Winter on your farm:
When the frost is on your goat’s nose, are you ready to keep them healthy through the winter? Here are a few items to take into consideration about your herd's health and nutrition in the winter months.
Be prepared by doing/knowing the following:
- All goats are up to date on vaccinations and other needs - CDT, selenium and vitamin E and D.
- Sleeping areas and animals have been dusted with poultry/livestock external parasite dust (or other organic type dust) before heading into fall/winter time period.
- Shelters are in good repair - covered with no area for leakage, strong enough to withstand winds and snow, give enough protection to keep the goats out of the cold, damp weather.
- Enough shelters for all animals. Remember goats do not always share well. You might need to add some wooden pallets to "divide" the shelter areas so more goats can use the shelter.
- If feed areas are not in shelter areas, some sort of cover should be available to keep goats dry while eating and keep feed dry.
- Have enough paddocks/areas if you need to switch goats around - as an example, one or two goats are not being allowed in shelters or not allowed to eat their share - these goats would need to be in an area of their own.
- Goats are up to date on worming and hoof trimming.
- Remember goats need extra nutrition during the cold winter time - feeding grain or some alfalfa in the night time allows their rumens to work through the night helping to keep the goats warm.
- Have goat coats or people sweatshirts cut to fit ready for goats if you see some shivering.
- Fences in good repair.
- Sick pen available should you need it.
- Have your hay in storage, covered well. If you find a "steaming" hay bale remove immediately from other hay to keep from starting a fire.
- Have grain stored in covered containers - winter time causes unwanted little creatures to search for easy sources of grain.
- Have extra water available should lines freeze or other reason for not being able to have fresh water.
- Be prepared to provide hot water to the goats on days where their water is very cold or has ice in it or is ice!
- Start immune enhancer/vitamins to help goats stay healthy through the winter. These can be human holistic/herbal type or regular immune enhancer vitamins.
- Keep minerals (should include selenium) available for the goats at all times in a dry area.
- Start on probiotic powder when feeding grain to keep their rumens at a good functioning level of good bacteria.
- Make sure your first aid kit is well stocked - you may find a storm is brewing and you cannot get out to the feed/farm store.
- Check lumbar score of each goat often – lumbar score shows what condition the goat is in.
- Check coat thickness to be sure they are ready for winter - if selenium deficient, coat may not be able to grow thick for winter cold.
- Keep an eye on hay and grain to be sure there is no growing mold brought by winter moist weather.
- Try and keep other wild critters from getting into your goat's water buckets - they may be carrying leptospirosis.
- Have older goats? They are going to need special attention.
- If you have pregnant does who may have due dates during winter weather - be prepared with kidding stalls and kidding supplies. These does may also need some special care so watching them closely is advised. If you do have kid goats born in the cold weather, advice is "keep them warm" and the doe's body warmth is sometimes not enough. We bottle feed all our kid goats and for the first 7 days of life they are in the house – if the kid goat seems chilled or your barn is cold and the heat lamp is just not keeping the area warm enough would advise bringing the kid goats inside – don’t lose them from the cold.
Winter can be hard on goats and other livestock. I like to take my morning cup (sometimes two) of coffee into the pastures after feeding/chores (this is before I head off to my real full-time work!) to be sure I am not missing something with any of the goats - this only takes a few minutes. If you see something about a goat that does not seem right, it is easier to start some sort of treatment now rather than leaving it to possibly get worse quickly.
If you have a veterinarian for your goats and have not talked to them for a while, might want to call and say hi to be sure they still have you as a client and/or that they still are seeing ruminants. You might also want to check on their night time/emergency practices. Sometimes these change with the seasons or a change in veterinarians. Most veterinarians that I know do not do night time emergency calls for goats (that is where your fully stocked first aid kit may come in handy). Know who to call if you can't get a hold of a veterinarian.
Winter time might give you some extra time to start reading, so perhaps a good book on goat care or previous answers on Allexperts.com or other goat information sites will fill that time. Donna's goat care book is not out yet but we are in hopes it will be out within a few months, but there are still lots of different goat care books around to read, and there is always a web site like Allexperts.com to seek goat information from or calling your goat knowledgeable veterinarian or an experienced goat person.
If you come upon a goat seminar in your area - perhaps it is a good time to update your goat health and herd management or your herd nutrition.
Here’s hoping your winter season is safe and healthy for all on your farm, and, of course, that includes the goats. Remember, your livestock depends on you – please don’t let them down.
Healthy kid goats ready to fly into winter.
A healthy packgoat, Dawson, on a winter hike.