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How To Care For Your Goats In The Winter

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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Ila Frohnapfel

Thursday 23rd of September 2021

What is that contraption your feeding hay out of and where can I get one!?

Kathryn

Tuesday 28th of September 2021

I wish I knew where to buy them! The goats pictured are from our local zoo and I LOVED the feeder but havent been able to find one for sale.

Emily

Tuesday 31st of December 2019

I have a herd of roughly 40 does. Our barn became unusable this summer (fire) and so the girls are going to have to winter in the pasture. They have a 3 sided shelter they can use. My question is, they are all bred, will they be ok out like that? They have free choice hay and grain along with water. They also live out with 2 LGD.

Kathryn

Wednesday 1st of January 2020

How cold does it get? As long as the shelter that all of them are able to fit inside they should be fine.

Denise Switzer

Wednesday 6th of February 2019

I also am a first time goat momma in michigan. Our below freezing temps this winter made me worry about them. I only have 2 does, so I made a area for them in my house. I have a small farm in the woods, and the trees help from the winds, and they have a insulated house, which helps, but I still worried about them. In my house I have a large crate for each goat. I keep them close to each other, and I let them run around a couple hours each day. They did learn where to go to use the potty, they are also pretty attracted to me, but that's the only downside of having them indoors.

Kathryn

Monday 18th of February 2019

They sound like very lucky girls.

Rose Fuhrman

Monday 28th of January 2019

I have 3 pigmy goats the hay they sleep in is soaked and full of there pebbles. should I be changing that everyday It gets a little costly Can you train them to do their business somewhere other than where they sleep

Kathryn

Tuesday 5th of February 2019

Unfortunately they cannot be trained to go elsewhere. If you have more space you can try rotating them on pasture. If you have just a shed, adding a fresh layer of straw each day will help it stay clean. Hay is not as absorbent as straw and costs more, so definitely use straw when possible. Some people have made raised platforms of slatted wood so the pebbles fall below, that way the goats are not standing in them.

stephanie michaud

Saturday 12th of January 2019

Also I live in maine. There shelter is 8 by 8 and they both sleep in it together but this morning I got up and the Billy goat was outside and not wanting to get up but once we fed them he got up and is doing good. Until toni ght wheb the sun went down he started shivering so I want to make sure I did evry thing I coukd before I go to bed and wake up to him not doing good again. So if you have any suggestions

Kathryn

Tuesday 15th of January 2019

Maybe an igloo packed with straw he can crawl into will help. If that doesn't work you can create a small square shelter just big enough for the two of them with straw bales. Also, you could try increasing his grain ration.