Practical Advice on How to keep Your Goats Warm and Happy

| 1/25/2018 9:17:00 AM

Tags: goats, livestock, cold weather, Julia Shewchuk, Serenity Acres, Florida,

babies in sweaters 

We’ve lived in Florida many, many years. Half of those years we lived in South Florida where the idea of a hard freeze is 50 degrees at night, and half of those years in North Florida where the temperatures can and will dip into the low 20’s at night. Thankfully these low temperatures usually only last one or two nights, but sometimes they can stick around for up to a week. Now, you Northerners can stop laughing, but the fact is, that while your animals and your wardrobe are well prepared for those below freezing temperatures, our animals and livestock and our wardrobe are not. Our livestock doesn’t grow the protective winter coats, our barns and shelters are constructed for maximum ventilation and shade rather than warmth and our closets typically don’t include any winter coats. Two more challenges we face are the rather large temperature fluctuations from freezing at night to mid-sixties during the day, and the typically early in the year kidding season from December/January through April before the weather gets too hot and the bugs become a pest of moms and babies.

What we have found though, it doesn’t take a lot of money to make sure that your southern livestock of all ages weathers a cold spell well, just some preparation and extra attention for “freeze prep”.

1. Give your goats and other livestock plenty of extra hay to munch on when it gets cold. Heat is produced through the digestion of the hay and can be useful in helping your livestock maintain body temperature in colder temperatures. And depending on availability, extra rations of a high protein forage such as alfalfa or perennial peanut can help the internal engine going.

LBJ enjoying the comfort

2.  Provide shelter for your animals to be able to move out of the wind, and to stay dry on drizzly, rainy days. A wet coat will lower body temperature and will make it harder to stay warm and healthy. Fresh air is good, but a shelter is needed, especially if there isn’t a natural shelter like a tree line. We put up a plastic lining around our kidding stalls. For several years we used 6 mil plastic sheeting which we stapled to the wood, but it had a couple of disadvantages. The goats liked to chew the plastic, it was not that resistant to strong wind and it wasn’t all that easy to put up. This year we switched to hard plastic panels often used for green houses or roofing. It turns out to be chew resistant, it is strong enough to withstand heavier storms and it is much faster to put up and take down; and it is more economical because it can be used year after year. The plastic is only on three sides, still keeping plenty of ventilation during the warmer days, but breaking the wind and rain. The temperature inside the pens is probably about 10 – 15 degrees warmer now.

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