Beat the Heat: Goats

When we first moved to Oak Hill from Michigan, we had two Nubian yearling does and an older Alpine doe. The Alpine never really adapted to the heat of Oklahoma summers. If any goat was going to get sick, bloat, or have any problem, it was Chloe. I finally decided that the stress was more than I could take on a daily basis, and Chloe moved to a new home.

The Nubians, however, seemed to handle the heat pretty well. The breed originated in Africa, where it's just as hot or hotter. Their long ears help to keep them cool. Horns are also a cooling feature; I disbud my goat kids though, so my goats don't have horns.

That first summer was so hot, we humans could barely stand it. I'd run out in the afternoons to make sure the goats had water, and then I'd run back into the air-conditioned house. I felt so bad for the goats, and they looked so miserable. As I mentioned earlier, Chloe in particular had problems with the heat.

The goats found the coolest spots to take a siesta during the hottest part of the day: on the north side of the chicken coop and goat shed. The chicken coop had an overhanging tree so that was usually their first choice. They'd paw at the ground and make a depression to lay in. I began spraying down those areas with water during the afternoon to help the goats stay cool. They hate water and wouldn't abide being wet, but damp earth is cooler than dry dirt.

During our first years here I'd close them into the goat shed at night. We have predators - coyotes and bobcats and who knows what else. But it was so hot on summer evenings that I hated to close that west-facing door at sundown, and I'd go outside at dawn to let them out. After a few years I left the door open at night, and the herd enjoyed sleeping in the open air. I still worried about predators, but I hoped that the farm dogs would keep the goats safe at night.

This year they have the goat barn to sleep in and stay safe. I've heard many reports this year of coyotes and other wildlife coming closer to homes because of the drought and lack of natural food sources. I hang a wire panel across the walk-through door of the barn at night, so that they have fresh air and ventilation but are safely kept inside.

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We tried using a garden mister in the barn to cool the temperature a bit, but it just made a muddy mess of the dirt floor, so I stopped using it. I think a mister would work well with a concrete floor if you have one though; they use them in the children's zoo barn at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

I also have fans blowing in the barn. (One of the most common causes of barn fires is using a fan with a dusty motor, by the way, so be careful. Fans that are made to be used in barns are the safest option.)

All of the does currently in my herd were born here, with the exception of Faith who was born on my neighbor's farm a mile away. They are all acclimated to the heat and seem to be taking this summer pretty much in stride. I wish I could say the same about me.

Related posts:
Keeping Chickens Cool in the Summer Heat
Watering the Summer Garden

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