We, ourselves, have broken records recently. Highs 96-98 degrees! Having suffered triple digit heat you shake your head and smile at our temperatures wondering 'why are they complaining!'
Understand though that 90 degree temperatures for us are not all that common. Normal temperatures for this time of year are in the 70's. Going from 68 degrees with so much rain one week to the high 90's the next did indeed cause heat distress with us 'Northerners' and our livestock. So how do you protect your goats from heat stress and illness?
Goats are by far better at handling the heat than any other livestock, but even than there can come a time when for them it is
dangerously hot. In fact, young animals have more problems handling the heat than older animals. Animals that have poor nutrition or a compromised immunity can't handle the heat as well as healthy animals.
Dark colored goats will have harder times with the heat than light colored animals. Does handle the heat better than bucks, as do horned goats do better than disbudded ones. Angora goats would have more trouble than say a short haired Nubian.
Light skinned goats can suffer from sunburn as well. Each goat will be like different people, some will handle the heat better
than others. That is why it is important to learn everything you can about your herd.
What are signs of heat stress?
Normally, your goats will adjust to the heat as best they can. They will drink more water, graze in the early morning or late evening and not forage during the hottest part of the day. By watching their behavior you can gauge how your herd is doing.
Because goats don't perspire like we do, panting is a big sign of heat stress. Seeing your goat breathing harder and faster than normal is an additional sign. Signs of weakness or having
trouble standing show heat distress. Bucks' scrotums will show signs of heat stress, such as being lopsided or hanging lower than normal. The changes in the scrotum are ways your buck control body temperature naturally.
Elevated temperatures are another sign of heat stress. For us, we have never had a goat with temperatures of 103* or more unless our goats was sick. For us, normal temperatures for our goats is 99*-102*. Understand that our climate is cooler than most.
In hot climates of New Mexico or Arizona, normal temperatures could be higher. So during high heat and high humidity, if one of our goats had an elevated temperature of 104* we would start
trying to cool them down immediately. Temperatures of 105* would have use using every trick we had to cool them down.
Watch your herd, learn their individual personalities, they will let
you know when there is a problem.
How do I help my herd during hot weather?
Water. The most important part of helping your goats in extremely hot weather. Change the water often, keep water in the shade to keep it cooler. Always keep the water clean - certain
mold grows in water, in high temperatures and can kill your goat.
Misting your herd with water can help with heat, works with short haired goats.
Feed. Good quality forage is easier for them to digest. Poor forage takes more energy to convert, meaning that the goats temperature will rise higher with poor quality feed.
Shade. Provide shaded areas for your goats. Temperatures can decrease as much as 10-20 degrees under shade.
Air. Air? No, this isn't a trick. Make sure the barn can be open, leaving air to circulate. This helps cool the temperatures as well. Fans can be used if ventilation is needed, as long as the goats can't get tangled in the cords, etc.
Herd Management. Avoid working with your goats during the hottest part of the day. Trimming, feeding, and handling your herd in the morning or cooler evening. Check on them throughout the day getting fresh clean water, checking for heat distress, etc. Remember, they may not forage during high heat, so provide good quality hay for them.
My goats in trouble - HELP!
You've done all you can, but as you check on your herd you find a goat in distress. You need to get them cool fast, NOW! So what can you do?
Get them in a shady spot, better if there is open ventilation. Cool (NOT COLD) water can be used. Wet towels hold the cool moisture. We actually use them draped over our shoulders when out doing yard work in hot weather.
Rubbing Alcohol can work wonderfully with heat stress. You can rub it on a bucks scrotum or the a goats inner legs - this trick can lower temperatures quite a bit.
For emergency situations, call your vet! But in the mean time, a cool water enema can save your goat - especially if their temperatures are 106-107 degrees. Make sure the water is
cool, NOT COLD. Too cold and you can cause shock.
Is it too hot for me?
Then it can be too hot for your herd. Hot weather isn't something you can control, but there are things you can do to keep yourself and your herd healthy. Extreme heat is dangerous, don't take chances with the heat yourself - than don't take chances
with your livestock.