January 23, 2017

The Goat Baby Waiting Game (and How to Keep Goats Warm in Winter)

I have three does due next month.

Lini, Jessie, and Violet

In the past I've bred my girls in late autumn to allow for kidding in the warmer half of spring. With the new barn being more snug than the old set-up, however, I feel a little better about winter babies.

Jessie and Lini

Many people prefer winter kidding, because cold decreases the risk of coccidiosis. This is a parasitic infection which can cause severe diarrhea, dehydration, weakness, and death. Goats develop an immunity to it as they grow, but it can kill kids. The protozoa are especially active in warm wet conditions, like spring, hence the tendency of some to have kids earlier in the year.

The negative of winter kidding is the potential for hypothermia. If the kids can't be dried quickly and get a tummy full of colostrum, they become weak, lose their sucking reflex, and die. Mama goats will usually lick their kids which helps dry them, but they don't cuddle them to transfer body warmth. First fresheners (first time mamas) aren't always sure where these little goats came from, nor what to think about them. Experienced moms are often busy still having twins or triplets, to give their full attention to each kid as they come along. This is why I try to be there when they kid - to assist with the birth if needed, but also to help get the kids dried off and make sure they are able to nurse on their own.

I made three baby goat coats last year when Daphne was
due in February. Here her twin boys show off two of them.

Some people use a heat lamp to help warm them. This seems this works best if used in conjunction with a box the kids can go into. I've found that they don't necessarily go to where there's warmth. I've sometimes found them huddled in the coldest corner of the stall, away from the heat lamp.

In general a heated barn is not a good idea. Some people worry about keeping their goats warm in winter and so install heating. The problem with this is that without exposure to cold, goats won't grow their winter coats. Then they'll be cold any time they go outside. No good. Of course goats aren't born with winter coats, so to help I've been knitting more baby goat coats while I wait on my approaching due dates.


What goats need in winter is protection from damp and drafts. Our Little Barn is snug but not insulated, and I'm finding that unless the overnight temps get down into the teens F (single digits C) then there is no ice forming on the top of the girls' water bucket.

Deep litter in the stalls helps. This is a technique whereby the stalls aren't mucked out frequently, but rather straw is added to balance out the manure and waste, which then begin to decompose (like compost) and produce heat. The key is to keep enough straw ("brown" in compost terms) to keep the decomposition ratio correct (30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen).

Violet

Many people think goats need extra grain to stay warm. WRONG! We monogastric humans use those extra carbohydrates to produce energy and warmth, but goats are ruminants and the mechanism is different. Goats need ROUGHAGE, particularly rough, long-stemmed hay or straw. I learned about this when I did my research for Critter Tales:

"Something that surprised me is that goats don't need high energy feeds (grains) to keep warm during cold weather. Among other nutrients, ruminal fermentation produces volatile fatty acids (VFAs). These provide over 70% of the needed energy supply, enough to enable the animal to stay warm."
from Goat Tales: Toward Sustainable Goat Keeping

This is part of the "roughage effect," whereby goats create many of the nutrients they need through fermentation of long stemmed roughage. So hay produces energy during digestion, whereas grain requires energy to digest. In other words, too much grain can chill a goat rather than help keep it warm.

How many baby goat coats will I need?

Including last year's I've got 9 coats so far. 

There's no way of knowing. Last year I had all singles and twins, but for Kinders, triplets and quads aren't uncommon.

Jessie

I didn't have pregnancy tests done so I can't say for certain that my girls are pregnant. But I'm pretty sure, since none went back into heat after their dates with the boys. And now that we're getting closer I'm keeping an eye on udder development.

Lini and Violet. (Looks can be deceiving.)

Lini looks pretty big but Jessie and Violet aren't particularly large, so I'm thinking they'll probably have singles or twins. I have to say though, that Jessie's mom Helen surprised me with quads one year without looking very big. On the other hand, Daphne always looked huge but never had more than twins. I figure I'll just keep on knitting to make sure I have plenty on hand.

All of our due dates are for the latter half of next month.

 © January 2017 by Leigh at http://www.5acresandadream.com/

38 comments:

Jay Ater said...

You gonna let random interweb strangers name them again?

Dawn McHugh said...

How exciting, and you are busy knitting away like an expecting gran, I hope it all goes well ours are due in March and girths are starting to spread they produced twins last time.

Leigh said...

Jay, LOL. I get some good names that way!

Leigh said...

Isn't the anticipation fun? I love baby goats. We're in a mild streak at present, but who knows what the weather will be like when kidding starts. It's nice to be knitting again.

Henny Penny said...

The little goat coats are so cute. Glad to know about feeding hay instead of too much grain. Is grain the same as pellets? I have only two pet goats and, like every other animal on the place, was overfeeding them. Thanks.

Leigh said...

Excellent question - yes, pellets are basically grain and grain products, so the effect is the same. The other problem with feeding too much grain is that it digests faster than it passes through their system (and all those stomachs). That means it will sit in the gut, ferment, and make it too acidic to be healthy for the goat. Acidosis causes all kinds of health problems for them, and that's why goat owners usually offer baking soda free choice on the side - for the goats to self-regulate. The best way for them to do that, however, is with hay. As they chew their cud they produce natural bicarbonates similar to baking soda and are able to maintain a healthy gut pH that way. So the best quality hay you can get is truly the healthiest, most nutritious food for them.

Theresa said...

I can attest that goats left out with only a modest shelter grow very thick warm coats of their own. My two wethers live loose with the horses, share the run in shed and have a calf hutch in the shed for those terrible windy storms with the opening facing into a wall so that the drafts are minimized. They are coping with our 5' of snow and some very cold temps (2F) this year pretty well. Thank heavens for heated water buckets and tanks!

Leigh said...

Theresa, excellent example. And yes, those heated buckets and tanks are a real blessing! I feel fortunate that our deepest cold is rarely sustained for more than a couple of days, or else I'd readily use that as well.

withhimalone said...

The goat coats are fantastic! When we had Peaches and Love Bug I thought about the coat things but didn't figure out how to make them before my husband put a heat lamp in a little shed for them instead. *smile* And thank you for explaining about the logical reason for kidding in the colder weather of winter just before spring. I didn't know about that, and hadn't given it much thought, but it makes sense what you said. Thank you. Have a great day knitting. *smile* Sincerely, Mommy of two growing blessings & so much more!

Mama Pea said...

Looks to me like there's no question that your goat mamas are incubating little ones! IF they aren't, oh my, what a diet program is going to be put in place! ;o}

Love the kid coats you knit. Never hurts to have extras. If nothing else, it will make it easier to switch them and wash the soiled ones frequently.

weavinfool said...

I had a heat lamp in he chicken coop one year and it got knocked and set the coop on fire.

Renee Nefe said...

HEY! My daughter picks some pretty good names sometimes.

Leigh said...

I'm kind of hoping we're having a warm spell when the kids start coming. At least enough for them to not get chilled! But, the knitting is fun, and I wouldn't mind having a baby goat fashion show in a next month. :)

Leigh said...

Exactly! The first couple of days especially, before they're making proper goat berries. The soft poops can be really messy!

I've been watching udders and am starting to see some fullness - always a good sign!

Leigh said...

Oh no! That must have been a horrible experience. Makes me glad I'm doing the knitting so we won't need a heat source to keep them warm at first.

Donna OShaughnessy said...

I so love your posts! Even though we raised goats for years (sold them when our boys grew up) I still learn new things all the time. Like how your babies might not lie under the heat lamp. Silly kids. This wet cold warm wet stuff we are having in Illinois is a concern for all our animals as bacteria needs to FREEZE in winter. Fortunately we have no babies (a calf) due till April.

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

Love the goat coats! Did you grow up on a farm or just study to know so much about goats? Nancy

Jay Ater said...

I thought Lightnin was a pretty good name and he looked cute in purple..

Sandy said...

Leigh,

I would say you're going to have your hands full the later part of next month!!! My recommendation, just keep making coat....I'm sure you'll use them all. :-)

Chris said...

Poor Lini. She better be the first to drop. She's enormous. I must say your girls look very healthy in their new housing arrangements though. All the best with your new babies. How exciting.

Goatldi said...

The only thing missing is the barn sign "wide load" 😉

The only grain given here in the winter is to anyone still in milk or the bucks when they take themselves too seriously in rut and forget to eat. Then it is a livestock mix with only a 12.5 % protein. Once they are past the love sick stage it disappears.

My kids aren't due till April and May. This year I got to plan around my second grand girl's high school graduation. What Gammie won't do for her girls.

Looking forward to your new additions.

Leigh said...

Renee, I've gotten some good suggestions from her!

Jay, and from your suggesting Lightnin, we got his brother's name too - Thunder. :)

Leigh said...

Donna, I wonder if we can ever learn even a fraction of what there is to know! It has been a crazy winter and who knows what it will be like when the kids come, or your calf for that matter.

Leigh said...

Nancy, I wish I'd grown up on a farm! I've learned about goats from experience and study. Wanting to raise our own goat feed led to a lot of questions so I had to research the answers. Sharing with others is one of the ways I remember it!

Leigh said...

Sandy I plan to do just that! I'm hoping to have extra for changes anyway. :)

Leigh said...

Let's see. "Official" due dates are Feb. 15 for Jessie, Feb. 17 for Lini, and Feb. 25 for Violet. I usually start doing more frequent checks about a week before those dates. Lini's udder is beginning to fill a bit, so she may well be first, especially if she has trips or quads. It will be really nice having the larger accommodations for moms and kids.

Leigh said...

Ha, ha, Lini especially is a wide one. :)

I have to confess I'm feeding more grain this winter than I like, but we have no winter pasture and hay quality isn't so great either, so they're all getting more grain than usual. I agree with the lower protein feed too.

Goatldi said...

If you are needing name in put may I request name of Sire and Dam?
I am on the hay hunt as I am not heading south until March and with our finally normal winter weather first cutting may not show up until April or early May. Found some nice alfalfa at a local feed store for $15 a bale. Remember 100 + bales and second cutting mountain hay. Like winnin the lottery in January. Leigh check out my most recent post you are a winner in more ways then your big 💜!

Leigh said...

Well, I'm not officially looking for names at this point, but every now and then someone comes up with a good one that I end up using. :)

But I'm thrilled to be one of your winners! That made my day.

Now I need to find some good hay too. Every now and then something comes up, but the good stuff usually sells out quickly. Makes me wish we had a larger truck or trailer to haul a goodly supply.

Theresa said...

Leigh,
I was just thinking that polar fleece at Jo-Ann's is often quite inexpensive and a few sewn up might be quicker than knitting
and very warm.

Leigh said...

Theresa, you're right, but I don't think there's a Jo-Ann's or Hancock's anywhere near here. Probably Hobby Lobby would be my best bet for that, and if I get more goat babies than I have sweaters for, that will be a quick fix!

Farmer Liz said...

I love the goat coats!

Leigh said...

Just wait till you seem them on the baby goats. :)

Mz Garden said...

Hi, thought I'd offer an alternate option for kid coats and ask a question. For our goat babies, I've purchased toddler fleece outfits at garage sales or Goodwill and cut them to fit a kid. I have a selection large to small that I've acquired for about a quarter or fifty cents. Wash them up and reuse.
And the question -- I've hesitated to use deep litter in my kidding stall or in the barn with new kids due to the fear of coccid being passed from does to kids, but then we dam raise. How do you avoid coccid with deep litter? Thanks.

Leigh said...

Excellent idea for the kid coats and excellent question.

I've only had a couple of cases of coccidiosis, and those have always been in warm wet weather, even when I'm mucking out the barn regularly. As far as I know, it's passed through manure, so the problem, of course, is that kids mouth everything. But there's no way to follow the does around and keep the area completely manure free, so cocci is always a concern. I know that doesn't answer your question, but I haven't experienced the coccidiosis in conjunction with the deep litter, if that helps. I do think that some farms have a higher population of the protozoa and is why some people have more problems with it. I know some folks treat prophylacticly (my spell checker doesn't like the way I spelled that!), but I don't like to give medicines unless they're are really needed. As a side note, I read recently that pomegranate hull powder is a good treatment for cocci, so I bought some to keep on hand.

Leigh said...

Also wanted to mention that even with deep litter I add more straw to keep goat berries and wet areas covered. I also sprinkle with barn lime, which is too alkaline for quite a few things that want to grow in those kinds of conditions.

Mz Garden said...

Great, thanks so much.

Leigh said...

Well, I hope it helps. So many things, like goats, don't seem to have hard and fast rules that apply in all cases. Management techniques are often developed to suit our lifestyles and resources, and I find that things that work well for others don't always work as well for me. I'm sure there's a vice versa to that too!