"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Friday, February 25, 2011

Freakishly Freezing!

What I look like after bringing water out to the animals

It is unbelievably cold, and has been for three days now. Daytime temperatures have not risen above about 30 degrees, and nighttime temperatures are in the mid-teens. Before you East Coast types start to snort, I'll just mention that there has been a knife-edged wind blowing from the North, as well. My place always gets plenty of wind, but it usually comes from the southwest. These northern arctic blasts at 45 miles an hour are intolerable. I think with windchill it feels like about 10 below.

Obviously this weather is no good for baby goats. When the sun goes down in the evenings, I lock up all the goats in the small Mama Barn, which is only 10x12 and more than half full of hay. The space in there is small enough that body heat keeps it pretty toasty - at least, toasty compared to the main barn, which doesn't have a door. But it is still far too cold for newborns, which makes me nervous. I don't know when Flopsy and Django are due to kid, but Django looks like she's getting fairly close. I'm stringing up a heat lamp today in case she kids in the middle of the night.

Keeping liquid water available to the animals is a struggle as well. A bucket of water inside the Mama Barn with the goats will stay liquid for several hours or even overnight, but they have a tendency to spill it or poop in it. Rosie pony paws at the buckets and knocks them over, which drives me crazy, considering I just lugged them 100 yards through the freezing wind, splashing water on my pant legs which instantly freezes. I put out a larger trough that she can't knock over, but the larger surface area means it freezes that much quicker.

I hate this cold!


Apple Jack Creek said...

We have lots of experience with cold and wind! The barn's a good plan - keeping them out of the wind is the most important thing in our experience.

For the water buckets, we are able to hang them up which really helps keep them from being kicked/pooped in. An easy way to hang them is to loop a dog leash several times around the rail (or whatever is handy) then clip the handle of the bucket to the leash. Lambs and kids *can* fall into buckets and drown, which is the other reason we keep them up high when babies are around.

Heat lamps are a fire hazard in a hay filled barn, which is why we don't ever use them outside (barn cats are way too likely to go knocking something over). As long as the babies get up and get milk right away they are usually ok - and if they don't, so long as you get them indoors and warmed up & a shot of milk in them via bottle or tube within say, 3 hours of birth then back out to mama to drink they are usually ok. We just had 2 lambsicles delivered at windchills of -31C last week, and after about an hour in the house and a shot of mama milk they were up and baaing and went happily to their mamas where they are doing very well. Our sheep seem to deliver in the very early morning hours (probably between 4 and 7 for the most part) so we just check in the evening, and then again first thing in the morning.

Oh, lots of straw on the ground for them to burrow into is good, too.

You probably know all this, but hey, I figure sharing what I learned the hard way is a good thing just in case. :)

Olive said...

Bbbbbbbbrrrrrrrrrrrh !! you look frozen stiff in this picture. Then I guess not because you were able to type out the story. lol
We get southerly winds from the Great Southern Ocean here, high on the hill in Lenswood, but it rarely snows, maybe once every 100 years or so.
The bucket drama...get you man to find a piece of flatbar iron/steel, form it into a loop so it fits under the rim of the bucket, make a hole in each end of the metal and nail/screw it onto a post in your barn. You can position it as high as you like but put a brick under the bucket to support the weight. We fed our poddy calves this way and found that it worked.

Anonymous said...

I would second what Apple Jack said. We keep goats in VT. No barn, just three sided shelters. We get temps down below negative 25 f and they are OK. Dry, out of the wind with access to food and liquid water are what they need to survive. We generally plan to kid when things have warmed up to the 20's in the daytime. But other farms around here kid early. Like apple jack said, access to warm mother and milk in a dry shelter is what they need in our experience. I will admit I sleep out with the goats at kidding time to be on hand for a mishap. But that's for my peace of mind. They don't need me.

Aimee said...

Thanks all you guys... You people out in the cold are made if sterner stuff than me... I just lost a baby to hypothermia and don't want it to happen again. Today I put fleece vests on my does. I'm sure they will be fine in the small barn. Olive, the photo is of jack Nicholson in the Shinkng. Great horror flick!

Olive said...

ROFL!!!! For the life of me, I didn't think it looked like you.

Apple Jack Creek said...

The best way to see if a lamb/kid is headed for trouble is to stick your finger in the mouth. If it feels chilly (i.e. NOT noticeably warm) then take them inside the house to warm up for a bit. I was always SO afraid to do this, lest I interfere with mother/baby bonding but my fear cost me the lives of a few lambs. :( I warm 'em up inside, tube or bottle feed them (one feeding from a bottle, dribbled into the mouth, doesn't seem to interfere with natural nursing) and then take 'em back to mama once they are warm enough to be vocal about being in this weird human place. :) This means I sleep better (we just check early am to see if there are cold babies who need us) and mamas get to deliver without me fussing (I only help if the lamb is actually stuck, and thankfully I've had good warning most times that's happened). Coats aren't a bad idea - but they'll get most of the warmth they need just snuggling up to mama in a pile of straw. :)
I figure if they can lamb without help in Iceland, they can probably manage (for the most part) in my yard!

Anonymous said...

Oh honey, I live in Minnesota, and up here it's ten below without the wind-chill. With the wind it feels like thirty below, with the snow to match the cold.