As the goat farmer sits inside a warm house, looking out the window, sipping on his mug of hot chocolate with tiny marsh mellows, he reflects how pleasant winter is for a goat farmer. Okay, stop the movie. Letís wake up and get in touch with reality here. Unless you are in the really southern states or Hawaii, or unless you do not breed for 4-H projects or Easter kids in the dead of winter, this pleasant winter scene might be you. But, the goat breeder who breeds in winter does not have pleasant do nothing winters. All right, Iíll let you have the hot chocolate and visit the warm house once in a while, but having a pleasant winter? Come on.
As I sit inside for an hour, trying to thaw my feet out, I am thankful what a warm day it is. It is 24 degrees Fahrenheit, the warmest itís been in a long time. Snow is on the ground and more coming down. The goats are out eating their round bales that are placed under little ďporchesĒ to protect them and their bales. A round bale is also inside one of the goat barns and a couple of bales are in the different run-in sheds. Ice has been broke out of the water buckets and tubs for them this morning and at the end of this hour, Iíll be doing some more feeding, breaking the water out again, and bottle feeding the kids down at the barn. Chores are divided up all day long so I donít have to spend more than two or three hours outside at a time. I get a chance to come back in and thaw out. Being a walking popsicle is not easy.
So, how do we come out ahead if we insist on being gluttons for punishment by kidding in the dead of winter? Well, first off realize just owning goats you will be out there feeding them and caring for them in winter anyway. So, youíve only upped the amount of time spent outside by kidding in winter by, oh, letís just say that now you are spending more time outside in the winter than in the summer, possibly more than quadrupled the amount of time you would normally spend outside any time.
Now to survive your strange notion of kidding in winter, not only do you need to survive it but the kids and does have to survive your notion too, you have to work on winter plans year round. Shop sales on winter wear, keeping in mind you need warm wool socks, artic boots, artic coats, artic shirts and pants and toboggans (head gear, not sled riding). Oh, and gloves. Good luck on that. I rarely seem to wear gloves. I find I have to take my gloves off most the time to unlatch gates, scoop out ice from buckets and tubs, help in kidding, doctoring goats, etc. Once in a great while, I actually get to wear gloves. Make sure you stock up on good hand lotions and super glue. Yes, super glue. The dermatologist clued me in on this with all the splits in my chapped skin around the nails that made touching anything painful, he said super glue those splits. It works wonderful. Heals them and they are not painful after being super glued. If you can find the super glue that has the brush, that works the best.
Donít forget your goats on this winter kidding thing. Make sure you have electric to your barn and it would be pure luxury, running water. You can get those special water hydrants found at farm stores that bring the water up to use when turned on, then the water is drawn back down below the ground to not freeze. These can be used both inside the barn and outside. Wonderful.
Heat lamps, we use the ones that are made for hogs, plastic, special guard all the way around so if it drops in the hay, the bulb can not possibly touch hay to start a fire. We use the white heat lamp bulbs, cheaper, and they have yet to hurt the eyes of kids. Prepare the barn so there are no drafts and have good wiring to be able to use the heat lamps.
It makes life a whole lot easier if you have already bought your hay up for winter and have it carefully stored so it will not mold. No chasing all over the area trying to find hay because you have run out in absolutely the worse weather. Been there, done that.
Have a general idea of your kidding times so you can also stock up on your grain and your own food. You donít want to have to leave the girls right at the verge of their kidding to go get grain or your groceries. We have found it good to take vacation during winter kidding. Everyone else is taking their vacations in the summer. Winter vacations are the thing if you are kidding goats. Donít try saving your vacation for those wonderful summer days and enduring horrible winter times of being up all night with goats kidding and then you having to go to work the next day. Anybodyís endurance gets shot down after a couple of days of that. Dreadful. Plan your kidding and your vacation together. Life is so much better.
Have not only your goatsí medicines ready but you own. If you are going to catch a cold or bronchitis, count on catching it during kidding time. So be stocked up on your Dayquil, cough drops, Listerine, whatever you use. But, donít get the stuff that knocks you out. You need to be alert to work during kidding, and just feeding the goats during winter. I would also suggest a real stockpile of tissues with lotion in them to make your nose feel better too.
You can make your winter as a goat breeder harder or easier, just plan ahead, be ready. Because whether itís for kidding or just feeding goats, itís cold out there, goat farmer, and be prepared. Oh, and stock up on that hot chocolate and marsh mellows. Itís great for when you feel sorry for yourself. You deserve that hot chocolate and tiny little marsh mellows. You are a good winter goat farmer, yes you are. Now, get out there and get back to work.