Beiter and Sons' Farm, photo by Eric Beiter
We live in Western New York State (WNY) where the effects of Lake Erie embrace all of Buffalo and the surrounding countryside. So far, we've had close to 2 months of severe cold (hasn't managed out of the teens in weeks), along with the usual snow accumulation for this part of the state.

So what happens to our goats in the dead of winter in WNY? They don't get much outdoor exercise, that's for sure. But they really don't need it. Hunkering down during the winter seems to be popular amongst other non-human animals as well. Our goats are more than content staying inside the toasty barn eating hay, chewing their cud, and just lounging on their thick beds of straw.

In the late fall they begin growing their thick coat of fur which, suits them well in the winter. They also put on some weight from all the extra grain given during the milking cycle, which tapers off late fall. Our buck (male breeder goat) ends up loosing most of his extra weight during fall rutting season. He does have a nice thick fur though to help him survive winter. We begin weaning the goats off of grain twice a day to once a day, while cutting their total grain consumption to about a quarter of what they get while milking. When our does are dry (not milking) they require little grain, just enough to feed their daily minerals. Does while dry and pregnant, shouldn't gain to much weight because it can make spring freshening (birth) more difficult. We also make sure to feed first-cut hay (less green in color to richer second-cut hay) which has more carbohydrates in it than protein to help them generate more body heat in the cold weather. I offer my goats all the hay they want during winter to keep them warm and happy.

So when winter hits, out come the heated water buckets for the doe barn and the buck and chicken shed. The goats appreciate having warm, accessible water around the clock. In years past, before we installed electric in our barn and shed, we would be breaking bucket ice every morning when providing our herd with water. Last summer Eric installed the electric and this coming summer we'll be installing a frost-free water spicket inside the unheated barn.

Leave a Reply.