Sunday, February 12, 2012

Goats in the Cold

Imagine lying cozily in a soft bed with food piled all around you, listening to the storm raging outside.  Your friends are around you so you won't be lonely, and when you are hungry, you can just reach out for a snack.  That's how I like my goats to go through a cold snap.

When I first started to keep goats, I did  what I thought was a favour for them by buying the best alfalfa hay I could find.  It was a nasty shock to find the poor animals shivering violently as soon as it started to get cold.  I turned to my goat "bible", Goat Husbandry, and I will always be grateful to David MacKenzie for his clear explanation of this problem.

Goats eat fast, swallowing their food barely chewed into their rumen, or first stomach.  In the rumen, bacteria start to break it down and they create a lot of heat in this process.  The rumen becomes a kind of portable central heating system for the goat.  If the food in the rumen is easily digested, the fuel for the heating system is quickly used up and the furnace goes out.  If the food in the rumen is coarse, the heat lasts much longer.

Now, when the weather turns very cold, I break out a couple of bales of coarser hay for the herd.  (It's still tasty hay, just not as fine as what they normally get.)  I pile it up everywhere in the barn so that they can use it as a bed as well as dinner, and they get through the cold snap with barely a shiver.

(all photos by Laura Kelsey)

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, goats are strange creatures, but you gotta love 'em. I'm awaiting my senior goat to kid sometime today. Usually I just let them get bred so they're due in march or April. They kinda got caught early. So I have 2 goats due this week. Brrrrrr...