Like Oma always says, "You'll have weather, whether you like it or not." More true today than any other day, as the cold wind covers the states, snuggling in for an extended visit like some unwanted relative.
The weather now has many a brave soul wondering how to cope. Easy for some, dress more warmly, stay indoors, add wood to the fire, turn up the heat, etc. For those without electricity, our thoughts are with you. But know that this will not last, summer comes, summer goes, winter arrives with a surprise, but even so winter ends.
As our temperatures have dropped, ice has formed crystals on the windows and the chill wind still dances in from the north. We woke to -20 F degrees (-28.88 C) and sigh as our expected high of -2 F degrees (-18.89 C) will creep slowly in over the next 6 hours. With such extremes in weather, how do you cope? How does your livestock cope?
The most important thing for any living being is water. You have the
option of having heated water troughs. The pros are, you don't have to haul water during the winter until the trough gets low. Your animals have a constant supply of water. You don't have to thaw water buckets out in extreme climates like ours. Definitely a plus.
But what are some of the cons? Cost, depending on what type of heater you get, your cost could be anywhere from $50 to $350. Also, expect an increase in your electric bill. We'll use a heat lamp as an example. A typical heat lamp for us will raise our electric bill by $30 a month. Though ideal, what happens if the power goes out? Your back to hauling water and thawing buckets especially if you live in Montana.
If you choose to haul water like we do, plan on doing that at least twice a day. Don't provide hot water, simple searches on YouTube will show you how fast hot water will freeze! Hot water also has a bad
effect on their internal thermostats. Your livestock can handle cold weather using their own body heat and internal temperature gauge, as long as you give them ways to do so. Supply room temperature water, 60-70 degrees.
Wind, on a hot summers day can feel like a dream come true.
Remember how cooling the breeze was as you sat in the shade last
summer. Wonderful wasn't it? However, that same wind in the winter
can kill. Wind chills are what makes this cold snap dangerous. We'll use us as an example, -20 is cold we won't argue that point, but add a wind of 25-25 mph and the temperature FEELS like -40 F degrees.
With a wind chill, you can get frost bite in under 10 minutes! Now picture your goats in the wind and you can imagine how cold it really is for them. The fur helps them, the winter coat they have grown protects them as well, but if you don't protect them from the wind, the weather can kill them, because they will be unable to maintain their body temperatures. Don't let the temperature deceive you, add the wind chill in and it can kill even the hardest of animals.
Would you live outside without shelter during a Montana winter? Would you sleep on the ground, outside for a week during the rainy season? Then please DON'T expect that of your goats either. Their fur has insulating abilities built in, see how they fluff up their fur in the cold? It's their way of handling the weather. But without shelter, eventually their natural ability to handle the extremes will be gone. Being wet for any length of time will damage that insulating factor. By providing them shelter, you keep them dry. Keeping them dry helps their bodies do what they are made to do - keep them warm.
Think of how tired you get when you didn't eat. Or, how cold you get on a damp day until you ate? Think how chilled you were when you first get out of the warm and cozy bed, but how much better you felt with coffee or breakfast. Food is fuel, it triggers your body to help you have energy and helps your internal thermostat too. Goats are the same way. Every morning when we go out to the barn, our goats are shivering, when they first get out of that nice warm nest in the straw. Once they get some grain and hay, the shivering stops.
Feed extra to your goats during a cold spell, the energy is needed to
keep them warm - allowing their systems to do just that. They were made to handle their environment, better with a little help to do that.
Who doesn't like that comforter grandma made? In fact, there are quite a few people we know that open the window in the winter, just so they can snuggle down in that comfy warm blanket. By providing clean and dry bedding, you give your goats a way to use that thermal effect. Digging down into a bed of straw, snuggling down together, they use that to stay warm. When the temperatures can drop to below zero many times in the winter, they need the bedding.
Who doesn't like a little extra once in awhile? We know we do. So even though our animals are used to our Montana winters, we take extra steps in extreme cold weather like now. We will dose everyone with a 1000 mg of liquid Vit. C to help their immune systems fight the cold as well. We lay down extra straw for bedding. And when the wind chills get to be a problem, we shut everyone up inside the barn. Luckily we have never had a sick goat and will continue to do all that we can to keep it that way.
Hot chocolate anyone?