As this is going to be our first winter with homesteading critters, we have been researching what changes we need to make to keep them healthy and happy throughout the season. The following is our Winter Goatlings Plans:
Goatling Snugglings!: I personally cannot go a day without time spent with our goatlings. The S/o and our boys seem to enjoy their time spent out near the Sleepy Goat Inn as well. No matter what the weather, daily time is spent with our goatlings. I could be found snuggling one in my lap while scritching two others. We could be running races around our favorite path in the goat enclosure.... the goatlings almost always win... but they cheat! Or, I could just simply be admiring them from a lawn chair. Time together seems to mean as much to them as it does to us. We can tell they miss it when things get crazy and oft times they will not hesitate to remind us by standing at their gate bellowing until someone appears at the front door.... and then they just bellow a little louder until someone goes to visit with them. In spending time with the goatlings, we learn their normal behavior and will most likely pick up on anything that is even slightly off with them before it gets out of hoof. They learn we are part of their tribe and can trust and rely on us as well.
Shelter: This is a staple of any critter chosen for our homestead. It is a very important part of keeping our goatlings healthy no matter what time of year it may be. However, it is especially important during the wet and/or winter weather. I am told they are really hardy animals and can stand amazingly low temperatures. Even so, I still worry about them. In making our shelter, we made it so they would be free of winter winds, rain and snow. However, we did not go overboard. Not making a shelter to insulated or airtight is just as important to their health. A ventilated shelter keeps unhealthy situations from arising due to ammonia from their urine.
Bedding: We make certain that our Sleepy Goat Inn is supplied with clean fresh and dry bedding at least twice a day to keep out moisture and to help control parasites. We have chosen to us hay for bedding at this time. Our shelter is too small to use the 'build up' method of bedding, which would most likely work better on a larger scale and with dirt flooring.
Hay: Hay is considered the primary feed for our goatlings with grain an addition as a suppliement to their feeding routine. Our goatlings have pretty much douvbled their hay intake in the last few weeks. We are expecting to be filling their hay feeders more often during colder weather to allow them to keep their rumens healthy and active... which will help them stay warmer as they produce more body heat.
Water: Our goatlings appreciate their buckets of ACV'd water. During the colder days, we've noticed they were not drinking as much as they did during the summer. We believe it is from the climate dropping the temperature of the water to uncomfortable levels for them. So, we are going to bring out 'warm' water at least twice a day to them. This is especially important for our wether, Dyson, as he is more prone to urinary calculi. Anything we can do to ensure that he drinks a lot of water must be done, therefor he will have less of a chance of building up crystals in his urinary tract.
Why Apple Cidar Vinegar (ACV)?: We use it per one of our mentors recommendations. She says that ACV is a mineral powerhouse with the added bonus of enzyme/probiotic activity. A 100-200 pounds animal can have a tablespoon up to 3 times a day either added to their feed or water as a daily supplement. She added that it helps to rids the body of inorganic rock based minerals. Of course, it can be used in emergency doses prn. We only use the raw organic unfiltered unpasteurized ACV for very best results... and we especially like them to contain the 'mother'.
Supplementation: Vitalerbs, Thorvin Kelp and Redmond Trace Minerals Selenium 90 Salt is provided year round to the goatlings. However, we know it is especially important in the cold weather months as they will not have access to fresh browse and may not be getting all the vitamins and minerals that they need from their hay and grain.
Grain: My research as varied on the this topic. Some recommended you should give extra grain during winter while others say goats, unless they are in milk or pregnant, should not get grain all. We give our goatlings grain. We do this for several reasons, with the main reason being that we can top dress with Vitalerbs or special supplementation as needed. We do limit their grain ration at this time to as little as possible. The doelings get 1/8th a cup twice a day and Dyson gets half as much. We do not trop dress with ammonium chloride for our bucks and weathers as we are a totally natural homestead. Instead we supplement with ACV and cranberries to aid their urinary functions.
Hoof Care: Any time we are out with the goatlings we watch their gait and how they walk. If they come up for scitches or lap time, we give a quick glance over their hooves to make sure all is well. A good hoof care routine is always important but even more so in cold wet weather. If a goatling's hooves are not kept properly trimmed, debris can collect and freeze not only in each hoof clove but also between the cloves. During the winter months the goatlings trimmings increase to once a month.
Parasite Control: We continue close monitoring of our goatling's health no matter what the seasons. With Parasite control, it is important to stay on top of your fecals and membrane checks. Some prevalent fall/winter parasites are as follows:
- Brown Stomach Worm/Bankrupt Worm: More common in fall and winter, these stomach worms cause diarrhea, rough coat, and thinness and inability to gain weight.
- Meningeal Worm: This worm is more common in the fall and winter and needs wet weather. The meningeal worm causes neurological problems in goats, including partial paralysis, circling, blindness, and difficulty walking.
- Liver Fluke: This fluke invades the liver, where it causes internal bleeding and anemia. These parasites affect goats in the winter and spring. In severe cases, the goat will lose its appetite, lie down and not get up, and ultimately die. Less severe cases can cause thinness, rough coat, rapid heart rate, and bottle jaw.
- Lungworms: They are cool-weather parasites; hot weather and freezes kill them. Lungworms can cause painful breathing, chronic cough, failure to gain weight, and death. When you have a goat with a chronic cough and no fever or other signs of pneumonia, consider lungworms.
- Tapeworms: Easy to identify without a microscope because they drop off white sections about the size of a grain of rice in the feces. They cause young goats to get pot-bellied and to develop poorly because the parasites absorb their food. They can also cause diarrhea. A cold freeze can stop the tapeworm cycle in a pasture, but otherwise they can survive in the ground for a year.
Snow Free Areas: Last winter was a mild winter. This year the signs foretell that we are going to have a rather harsh season ahead of us. The goatlings, I am told, will not voluntarily wander out in the snow and that once the snow starts piling up, it can limit our goatlings mobility. Therefore we have a plan to clear up the living area of our goatlings; their favorite place to lounge, walking paths they like to explore, run and plan on, the entrance to their shed, and the gate.
Sunshine!: All of our goatlings are sun worshipers. We always insure they have a place where they can soak up the rays.