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I have been lucky enough that for the past 20 years I have lived in the south, where winters are pretty mild. I know not everyone has that luxury, I grew up in Michigan so I do know what winter cold feels like. When my first winter hit that we had goats, 2 of them were pregnant (I had no clue!). And, of course, they decided to give birth in the middle of a rare snowstorm when we lived in North Carolina. I was panicked and had no clue what I was doing. Thankfully I have learned and only breed my goats when I know they will kid in warmer months.
We live in Arkansas where the winters are generally mild. This week it’s supposed to get a cold front and drop to just 3 degrees Fahrenheit! Which is crazy! So there are a few things that we need to do around the farm to get the goats ready for winter!
Raising Goats in the Winter
Most older goats are pretty hardy and do not require a lot of extra care. They grow a nice winter coat that does most of the work to keep them warm. Younger goats may have a harder time regulating their body temperature, but can still do a good job on their own.
One of the most important things to think about when raising goats in the winter is their shelter. When you live in a place where the temperatures drop relatively often, a fully enclosed shelter may be required. You want to make sure that they can stay dry and keep out of cold winds.
I also lay down a nice thick layer of fresh straw. I prefer straw in the winter simply because it makes a great insulator. Straw is hollow, so it helps to keep the goats nice and warm and toasty.
If you do have power, setting up a safe way to heat your shelter may be an option. I do recommend avoiding heat lamps though, they are prone to start barn fires, and are just not worth the risk. If you do want to go with a heat lamp, I recommend the Prima Heat Lamp from Premier 1.
Food & Water
When I get my goats ready for winter, I like to make sure that they have a few things. They need fresh water, and good quality hay to keep them happy. When it is colder, chances are they will want to spend more time in their barn anyway. It also helps to ensure they have plenty of calories to burn to help keep them warm.
We do not have electricity in our barn, so whenever I go out to check on the animals, I always bring out fresh water. I also give them fresh clean water before locking them up at night. That way they can get some water in them before they go to sleep and the water freezes over.
Goat Kidding in the Winter
If your goat is due to kid in the winter, you may want to consider bringing them inside. If that’s not an option, be on standby with lots of blankets and towels to get any kids dried off and warm as quickly. I don’t like putting sweaters on goats. But, if they are under 2 weeks old, I would recommend it if you can not bring them inside.
As a last resort, you can always pull the babies if the weather gets to be too cold and raise them as bottle babies. It is not necessarily the best, but when temperatures drop below 10 degrees, I would rather be safe than sorry.