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The question everyone asks lately is, "How are the goats?" When the weather is particularly nasty--cold, wet, or hot--my older community of customers will ask without fail. They're aware that the elements can be as hard on animals as it is on us.
First and foremost, I've stopped milking the goats. Usually I am done with the twice a day milking by mid-October, and have dried them off by mid-November at the latest. In the Fall, they fall off on production, it's colder, breeding season is in swing, and I prefer to keep my hands warm by staying inside. I am always grateful for seasonal milking this time of year. Tromping through snowdrifts, below zero temps, and dressing and undressing in multiple layers is NOT my definition of farming fun. When I stop milking them, it allows them to conserve energy and add a few pounds to their frames for winter weather.
As we near the armpit of winter here in SE MN, the goats are quite content. They snuggle up together in the barn, comfortable on dry straw, briefly snuffing each other before choosing just the right spot to rest. Right now, my very naughty goats have their winter coats on in high fashion; their fashion statement says shaggy and bulked up. Staying warm takes priority over looking good! Extra oats, quality hay inside the barn, and water in the liquid form (not the frozen chunk in a bucket at the start of day) and they're cheerful clowns.
The hay feeder outside feels neglected, though. My sensitive sisters prefer to eat inside when the lightest of winds blow...or it's below 30 degrees...or when the grass starts to die off. Yep, I will say that they are indeed finicky about things, and they are snobby, fine weather connoisseurs. On a sunshine-filled, brisk winter's day, they will venture outside to the arctic tundra to sun themselves. In general, home station is inside the barn.
Petrov (aka Peter), their boyfriend, was introduced to them in the first few weeks of November, so I'm hoping for goat babies in late spring. May or June would be best! Having little ones in the months of March and April is usually a recipe for fatality. It's cold, it's wet, and it's stressful to momma goats and me. Round bellies on most of the girls have me hopeful that Petrov has done his job, and that there are babies on the way. Rest assured, I will share pics when the time arrives!
My goats are doing what most of us in the upper midwest are; we're hunkering in, enjoying family, food, and wishing for warmer temps, green grass, and sunshine.