more effectively.

If increasing available food is not enough for your particular goat they may need additional shelter, or I’ve even heard of goat owners putting dog sweaters on a goat that just can’t stop shivering.  (In fact, Kelli in the comments shared this link for coats that she has made before! Thanks Kelli!)  Most healthy adult goats will not require extra care to stay comfortable though.  They grow their own coats!

Winter Goat Care Tips

Here’s a quick summary of basic winter goat care:

  • Make sure they have fresh, unfrozen water
  • Provide a shelter preferably with at least 10 square feet per animal
  • Increase food rations and keep those rumens rumbling
  • Watch out for signs of poor temperature regulation such as shivering

And of course make sure to bundle yourself up and watch your goats explore the snow!

 

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