It has been a cold winter so far in West Michigan, and with cold weather comes new challenges.
Trying to keep your herd warm can be especially challenging as that mercury dips below freezing. I am going to lay out a few different tips and tricks that will help you fend off Old Man Winter.
Your biggest issue is the ground.
So much of your animals body heat is lost into the ground when they lay down to rest or sleep. This includes dirt and concrete floors. To combat this you should use the “Deep Litter” Method.
This is a fancy way of saying “cover all the poop and pee with straw every few days”.
If your going to be using this method you want to start with a clean barn, stall, or whatever you have. Lay down a base layer of straw or sawdust enough to where you cannot easily move it out of the way to see the ground beneath.
As your herd soils the layer keep adding more straw to give a fresh bed to lay on….and poop on.
Repeat until Spring.
The pros to this method is the bottom layers are going to be prime fertilizer when it comes to prepping the garden come spring.
The worst part is clean-up after a long winter. That soiled straw can be packed down pretty dense and might do a number on your back.
You might be thinking the wind is the biggest issue or the snow itself. A proper shelter should remedy both of these possible problems.
Smarter people than myself have said that the natural composting that happens in the lower layers keeps the worm population at bay. This is good news as worm loads are always on goat owners minds.
There are many options when it comes to keep your 4 legged friends warm. This is just one way to go about it. I encourage you to do your research and find what works best for you.
Buying your first farm animal is an incredibly exciting experience. It is not something that should be rushed into and you should have a checklist that should be completed before taking possession of any animals.
When I bought my first goat I was fairy unprepared. My lessons learned can be a leg up for you.
Fencing! This can not be overstated.
These creatures will test your fencing and your patience. Invest in some quality fencing and posts. Pretend your building a maximum security prison for these animals and then double it.
They will go under and over.
Also, be sure to check for anything that can cut or snag your animals. You would be surprised on how much damage a nail head can do.
Shelter is also important but a simple run in shed will work in most scenarios. Just make sure it blocks the westerly winds and most goat breeds will be just fine.
Have food and water ready before you bring your goats home. Have the hay out and trough filled with water. Make the transition to your farm or homestead as easy on the animal as you possible can. Less stress is better for you and them.
Goats require a quality hay much like that of horses. Finding a source now instead of scrambling around when your herd is starving will save you a headache.
Having a supply of fresh water is key to proper animal care. Find an area that will keep your water shaded to reduce the amount of algae growth and this will also keep the water cooler on hot summer days.
Be sure you also have at least one bag of grain. Adult goats should get grain sparingly but pregnant does and kids will need more in their diet.
Have the number for a Veterinarian that works with goats.
It does not hurt to have all your basic medical supplies gathered up and stored away. Well, it will hurt if you do not have any of these things. Below is a basic list of the goat first aid must haves.
Dewormer – This should be self explanatory.
Antibiotics – LA200 is a great All Around med
CD&T Vaccine – Protects Against Enterotoxemia and Tetanus
That is just a few of the many. I will do a larger workup of goat meds in the future.
Goats are herd animals. You have been doing your research so this should not be a surprise. Buying one goat and sticking it out into a big pasture or pen all by itself is recipe for disaster. That goat will be miserable.
Your going to have to be prepared to buy no less than two goats when you are first starting out.
Buy your goats from a reputable breeder.
I have bought some questionable animals and have regretted it.
You can avoid a lot of health issue by selecting goats with great family history. You achieve this by asking lots of questions and visiting the farm to see how the herd is managed. It is also a great idea to take a look at both parents.
The further back you can track your animals lineage the better.
These simple lessons will help you when it comes to making an educated purchase and will help with curbing some of the stresses that can occur when you own these animals.
Research! Research! Research!
Read books, blogs, talk with neighbors, and keep learning.
The more knowledgeable you are about goats and the breed you are interested in the more successful you will be.
I suggest Storey’s Guide to Raising Meat Goats by Maggie Sayor. It is a great guide for beginners and seasoned vets alike. It can be found here
Using these 5 little lessons will help alleviate some of the stress that goes into buying your first goats.
My name is DJ Powers and I started Powers Family Farm on YouTube April 1st 2017. Check it out HERE.
I was having a recurring daydream of a simpler life. Green pastures, cows, goats, and chickens. Planting crops and watching my hard work grow into something beautiful.
After months and months of daydreaming and googling. I finally decided it was time to start walking and stop talking.
I had many grand ideas that just did not fit my budget. Farming is expensive. However, you need to start somewhere.
Cows, that is what I wanted and that is what I couldn’t afford. Land is expensive and cows are expensive. Undeterred I thought smaller. The answer was goats.
Goats are much more affordable. They can be had for a few hundred bucks or less depending on the breed and how good the lineage is. With my eyes set on buying a small herd land was my next hurdle.
At the time of this writing I live in the Grand Rapids metro area. Grand Rapids is a booming city that is getting larger by the day. Land is not plentiful or cheap. A quick craigslist ad asking for some farm land to rent gave me my answer.
Now, I have a small patch of dirt and a few goats and I am off and running.
Each passing day solidifies that I made the right decision and this is definitely what I want in life.
So far this has been just a small taste to what I know will be a great life.
I hope you all stick around and see just how far I can take this dream.