Taking care of livestock in the winter is where the men are separated from the boys. Well below freezing temperatures, deep snow, ripping winds, frozen water...these are some of the challenges winter brings. Living in north central Massachusetts, we get the snow and frigid subzero temperatures, so winter is real around here. I get asked a lot about how we care for our animals in the cold months, as it seems to be a concern for people new to keeping livestock. When it comes to the goats, there really are two things that are of the upmost importance: they need to be dry and in as draft free of an area as possible. They can handle the coldest of temperatures as long as they are dry, their bedding is dry, and they have protection from drafts.
While my goats are spoiled rotten with their organic/soy free/non gmo feed, organic second cut hay, and constant doting, I consider myself to be pretty old school when it comes to animal husbandry. I am a firm believer that animals were built to handle inclement weather. They have thick coats, snuggle to stay warm, and as ruminants their fermenting bellies act like internal space heaters. So, this means no heat lamps or additional heat sources in the barn. Now not saying these couldn't or shouldn't be used in life or death situations. But, these supplemental heat sources throw their bodies out of whack and make it difficult for them to self regulate with constant exposure. Not to mention the extreme danger of a fire. I have been known however to wake up 1-2 times in the middle of the night when we have real bad cold snaps (like last year when it was -20F+ for weeks on end) to suit up and go check on the girls. So, what do I do to keep our herd going throughout the cold months? Read on friends.
Read my recent article for Countryside Magazine on how to make a nipple waterer for pigs out of PVC pipe. This design allows them to have a constant supply of fresh water without dirtying it up or trying to wallow in it! The design can easily be adapted as well for different sized PVC piping, or if you choose to go with a single stack unit as opposed to a double.
We will certainly be on the lookout for larger sized PVC on the cheap on local Craigslist ads so we can make another one of these with larger capacity. For now, the 4" double stacked waterer works just fine and the 8 gallon capacity is sufficient for the smaller feeder pigs! Happy building!
Since constructing our Mini Dairy Goat Barn last fall, we have certainly gotten some use out of it! We have added three new does and Karen is due to kid next month. While we got it constructed and set up "good enough" to get us through the winter, we have have taken the past several months to work on the finer details. Because it's mini, I have to maximize every bit of space I can for storage and to allow me to be more efficient...but still have room to move around. I have to walk a fine line between storage and efficiency, and making it over cluttered Since my last post, additional stalls have been built, shelving put up, sliding doors added, and a milk stand constructed.
Aside from some finishing trim work, adding a roof extension/canopy, and running electricity (aside from my ghetto extension cord) down and installing some outlets, I am calling it "done". I've said it before and I'll say it again, you can do a lot in a small space with a well thought out design! I am more than happy with how this has turned out, and the girls seem more than content in their new digs.
I have been milking Audrey loyally everyday, three times a day now for about a month. We have developed a nice little routine that I truly enjoy and look forward to. I bounce out of bed first thing anxious to get down to the barn, and am chomping at the bit to get started in the evening. It may lose that new feeling after a while, but that whole fresh milk everyday part will never get old.
When you first start milking a new dairy goat or cow, it can be stressful. You may have issues with them being uncooperative, or you fear did I milk them enough? Am I taking the proper precautions? You don't want to inadvertently cause production to drop by not emptying their udder, and of course mastitis is always a concern. Because we drink our milk raw, sanitation in the process is of the upmost importance because I don't have pasteurization as a safeguard. I have to prevent it from getting into the process in the first place, and this is where a routine comes in very handy. If you take the necessary steps and precautions everyday, two or three times a day, it becomes muscle memory and eventually you don't even have to think about what you're doing. The routine becomes second nature, and I take comfort knowing I can safely drink my raw milk, while doing everything possible to keep up maximum production and Audrey healthy.
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