Goat Shelter: Winterizing

Thursday, September 17, 2009

This time of year, here in Zone 5, small homesteaders have begun to winterize knowing how long, hard and unpredictible winter will be.

With the rut soon to come, or in my case, already begun, managing bucks, monitoring estrus and ensuring the general good health of the herd is first on my list.

If your herd has been on the pasture all season, now is a good time to get them in for a once-over. You may want to consider worming and be sure to check their skin, coat quality, eyes, gums, horns and hooves.

Give the hooves a trim if needed, or likely to be needed in the near future, because you sure don’t want to be doing it in December. Inventory your medications and supplements to prevent trips to the supply or vet once the weather turns.

Your winter hay should already be put up. Any supplemental grain should be stored or in progress. Bedding is equally important in areas with severe weather. Around here, in the upper Midwest, hay and straw prices fluctuate based upon the year’s crop and on the time of year. Hay and grain are in higher demand come January so now is the time to buy if you haven’t grown your own. Put up dried fruit or veggies for winter treats to save on grain and prepackaged treat costs.

If the herd has been on browse and pasture since spring, the feeders need to be examined, especially if they’re made of wood. Are any boards loose? Are there splintered edges that need to be sanded down? Splinters can lead to warts but even worse they can also cause abscesses. All feeders and waterers/tanks should be thoroughly cleaned as should winter housing.

I don’t put bedding down just yet as it’s easier to scrape up the pellets, but if everything is well cleaned now all that’s needed once it starts to turn cold is some bedding thrown down.

Any concerns about caseous lymphoma (CL), Johne’s or caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE) should be resolved now. The last thing you want to face in the dead of winter is a contagious goat in close quarters with a healthy herd.

I don’t enjoy cold weather so I give the kidding pen a good cleaning and close it up, sans bedding, until it’s needed. That way when kidding time comes, all that’s needed is some bedding, the kidding kit and my assistance.

It’s a great relief when the winter prep is completed. Your goats will thank you for your foresight when they’re cooped up in bad weather and the sense of satisfaction you’ll derive from feeling prepared is priceless.

– Naimhe Jeanne

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All Things Goat was created by Naimhe Jeanne (Nee-Vah Jeen,) of Illinois, and Martha Ann, of Vermont, who believe in the humane treatment of goats whether they are pets or raised for milk, meat or fiber. Through news, profiles, recipes and editorials, All Things Goat illustrates how our caprine friends improve the quality of life for many worldwide. Our All Things Goat intern is Lela Perez, of Killeen, Texas.

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