Goats in winter

 

Giselle, five months pregnant, was warm and cozy
in the barn during the blizzard last February.

A common question this time of year is, “Can my goats handle the cold weather, or do they need a heat lamp or _________?” The funny thing is that these questions come from Florida and Canada and Alaska and everywhere in between.

In the vast majority of cases, if a human can handle the temperatures all bundled up, then a goat can handle the temperatures because they grow a thick undercoat of cashmere in winter. You may have noticed that your goats look fuzzier in winter — or maybe not if you’re in a warmer climate. Mine look quite fluffy in Illinois. Cashmere is so expensive because a single goat only produces a few ounces, although it’s extremely warm!

So, how cold is too cold?

If you are having a blizzard, three-sided shelters
may not be sufficient to keep your goats safe and warm.

I know a Canadian online who had temperatures at 30 below zero Fahrenheit, which is definitely a problem for babies. They need help staying warm at that temperature, and she lost a baby or two last year when it was that cold, and they lost power, so the heat lamps in their little warming huts were no longer working.

I’m in Illinois, and we have winter temperatures as low as 15 below zero, which the goats can handle with no problems. The only time I’ve had any issues with adults at that temperature was when they were giving birth. Twice when that happened, the does started shaking violently, so in addition to the heat lamps that I had waiting for the kids, I also covered the does — in one case with a towel, and in the other case, I put an old sweatshirt on her.

If you have kids when it’s below freezing, you need to be there to make sure they’re dried off as soon as possible, or their ears and tails can freeze. If it’s below 20 or if they’re outside and it’s windy — even at 40 degrees — they can also get hypothermia really fast and die. If a kid gets hypothermia, its sucking instinct is the first thing to go, so you’ll need to bring it inside and warm it up, which I usually do by laying it on a heating pad.

If the ears freeze, the frozen part will fall off, but ultimately they’re fine too. They just look funny. Unfortunately I learned from the Canadian woman online that when it’s so insanely cold, a baby goat’s feet can freeze, and if they fall off, the kid usually has to be put down.

As with chickens, goats need plenty of fresh air. Pneumonia is the second most common cause of death among goats, and it’s poor air quality that causes it.

Goats should actually be put outside every day unless you have really extreme weather, such as single digit wind chill or storm. Although our does come into the barn at night, our bucks live in three-sided shelters that are open to the south, and we make sure there is plenty of straw in there when it’s going to be getting below 20 degrees.

What about heat lamps?

The other thing to keep in mind is that heat lamps are the #1 cause of barn fires — and we almost had one here, but luckily my daughter walked in when it was still a small fire in the straw, and she was able to put it out with a bucket of water.

If you have temperatures below freezing, and you have newborn kids, be sure that your heat lamp is secured to the wall or something overhead and cannot be knocked down by a curious goat. Once the kids are a couple days old, they will be fine unless temperatures fall well below zero Fahrenheit.

If temps are below zero, a heat lamp in an open barn is not going to do much to keep goats warm because the heat will dissipate in only a foot or two of air when it’s that cold. Kids can cuddle up with each other in a dog crate with the door removed, or you can make a three-sided wooden box with a top where they can cuddle up together. A cardboard box doesn’t work because someone will jump on it and collapse it.

For my Nigerian dwarf kids, I use the sleeve of an old sweatshirt to make coats if temps are below zero. The wrist band becomes the collar; the seam runs under the kid’s belly, and I cut two little holes for the front leg. If you have a buckling, be sure to cut away enough of the coat under his belly so that he doesn’t pee on it.

The only thing I really do differently with my adult goats in cold weather is to give them warm water, which they really seem to love. All of them usually take a big drink every time I bring a new bucket of warm water to them.

So, as I said with the chickens, you don’t need an insulated or heated barn to keep goats in colder climates. They’ll do just fine with their warm cashmere coats down to temperatures as low as a human can survive with a warm coat.

Updated January 29, 2019

If you have kids due in the middle of winter, check out this post on Kidding in winter.

For more information about livestock in winter

goats in the snow

 

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86 thoughts on “Goats in winter”

      • I worry about my girls getting sick due to the fact their she’d ( an old big cattle trailer ) leaks when it rains. Dixie gets house some times., Not sure if it’s a Cold or from her baling! Shesy spoiled & hyper, eats like a pig. Bella who came from a field is not a hog and doesn’t tell all the time!

        Reply
        • Hi Libby! Yes, they can get hypothermia if they get wet and it’s cold. I’d suggest putting a tarp over the trailer to stop the leaks.

          Reply
        • Dixie is now in a closed in but aired shed! But it’s my Bull Goat I’m worried about, if I let him in with the girls, He attacks them & the baby’s! He’s Strong & Rough but gentle as a baby when good or females arnt around! Driving me Nuts trying to figure ehat to do with the mutt

          Reply
  1. Thanks for this … the whole 'Canadian Winter' thing was one of my big concerns in my research about dairy goats, especially when I think the Nigerian Dwarf Goat looks like it will suit me the best. Big weather difference between Nigeria and Canada! 😉

    Reply
  2. Thanks for the info, my goat just had her two babies a few minutes ago, we are in Texas and the weather is 45 degrees F and the lowest for the night will be 39 F so I was worried if it was too cold for them, but after reading your blog I feel much better about leaving them outside in the barn.

    Reply
    • I am bottle feeding orphan goat he is healthy and 3 weeks old but getting harder to have inside. we are in southeast va temps in low 30 to high 50's Is is safe to put him outside with others. I have three sided shelter lots of straw. Other baby mom lived and is doing fine. thanks

      Reply
    • Yes, he should be fine in those temperatures as long as he can cuddle up with the other goats. It would be a good idea to put him outside early in the day so they can get their social order worked out.

      Reply
  3. Thank you! I feel a lot better but I still worry LOL I will be getting straw/hay tomorrow though for both chickens and goats!

    Reply
  4. Thanks for the info. I was ready to go buy a heat lamp. I have 2 pygmy goats. They do have a dog igloo to go into with lots of straw. I will give them a bucket of warm water 🙂

    Reply
  5. Hello. We are new to raising goats and just got four babies. The does are five and six weeks old, and the buck is just over three weeks. They are in and old catch pin having access to an open area with grass, and to the catch pin/barn too. They have a three sided roofed pin within the barn with tons of hay in and around it. The temps tonight here in central Mississippi will be down to 12 degrees. The four of them were laying all over each other this morning in 23 degree temps so I am wondering if they will be ok in the 12 degrees expected this evening. Thanks for any advise you can provide.

    Reply
    • As long as they are dry and out of the wind and have plenty of straw and can cuddle up with each other, they should be fine.

      Reply
  6. Our goats always seem to kid in January. This year we've had lots of sub-zero temps. The first nanny gave birth outside and the kids froze before we found them. so we shut up all the goats in the barn and as soon as the next 3 nannies gave birth, we moved them and the kids into temporary stalls inside our shed so they could be by the wood stove. Now that the kids are a week old, we moved them back to the barn. They are with the other goats and out of the wind. how cold would it need to get before they wouldn't be able to handle it? we're supposed to be getting down to 6 degrees by Thursday. My husband hung heat lamps inside of 5 gallon buckets, but one of the adult goats already busted one of the bulbs out. I don't want any broken glass or fire hazards. would making baby coats or something for them to crawl inside of be a good idea? would that be enough?
    p.s. they're boer/nubian-alpine and boer/sable kids
    thanks!

    Reply
    • Maybe I'm misunderstanding your questions, because I think they are answered in the post. As I said, you really don't have to worry until the temperature falls well below zero. Our Nigerian dwarf goats just survived -17 temperatures the other night, which was quite a surprise because it was only supposed to -3 for the low. We even had a pair of two-day-old twins in the barn, although they were under a heat lamp, which probably got the temperature up to maybe 0 for them.

      Kid coats are fine. In the post, I mentioned one idea for making them out of sweatshirt sleeves for small goats, but you can also use old baby's or toddler's sweatshirts with the sleeves cut off for larger goat kids. (See notes about buckling sweaters above.)

      In addition to using a dog crate with the door removed for kids to crawl into, you can also cut a 50-gallon plastic drum in half and place it cut side down with a hole cut in the side so kids can go in there and cuddle up together to stay warm. Some people also use Dogloos with the bottom removed. If you use a dog crate or dog house with a bottom, it will need a lot of straw bedding and will have to be cleaned out frequently.

      Hope those ideas help!

      Reply
  7. Very good article! I want to start raising goats but with Wisconsin winters I'm very nervous. Thanks for posting this article .

    Reply
  8. Hello! I had a 6-month-old Nubian cross, and 3 10-week old Nigerian Dwarfs.

    We did everything as usual, all the goats looked fine. We came home to see all of them laying in their usual spot, and all got up besides one of the Dwarfs, which was dead. It looked like they had been laying on it, and it was in a sleeping position curled around, except it's neck was twisted to the right far back of its leg. We figured the goats may have suffocated him or that he broke his neck, but then the next morning we see one more dead laying on its side. We have no moldy feed, they have fresh water, and plenty of room and shelter. We recently had a drop here In temperature down to 28 from 60 or so in Minnesota. Days are 40s/50s. They were due for their CD&T booster that same day. We just do not know what happened? We have just the one Nigerian and Nubia cross now.
    Also, our water keeps freezing the past two days — how should we keep it warm?

    Thank you!!

    Reply
    • You would have to get a necropsy to know for sure what happened. The #1 cause of death in goats is internal parasites (worms), which causes anemia, so the kids would just go to sleep and not wake up one day. Basically they bled to death internally. It sounds like you might have suspected listeria (twisted to one side) but you would have seen them circling before they died. You should take a fecal to the vet to have it checked for the other two. There is a lot to know about parasites. It's 24 pages in my book.

      Reply
    • Thank you for the information. We gave the booster to the other two (Nubian and last dwarf) and then also wormed both to be sure. Then, last night we come home to the dwarf sitting down with its head twisted to its side, barely alive. It died a few hours later. We live so far away to get the necropsy, and it is just so bizarre that this only happened to the dwarfs and not the Nubian? This is just so bizarre. Thank you for your help.

      Reply
      • Look into goat polio. If you had fed a larger than usual grain meal, it can upset the rumin to a point that thiamin production is hampered, and a neurological disorder can occur leading to death in a few hours. We almost lost our seven year old best milker by thinking we were being nice with the extra serving of grain. Thanks to our fabulous vets that zeroed in on the problem and injected her with thiamin and brought her around. She looked almost dead when we got there, and it was only hours since we noticed her head tilted up, called stargazing, similar to the head turning in listeriosis. So as the thriftyhomesteader has told us, treat grain feeding carefully. Hay is our best go to feed. Even milking, we use alfalfa pellets to keep them occupied after the small protein serving. We fed some fresh, still warm, spent beer grains to her the day before. That is sprouted barley, which we found out has substances in the sprout that interferes with thiamin production in the rumin. We learned that if one has goats, one should also have injectable thiamin on hand in case this symptom occurs.

        Reply
    • Unfortunately, your story is all too common. You might want to join my online goat group to discuss this more — http://nigeriandwarfgoats.ning.com — as this is a really complicated subject. There are so many things that could have gone wrong. Parasites can become resistant to dewormers so that they no longer work, or if the goat was already severely anemic, it might have been too late to save him.

      Reply
        • It depends on so many things. If he was an adult and healthy, you should not have needed to bring him inside. How cold is it in your area? What kind of symptoms did he have? Was he or is he alone? Goats should not be alone, and it’s especially dangerous in cold weather, as they need to cuddle up to each other to stay warm.

          Reply
    • My very first baby goats both died within days of each other. The sadness was unbearable, so I am totally sympathetic to your pain.
      When the second one passed, the vet said upper G.I. infection had to be the cause. It was not cold, by the way, and they were indoors at the time.
      In my opinion; eating ferns, exposure to Lysol (perhaps inhaling vapors after crate was sprayed), lack of thiamin (which is plentiful in black oil sunflower seeds), bottle feeding with powdered goat formula (our next kids all had just plain old cow's milk and have thrived!), um… I'm trying to name possibilities in order to help in terms of anything I am mentioning "ringing a bell" for you.
      Overeating can also cause issues, and *may* have been a culprit (or had at least a part in) what happened to our babies … (perhaps overflow of undeveloped rumen contributed to the iinfection?)
      So sorry for your loss.I was DEVASTATED losing my babies. (One in my arms on way to emergency vet despite my mouth to mouth efforts, the other during the night AT the vet!)
      Tough to be a goat mommy but sooooo worth it! I now have 5 healthy babies!

      Reply
  9. I check the eyes lids for pinkish color. If you see pinkish eye socket no anemia.if the socket is white you got parasites and you must worm .I use two differnt wormers and switch back in forth. I worm them again in 11days.but after the first worming I give them bova syra and start an iron every other day 4cc per 100lbs and vit. B fortified everyday .untill the color returns. Feed them the best feed you have so they eat and drink. Hope this saves some goats. Ive bpught alot of anemic goats so far it has worked very well

    Reply
      • There is not a single best dewormer for goats because there are problems with dewormer resistance with different dewormers on different farms. If you have never used a dewormer before, then they should all work, assuming this goat did not just come from a farm where they were using one or more of them regularly. You should only use a dewormer once, but you need to be sure to use the correct dosage, which is 2x the cattle dosage on Safeguard, ivermectin, Cydectin, and Valbazen. There is no reason to use it again in 11 days routinely (or 7 days or 10 days). That is very old information and has led to problems with dewormer resistance. There is quite a bit of info on here about dewormers. Here are two posts:
        https://thriftyhomesteader.com/dewormer-resistance-in-goats/
        https://thriftyhomesteader.com/internal-parasite-in-goats-preventing/

        Reply
  10. Thank you for this article. I live in NH. Temps have been very cold this year. I'm planning on being there for my doe who should be kidding any second. I'm terrified of frozen babies. My barn is totally closed but a bit drafty. I cannot do a heat lamp. Too many horror stories about fire. I'm feeling the urge (already and they aren't here) to bring them inside to get them completely dry and dressed in sweaters before leaving them to their mama. My other thought is to just surround them with hay. Lots and lots of hay. I know animals are capable of more than I can conceive. Thanks again for this . I really feel better after reading.

    Reply
  11. Hi
    We live in Raleigh – and it will reach 0 degrees over the next few days. We have three small fainting goats – about a year old… Will they be ok in the barn with fresh hay and water overnight? They have good cashmere goats at this point but burr… its cold here.

    Reply
    • Should not be a problem. We raise Nigerian dwarf goats, which are the same size or smaller than fainters, and they handle our Illinois winters just fine all the way down to -15 or even -20 (yes, that's 15 or 20 degrees below zero). They should have plenty of straw to insulate them from the ground, and they should be able to cuddle up together. The water will be frozen by morning though, so you'll want to go out there and give them more warm water. Most love water that's the temperature of a bath.

      Reply
    • Thank you for answering this. We live in Virginia and our temp tomorrow is 15 with a wind chill of zero. Then a wind chill of -15 overnight. This is our first year with goats (nigerian, a 2.5 year old doe and a 6 month old wether). I am so nervous for them. They have their insulated shed (8×8) that we close at night (and maybe tomorrow). But I'm really fighting the desire to put them in the basement! 🙂

      Reply
    • Resist the urge to keep them in an insulated building for more than overnight because pneumonia is the second leading cause of death for goats, and it is caused by poor air quality. Ammonia from their urine starts to do damage to their lungs before you can even smell it.

      Reply
  12. Hello just put my bottle babies in the barn from the house. Have them in a dog house with a hole cut in top with a heat lamp above. They are in a large pen with two 2 1/2 month old Boers that we are taking to the fair. My question is should we take poop samples in from the bores an worm all 4 . Thanks

    Reply
    • I'd encourage you to join my goat group — http://nigeriandwarfgoats.ning.com/ — because this is a very complex subject. Even though it says it's for Nigerian dwarf goat owners, we have members who have other breeds. The short answer is that you should never give a dewormer to your goats unless you know they are having a problem with worms, and then you should only give it to the ones having problems. Deworming hour whole herd regularly will lead to dewormer resistance. The parasite chapter in my book, Raising Goats Naturally, is 24 pages long, so it's tough to give a short answer to this question. There is a lot more to parasite control than simply using dewormers.

      Reply
  13. What if I have 2 babies (1 week and 2 weeks) with no adult goat, should they stay in the barn with a heat lamp or be brought in the house at night? It gets about 20-40 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Even smaller breed kids like Nigerian dwarf and pygmy are fine in the barn at night at 20 to 40 degrees. Once it's above freezing, they don't even need a heat lamp. With an adult goat to cuddle up with, they would even be fine down to 20.

      Reply
  14. Okay, so, this is my first year ever having a goat. She was born around mothers day of 2015, it is now november and today we had wet snow, so I DID put her in a barn to stay dry and mostly out of the wind. However, I feel horrible leaving her locked up in it. The snow has stopped for the week I believe. BUT the wind is strong, and right now it's about 34 degrees with a 22 degree wind chill. Would she be okay outside in that? Part of her large pen has a wind break? And on the corresponding side of the wind break there is a shed about 5 feet from the side of her larger cage. The wind is supposed to die down by 6 or 7. Could she manage safely? She has grown a thick layer os cashmere. She is a pygmy if that makes a difference

    Reply
    • She really needs a goat friend for multiple reasons, including the fact that they cuddle up together when it's cold. It is also best if goats have a shelter available at all times to go into to get out of the wind and rain. But keeping them locked inside a barn 24/7 is not good because of air quality. Goats kept inside all winter tend to have more problems with lung issues, such as pneumonia.

      Reply
  15. We have 4 Cashmere (does) and 1 Cashmere buck. It was very hard to find these goats we did find our buck and whether in Indiana and the 4 does in Campbellsport Wi. We lost the wether shortly after we had him ,several vet calls and still lost him, he was full of parasites the owners never wormed any of their goats and they showed them at the fair. I know the pain od losing one he died in my arms. I was so devasted and depressed that I wanted to get rid of them all. I was raised on a dairy farm and seen animals die so I should of got a grip on this but he was like a baby I cried (62 yrs. old) and it still haunts me. But we built stalls in the calf barn, it is a long ways to carry water to the heifer shed so I am looking at keeping them in there ,they each have their own pen (large) and I can open the big door on one end and open the second door that leads to the barn so air goes straight threw and sun comes in. then shut the big outside door at night and leave the one to the barn open. But I have pails with heaters in them and they don't have to fight over grain (PURINIA GOAT CHOW) .and they get grassy hay. I do mix alfalfa pellets and black oil sun flower seeds in the grain and once in a while I will buy shredded or sliced carrots and add a 1/4 cup in to the grain (treat) I want to put them out to pasture during the day but I when it is nice out (they stay out side with shelter all summer and fall) but it's a struggle to get them back and forth I am hoping they will be fine in the huge stalls bedded down . Wisconsin born and raised.

    Reply
    • I'm not entirely sure what you're planning to do … just let the doe outside for the day when there is snow on the ground? If so, that's fine. In fact, you should not leave goats locked up in the barn all winter or you'll start to have respirator problems because of the poor air quality. But it would not be okay if you are talking about putting her outside in the middle of a blizzard.

      Reply
    • If they are at least a month old and healthy, they will be fine going outside every day with mom, assuming you are not having strong winds or blowing snow.

      Reply
  16. We woke this morning to one of our 2 Pygmy/fainter babies dead. It got down to around 5 degrees last night and I'm not sure if the cold could have done it. Everyone keeps saying they should have been fine. They have a dog house with a bunch of straw right next to the house and they had each other to snuggle. They are around 14 weeks old. He was laying on his side (not curled up or anything) inside the dog house dead when we found him. We are trying to figure out what could have happened. Do you think cold could have done it? Now his brother doesn't have a snuggle buddy so we stacked straw bales all around the dog house and made it like a straw igloo. Do u think that will help him be ok? So sad.

    Reply
    • I have never lost a goat to cold weather, even when it was 15 or 20 degrees BELOW zero, so 5 degrees should not have bothered him, especially with another goat to cuddle up to. I would be concerned about the one you have left, however, because they do help to keep each other warm, AND goats are herd animals and should always have a friend. Most are not happy when alone, so I'd suggest finding him a friend.

      Reply
  17. I live in Illinois, and I have 1 Nubian goa . He's now 6 years old, and has survived almost -30 wind chill nights. He's in a 3 sided barn with plenty of straw. His cuddle buddy has been my duck, as her siblings were killed by a fox. He has done fine, and being a first time goat owner I was a worried one. I still am! But, I keep a tip safe heater on a pallet for him, and once it gets too cold I put a make shift coat (throw blanket) on him. Just measure out legs so it's not tight. I have to put on all 4's because he's smart enough to take it off. So if anyone is worried you could try that, or a robe works great! Thank you for these tips because I couldn't find anything when I got him as a baby. So he was a house goat for almost a year lol. If anyone would like the name brand of the heater let me know. It's helped a lot

    Reply
  18. I tried to send a question about our dwarf goats to thriftyhomesteader.com and it wouldn’t,t go through.
    Can you please help me with your address so I can send you my question

    Reply
  19. I have Nigerians as well, and they have grown a good coat . We moved from a very warm climate to a colder one this year. Not bad in my opinion – we get down to 18 on the worst nights and winter days are between 26-42 depending on moisture. My previous home we had 78 degree Christmases. My larger Nigerian doe still shivers -( I have two , and they are pets, not used for breeding or milking) I have them in a 12 x 12 barn stall – insulated walls – there is air flow through the back slider door and the fronts are half bars and half walls . Straw down for bedding. I also have put a light coat on them because of the quaking.
    There is a lot of mud and ice right now so they haven’t been out . I imagine I’m being a huge worrier for nothing, but I’m surprised that they are still shivering. Thoughts?

    Reply
    • You didn’t mention the age of your goats or how recently you moved. If you moved in the middle of winter, I’d expect them to take awhile to adjust. Also, the older the goats are, the longer it would take them to adjust just because they are not as resilient as when they’re younger. The only time I’ve ever had adult does shiver is when it’s below zero and they’re in labor. But if you suddenly drop older goats into the middle of winter, I could see that being a challenge for them. If both the back and front are open, that would create a draft, which would make it harder for them to stay warm. Since one side has half walls, you could close the other side. Ammonia can still escape over the top of those half walls.

      Reply
  20. As I have referred to this site several times in my short history of keeping goats, I am joining the group. I have a neutered male ( 2yrs), a doe ( 1 yr) who has just given birth to a Billy! We live in New Brunswick, Canada and have temperatures to -20C ( -13 F) for several days at a time, with wind. These are Tauggenbourgs and apparently the breed originated in Alps. We keep them in a shed with a small yard.
    At what daily temperature and for how long at a time should we let them out in a pasture. There is still some snow and ice on the ground ( March 19). Yes – I know that they are Swiss and should be up for it but don’t want to freeze the silly guys!
    Also when should Billy be ready for food other than Mom’s. He is almost a month old.

    Reply
    • You didn’t say whether those temps were your daily highs or overnight lows. If it’s above 0 F, they can go outside, assuming they have a place where they can get out of the wind. If they don’t have a windbreak, I would not let them outside because the “real feel” or wind chill is always so much worse. In that case, you could just open the door of their shelter so the ammonia can escape.

      If mama is raising her baby, he’ll start eating alongside her, nibbling at her grain or hay, so there’s nothing extra you need to do. In fact, he’s probably doing that already.

      Reply
  21. I had two goats that we got in the spring of last year that I bottle fed. And neither of them made it through the winter. The slept in our barn which had a small openings for them to come and go and we also had a heat lamp in there. We have no idea why they didn’t make it. These were our first attempt at livestock and it has me very apprehensive to try again. What do you feed goats during the winter?

    Reply
    • The #1 cause of death in goats is parasites. Pneumonia is #2, and it’s usually caused by poor air quality, so keeping goats inside can be problematic. Without a necropsy, it’s impossible to say why they died. What you feed goats during the winter varies depending on whether they are wethers or breeding animals. Wethers are fine with just a good grass hay. Pregnant does would have a grass-alfalfa mix. Only milkers get grain. They could have also had a problem with copper deficiency, if they were does. Here’s a link to my free copper course — http://thriftyhomesteader.teachable.com/p/copper-deficiency/

      Reply
  22. This is great thanks for taking the time to respond to all the questions although some were repetitive. I have a goat for the first time and was enlightened reading all this info.

    Reply
  23. We have no electricity in the barn. We can’t keep the water in their buckets from freezing. How often would we need to bring water out to them? Or any other suggestions. We are in a New England deep freeze right now.

    Reply
    • If you take them warm water, it’s usually enough to take it to them twice a day — first thing in the morning and then in the late afternoon. When the water is warm (like bath water) they usually stick their mouth in there and take a very big drink. Plus, it will take a little longer to freeze if it’s warm. We usually swap out two buckets, so that one can be thawing when we take out the other one. Even though we have electricity in the barn, there’s no way we can have all of the buckets heated. We never even bought a heated bucket until a couple of years ago, so it’s definitely doable.

      Reply
      • Good that is basically what we are doing. I just wanted to be sure it is enough to keep them hydrated in this cold weather. Today it is snowing, windy (20-30mph) (40-50mph gusts). We may get up to 14 inches of snow. I am assuming I should keep the goats in the barn (two nigerian 4yr &2yr old). Tomorrow the high will be 10 & windy. I could let them out tomorrow but we will need to shovel a walking area for them.

        Reply
  24. I don’t know anything about goats and my husband brought me home a Pygmy goat that a coworker didn’t want anymore. He stays in the backyard with access to the garage. We dont have any hay or straw for him yet and it snowed last night. I put a big old comforter in a corner for him but I can’t tell if he’s cold or not. Thing is tho is that he keeps trying to come into the house. Is he cold or just curious? I live in Tennessee .

    Reply
    • If he’s been kept outside in the past, he should have a thick coat of cashmere that will keep him warm. How old is he? Or how big is he? Does he have horns? If yes, how long? How long have you had him? He needs hay for eating and straw for bedding. If you want to join my goat group, it would be easier to discuss this there — http://nigeriandwarfgoats.ning.com

      Reply
  25. Pingback: led lamp housing goats in the winter – you had me at "hello"
  26. Thank-you for this article, I have meat goats and they free range on our 35 acres,
    at 8200 elevation. They do well on this high plains grass. They do have available
    shelter at their choice, since they do not like to get wet they do use it often. My questions are: 1) Because our goats are grass feed should we ever give goat feed in the winter or just supplement with extra bought hay. We do not milk our goats. 2) What about black oil sunflower (whole) seeds for winter, how much to start with. Thank-you for your time, I know you are a busy girl.

    Reply
    • I always say — watch your goats. If they start to lose body condition, and you know they don’t have a parasite problem, then they probably need more food. This may come in the form of hay or hay pellets. Really, only does in milk need grain. If you give it to bucks or wethers, you could wind up with urinary calculi problems, so only give grain to males as a last resort.

      Reply
  27. I have what are supposed to be 2 weathered goats. I had to separate them as one still has a testicle and complete buck mentality. Temps are going to get to -30 with 18+” of snow. They cannot cuddle to stay warm. Will extra bedding and wind blocking be enough?

    Reply
  28. I live in NW Florida. Currently have 6 Nigerian/Kiko crosses & 1 Boer/Kiko cross, ages 6 months to 5 years old. 5 were born here. Our weather can go from 70’s to 20’s (& back to 70) in a day anytime from October through April. Frequently we have 3-4 days of windchills just below 0 degrees F during November through March. The high humidity here makes it feel like living near Lake Superior in winter. Bitter cold. (I grew up in Northern Minnesota & went to college in Houghton-Hancock, Michigan.)

    Our goats have 3 sided shelters with deep bedding of at least 12 – 14″. The bedding gets deeper as the winter progresses. The shelters all face East, as our worst weather comes from due South, Southwest and North, Northwest. The 2 smaller shelters are also raised off the ground about 12″, as we frequently have 7-10 inches of rain in a single day. Our record was 24″ inches 4 years ago…. the 3 youngest goats at that time ended up spending 2 nights in the back porch laundry room!

    They have access to pasture and grass hay roundrolls 24/7. The roundrolls are protected by covered hay arches made of 2 cattle panels ziptied together & covered by sturdy tarps. This hay arch keeps the roundrolls drier in our rainy winters. Saves a lot of hay from just being wasted. And we can easily dismantle the hay arches when hurricanes head our way.

    I put out hay bags and nets with additional hay in the shelters if we are expecting severe weather with several inches of rain so everyone can stay out of the weather. In severe cold I haul warm water and will also provide a warm mush of alfalfa mix cubes & pellets and sunflower seeds for their supper.

    I use pitted prunes or dates as treats & pill pockets. Started doing that with our first goats, who lived to be 14, 15 & 17 years old.

    The last 4 years of our first goats’ lives, they would get chilled easily. So I bought water repellant insulated dog coats from Jeffers Pet Supply. The coats blocked the wind and shed rain pretty well and kept my old friends more comfortable. I keep enough of these coats on hand in sizes from newborn to adult to blanket everyone if needed. You just never know when one might get sick and need that extra warmth.

    The dog coats comes in very handy for the ocassional winter kidding, too. Look for sizes of 12- 18 inches for newborns, depending on the breed. For anyone who might be looking at this, measure the length of the back, from the base of the neck to tailhead.

    I also have 2 microwavable warming discs that I can put under and around newborns to help dry and keep them warm. The Snugglesafe Microwaveable Heat pads can be found online at Jeffers and Calif. Vet Supply. They will radiate heat for up to 12 hours. These can be put under bedding without the danger of starting fires. These warm from the ground up, so will keep newborns, aged or ill animals more comfortable. I don’t use the fabric cover on the Snugglesafe discs for the goats. I just wrap
    the disc in an old towel that can easily washed or discarded, depending on how soiled it got. Then I wipe the disc clean and disinfect for the next use.

    I thank you for all the great commonsense information you provide. I bought your “Raising Goats Naturally” book last year & highly recommend it.

    I really like the newsletter information about copper deficiency, how to check eyes for parasite problems and taming wild goats. I have forwarded several things to friends just getting started in goats.

    Reply
    • Thanks for all the details on dealing with your crazy weather. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Raising Goats Naturally, as well as my newsletter!

      Reply
  29. Hi! I’m hoping you can help me.

    My two Nigerian dwarf does (1 & 2 years old) have a fully enclosed barn – there is a caged in area with a roof that takes up a third of the barn where they sleep & stay when they’re inside. It’s packed with hay for warmth – i use the rest of our barn for their food bins & hay bales. There is a big dog door that is on that side of the barn & when it’s opened they can leave their caged in spot freely and go outside. We got our first snowfall today & I noticed while inside the barn when I had opened the dog door it was drafty & cold – even with the barn door shut. The wind was blowing right in the dog door. They do have some space to the right and left of it to snug in the corner but I felt bad leaving it opened & shut it during the snowfall. I am going to go open it now as I read in your comments that pneumonia is a danger. There is a small draft up high near the roof as it isn’t Fully closed up in the small ducts where the roof meets the barn. Is that enough ventilation if it was a cold windy day & I decided to shut the dog door?

    Also, totally off topic.. but I have a concern with pink eye. My 1 year old annabelle showed signs last week of it. First a really red irritated eye lid & it was shut halfway. It then got swollen & drainage started. I clean her eye twice a day with warm salt water & I have been flushing it out with Microcyn pink eye spray & it seemed to give a miracle overnight – swelling went down and her eye is more open but still looks a little irritated. I haven’t stopped treatment but her eye did haze over a bluish white color on half of it two days ago. I read that will happen but will go away and to not stop treating her. I am just really scared for her. We just lost our 2 Nigerian dwarf goats Daisy & Einstein they were 5 to a bear late September. He killed them both. It was devestating. I just got these two a month ago & I want to make sure I do everything right to keep them safe and healthy.

    Also, is there also any specific de wormer you recommend? Someone had told me to get one that is normally for a horse in a tube and they sell it at tractor supply. To put it on a cracker once a month & give it to them. Any advice helps thank you so much!

    Reply
    • It sounds like you might have enough ventilation if you have an open area near the top of your barn. If you ever see any humidity buildup in there, that is definitely a bad sign that you don’t have enough ventilation. We do usually close doors when it’s snowing because we don’t want snow blowing into the barn, but it doesn’t usually snow every day here, so that means the door is open most of the time.

      Sounds like her pink eye probably came from her poking her eye, and that usually heals on its own without you doing anything. So there isn’t anything else you can do. Usually it is from flies, but if it’s snowing there, you definitely don’t have flies.

      Whoever told you to deworm your goats monthly is NOT up to date on the latest info. That was common advice back in the 1990s! Today we know that giving a deworming monthly will result in dewormer resistance. And if you have snow already, there is 0 risk of a worm overload because all of the larvae on the grass are frozen and dead now. Using a monthly dewormer right now would just be a huge waste of money. However, using it during worm season would ultimately result in dewormer resistance, which means that when your goats got a worm overload, the dewormer would not work. If you had goats for five years, and they didn’t have a worm problem, then it sounds like your setup is good in terms of keeping your goats from getting a worm overload. Controlling worms is NOT about drugs. It’s about management. I have lots of articles on here about parasites. Here is one — https://thriftyhomesteader.com/dewormer-resistance-in-goats/

      Reply
  30. We lost a number of babies in a cold snap last February, and yes their feet can freeze as well. Our goats are outside in all weather, they have 3 sided shelters and shelters with doors cut out. They know when it’s ok to go out and when not to. If it gets too cold (-40 to -50 C) then i give a warm oatmeal mash with beat pulp, apples, carrots, grain and what ever else will fill them and keep them warm. (yes i’m in canada). I don’t have a barn for them to go into, but it is amazing how many goats can fit in a 4×4 shelter when it’s cold (or raining) out.

    Reply
    • I never would have thought that goats would be okay in a 3-sided shelter at those temperatures. I can see why you’d lose kids. And in case any other readers are wondering, when the feet freeze, they fall off, which usually means you will wind up putting down the kid. If ears or tail freeze and fall off, it doesn’t really hurt them. If it gets that cold your area, I would not recommend kidding in winter. We had more than a few kiddings below zero, and you have to have a blow dryer, heat lamps, and heating pad to keep kids from getting hypothermia and dying.

      Reply
  31. hi, im in Louisiana, the winter has been mild so far here, with temps at night getting down to 38-45F or warmer some nights, but in the next week we will be having 5 freezing nights in a row and am worried about my pygmy male, Spirit. He sleeps on an old porch platform which I have set up boards and tin to block the wind from the north and east sides, where the wind is coming from this time of year. I have bought a bale of straw to lay down on the platform for him to sleep on, I feed him as much Alfalfa hay as he can eat, and will be giving him hot water before i go to bed, and again in the morning. The coldest day will be 17 degrees F, and the other days it will be 25, 26, and 28F at night, Monday and tuesday during the day it will be 30F but on the other days it will be 40F. Will Spirit be ok?

    Reply
  32. I wondered if the Nigerian dwarf goat breeds Can weather the cold temperatures as well as other breeds considering that ancestrally they were from warmer climates. Do They also get the angora layer of fur?

    Reply
    • All goats grow an undercoat of cashmere during the winter, which is why they look fluffier during winter, including the Nigerian dwarf and other breeds from Africa. (The angora goat has mohair.) Our Nigerians have been thriving in our cold Illinois winters since 2002, and I purchased one of my bucks from a herd in Alaska. We’ve had temperatures down to -25 F (yes, 25 below 0!) and our goats were fine in the unheated barn with plenty of straw bedding. We only have heat lamps on the kids that are a couple of weeks old or younger.

      Reply
  33. We just brought home two weathers that are just a bit over 12 weeks old. We are supposed to get some cold weather here in Iowa. Tomorrow is a high of 9 and a low of -10, Thursday is a high of 9 and low of -10. The weather looks like it will fluctuate between just above zero and negative the next week or so. They are in a metal shed with a roof. Snow or rain can not get in. We stapled a tarp to door so no wind or snow can get in. We sectioned off a little corner with pallets and deep bedding for them to cuddle up in for warmth. We did break down and put a heat lamp in there since most nights have been below 20. Is there anything else we should be doing? Is it going to be too cold for them to be outside? We give them fresh warm water 3 times a day. I know they have a cashmere coat, but didn’t know at this young of age if it would be too cold.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • The age is not a challenge at all for cold temperatures after about a week of age. They don’t even need a heat lamp unless it’s below zero. At 12 weeks, they do not need a heat lamp at least down -25 degrees, which is as cold as it’s been here in Illinois. However, that’s assuming they are otherwise healthy and have good body condition. You didn’t say what breed they are, but if they are Nigerians, which I raise and which are a popular pet breed, they should be at least 20-25 pounds. Larger breeds, should of course, be bigger.

      Reply

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