Baby, it's cold out there! At least that’s what we were saying last week when the thermometer struggled to stay above 4° during the day! This week we are hovering around 40°. This is Maine, what the heck is going on? This morning on the news, photos from predominantly warm climates like California showed that it was colder there than here! So, how does this affect goats?
First of all, let me share one of my husband’s favorite sayings: "we live in a cold climate that gets warm once in a while; others live in a warm climate that gets cold once in a while."
If you live in one of these warm climates that has suddenly gotten cold, I am sure that you are very worried about your goats! Let me assure you that goats are very adaptable! Here in Maine, in autumn, we experience some very changeable weather. One day it will be up in the 70s and the next day we are down in the 30s. We have noticed that when the weather changes like that the goats change right along with the temperatures! They will start to grow their undercoat of cashmere almost immediately, and shed it just as fast. Often, they will grow and shed two or more times a year.
A few years ago, when my husband Ken was visiting Texas, he had the chance to talk with the first importer of Boer Goats into the USA, Don Smith from Talpa, Texas. Mr. Smith explained to Ken that in the early 1990s when he first explored importing the goats from South Africa to Texas he ran into problems with Apartheid. He had to first get the goats to New Zealand, then to Canada, from Canada on to Texas. Just think about all the temperature changes these goats went through! They survived very nicely but grew and shed countless layers of Cashmere.
The goats will rub along the fences to rid themselves of the excess soft undercoat, only to grow it back in a few days. We have some of the most luxuriously lined birds’ nests around!
The most important thing to remember when temperatures are hovering around the freezing mark is water. Goats can’t drink “hard” water (in Maine that’s slang for frozen water). Tanks and buckets that are covered with a coating of ice are difficult at least for the goats to get a good drink of their much needed water. In colder climates we are used to putting out heated tanks and buckets, but in a warm climate experiencing a cold snap the answer is manually keeping those water vessels free from ice buildup. An easy way of doing this is to keep an empty bucket ready to fill up with warm water and use the “exchange method”. One bucket is thawing while the other is ready to drink out of. We fill our buckets from the bathtub with warm tap water. The goats absolutely love this refreshing drink. They will often suck down so much, that we find ourselves quickly refilling the bucket a second time.
The most dangerous part of cold weather for the goats is freezing rain. When we hear that type of weather forecast the goats are immediately sequestered in the barn with hay and water. They aren’t really happy about closed doors, and having to be inside, but that’s too bad. I would rather keep them safe and dry rather than deal with a bunch of sick boys and girls with running noses.
I read all of the time that goats don’t get colds, and that may be true; however, whenever I’ve gotten a really bad cold, I find that some of my goats start running a fever and getting runny noses. A crushed baby aspirin usually helps within an hour or two, but every now and then more drastic measures need to be implemented. This little problem can turn into pneumonia at the drop of a hat, so please, please be aware of what is going on with your goats. A little runny nose and slight fever along with a dose of freezing rain can spell disaster!
This is a good spot for a bit of advice. Taking your goats temperature when they are in a good, healthy state is a really good idea. Note this temp in your records so that if you think the goat is running a fever, you will know immediately if this is the case. A goat’s internal temperature is 101.5 to 103.5 so if a goat, with a normal temperature of 101.5, is running a temp of 103.5 you may have an animal with a fever.
We use a lot of Listerine (the old time gold colored stuff, no flavors please!) at this time of year. Runny nose? Just dampen a paper towel with the Listerine to clean it up. Make sure this paper towel is disposed of properly and DO NOT use the same piece on another goat!!!
Are you interested in learning more? Here is some exciting news! We have plans for two Goat School in June! The first on Saturday June 8th and Sunday June 9th will be held here at Stony Knolls Farm in Maine. A Goat Milk Soap making class will take place on Monday June 10th. Click here to register and come have a ball learning about goats and also enjoy meeting others who are here for the same reasons!
The second Goat School in June will be held in Minnesota!!! How fun will this one be? It’s scheduled for Saturday June 22nd, and Sunday June 23rd with a Goat Milk Soap making class on Monday June 24th. We are still working out the logistics, so please watch our web site www.goatschool.com over the next few weeks for the registration form and details! Just as an aside about Minnesota Goat School, the folks that are hosting it, were here in Spring of 2012, went home, put some of the information they learned into effect and started a successful soap business already!
We also havetwo books available. “The Goat School Manual”, our teaching aid at Goat School,and “Goat School: A Master Class in Caprine Care and Cooking”, two books thatwill help you out with your goat dreams!