For those of you who don't know us real well or just came here to check out the blog- here is a little back story. We live in central North Dakota about an hour and a half from the Canadian Border, and if you have ever taken a geography class you would know we are located on the plains. It is flat..... we lack trees.. which doesn't do much for us here as far as a wind break. So long story short it can get very cold up here and wicked frigid with no windbreak in the North.
This coming week we are expecting to get a clipper moving in from the north which will cause -50 and -60 degree conditions. (remind me why I live where the air hurts my face?!?!? *sigh*) This can be hard on anyone's livestock and it can be detrimental to those in your herd who may be in sub par condition. So how do you make the call to blanket your goats?
Under normal conditions , I personally do not believe in blanketing a healthy young goat as it prevents them from growing a proper coat of hair . but there are exceptions or reasons to consider blanketing or at least I personally consider. (I will also say----Under normal circumstances, most young, healthy, and properly conditioned goats winter very well even in extreme conditions as long as they have proper draft free shelter with deep straw bedding , a couple of goat buddies to huddle with, and proper nutrition with enough calories for them to sustain body warmth and body condition. )
Reasons to consider when to use blankets or "goat coats"
1. Geriatric animal or very young kids--- kids who are just born in frigid cold / inclement weather may need extra help until they gain the ability to thermoregulate themselves
2. under conditioned or malnourished animal -
If they do not have the proper body coverage it can prevent them from properly thermoregulating their body they can quickly become hypothermic in severe weather conditions ....in severe cold and inclement weather a normal goat will need 2-3x the calories to burn to properly thermoregulate in the conditions mentioned. If they do not have the extra calories to expend it can be very easy for them to lose even more body condition and become hypothermic when their body runs out of fuel AKA calories or fat stores to keep their internal heater running . A blanket can aid them, making it easier for them to keep warm, therefore not making their bodies work as hard or expend as many calories/ fuel/ body stores ---- when they are not expending so many calories/ body stores to keep warm, they are able to keep body condition or gain body condition in the case of rehabbing an animal who is under conditioned. An animal can become unthrifty for numerous reasons- lower in the pecking order, geriatric , sickness/ disease, parasites, if they just kidded out and started to lactate( some does will throw their entire body into milking until they level out) the list can go on and on.
3. Sick or recovering from sickness ---especially when pnemonia is a concern they sometimes lose the ability to regulate body temperature and body temperature can quickly rise with fever and plummet into chills/ hypothermia.
4.they do not have a proper coat ---
this can be because of numerous reasons due to mineral deficiency (especially zinc--- copper can be a culprit for a poor coat too), recovering loss of hair from mites or lice infestation , or maybe was recently clipped due to surgery or a show or perhaps weather changed suddenly going from 60 degrees down to zero (it happens in ND ) or even transferring a goat from a different climate say for example you imported a goat from Virgina to North Dakota -they may need help acclimating while their coat is in transition.
5. if for some reason you have goats and you don't have adequate shelter or if it is drafty and you are expecting extreme weather , this may also give you cause to blanket your goats.
What if they are shivering? Should I blanket them when they are shivering? Shivering is mechanism to get muscles moving and generate body heat. To me that means their body is working----I do not run out and blanket every goat I see shivering but the more they are shivering the more calories they need to burn to keep those muscles moving to generate body heat. I personally tend to increase their grain and feed rations by 2-3 X when weather is below zero --- I continuously Look at their body condition and get my hands on their body to gauge body condition and check the quality of their coat. ---make your determination to blanket after you evaluate your animal.
another little trick....
I have also been known to haul out buckets of hot water, and soak buckets of alfalfa cubes in hot water to make a hot mush to feed my herd on extremely cold days--- the hot water is super enticing to them and heats them up from the inside out and if you keep their rumen full of food and water their bodies will then also keep warm- as the rumen is their heater.
Currently we have a few goats who I would consider geriatric , and it is getting harder and harder for them to stay thrifty & in condition over winter months and I notice they shiver more. (My current dilemma is what inspired this little diddy.) I notice with older goats they can have a harder time thermoregulating --- just like humans ----ohhhh this happens to us too --- you remember grandma always being cold and having to keep the house temp at 80 degrees ? Even with a sweater on? yup good ol grannie lost the ability to thermoregulate guys!!!! and circulation can become poorer....... and with goats we cant exactly bring them inside and keep the thermostat turned up but we can blanket them and we can give them a calorie dense feed,----see now here comes to play what I mentioned above about having fuel and calories to burn to shiver and generate heat??? remember ? just testing ya :) --- when they shiver more it causes them to go through their reserves(fat/ calories) and lose body condition a little faster than say a younger animal who has a easier time thermoregulating their body. So to circle around -we have decided to Blanket a couple of our geriatric goats this winter when temps get below zero and supplement them with a nutrient dense / high calorie feed.
Where and how do you find a goat blanket....
There are companies out there that do make blankets specifically for goats. However when you search them a lot of them are geared towards livestock shows, -----tubes, and blankets that do not pack much insulation. These are best for lighter weather, to keep them clean after grooming and before a show, keep bugs off them and keep them from getting sunburned or overheated. They have their time and place but not really cold weather gear or for inclement weather.
My best bet has been looking for blankets for mini ponies and for blankets / coats for large breed dogs. Personally when I was looking for my geriatric buck, I decided to go with a large breed dog coat , as the price point is 1/2 to 1/3 of the price point of pony blankets.
When looking at blankets you will want to take two things into consideration Denier and fill --- What does Denier mean ? Denier is the fiber thickness of individual threads used to create fabric , when the denier is higher it means the fabric is more thick allowing for greater durability. When looking at fill , the higher the weight number the warmer the blanket will be . Determining a desirable weight depends on your goat's environment and condition of their coat and body. I often refer to horse blanket specifications for ratings on Denier and conditions to determine fill on my blankets/ coats.
For a couple of our eldest goats in our herd we decided to go with Weatherbeeter Parka 1200D , it should have the density and strength to withstand tough wear and it packs 220 grams of insulation as well as the price point was well within our budget. If we find that is not enough we do have some show tubes and blankets they can wear and layer underneath to get by during freeze fest we are expecting(-50 to -60).
I have also had several goat friends mention the Rambo brand and they are quite happy with them as well. some links and references below.
When using blankets or coats, you do not want to put them on tight/ pack their hair down. Their fur when all puffed up traps air and that is their way of creating a natural insulator to keep warm.
Now I hope this helps someone else out there when making the decision on when it is appropriate to blanket your goat for inclement cold weather and what to blanket them with. I hope all your creatures out there stay warm, as well as all you two leggers out there.... cause you know frostbite & hypothermia isn't cool!
stay warm and safe friends!
****Stated within this blog is solely my opinion and not professional advice. Read and use at your own risk, discretion, and discernment. ****