One of the best parts of living in Wisconsin is our wide range of seasons. Well, at least I think so. When it comes to winter, I often get questions on how my goats handle the cold weather and snow. They do just fine.
In November our weather will usually start to make the transition to winter with temps in the teens to single digits, snowfalls are common. January through February is usually our coldest weather of the season with temperatures usually in the single digits or below zero. Often there’s a stretch of weather -25, which usually lasts only a few days. In March the weather starts to gradually warm-up.
It Starts with the Herd
Livestock are a lot heartier than we may think. While my goats are farm animals, goats themselves in the wild original as mountain animals. They originally were designed to live in a rugged environment with a range of temperatures, including cold weather.
On our farm, we’ve bred in the Kiko breed to help build a heartier herd (which is a Boer-Kiko cross), that thrive on pasture and is self-sufficient, including handling nature’s elements.
Transitioning to Winter
We help our goats adjust to winter by keeping them outside on pasture as long as possible as the weather transitions from fall to winter. This helps their bodies adjust to the temperatures and grow a thick coat to help keep them warm throughout winter. At first, they aren’t fans of the temperature change and they’ll bleat at me about it. Then, after a few weeks later, they’ll be adjusted and don’t make much of a fuss.
During this time, they’ll still have access to pasture shelters, which keeps them dry and blocks them from the wind. We’ll bed those shelters with straw to keep it clean and dry.
Additionally, we feed hay in the winter. The hay ferments in their rumen, creating heat for the animals, helping them stay warm from within. Between their body heat and snuggling together, they keep fairly warm in the shelters.
Once our weather is consistently in the single digits, we’ll transition the herd to the barn for their winter shelter. We have a flap on the door to keep block the wind and keep snow out. They would do fine in their pasture shelters as long as they’re kept bedded and dry. We have the barn, so we choose to use it.
The herd will continue to feed on round bales out in the pasture, to make sure they are getting adequate exercise and help keep the barn cleaner. As a side benefit of feeding outside the leftover hay and goat fertilizer helps our pasture thrive the next season by adding to the seedbed and providing more nutrients.
With exposure to fresh air, they also tend to have fewer respiratory issues. Moving back and forth from the feeders to the barn also helps them generate more body heat.
In the Barn
While the goats have full access to the barn, we will bed their pens regularly to make sure it stays clean and dry. We keep adding to the bedding throughout the winter season. This “deep pack bedding” acts as an insulator and generates heat as it gradually breaks down at the base.
We’ll also keep an eye on the airflow in the barn and condensation and run our ventilation system when needed as well. We will make sure the barn is free of drafts as well. It’s also important to not have the barn close too “tight” as well. Some flow of fresh air is good.
The water source in our barn is a frost-free hydrant. We don’t use automatic waterers. I like to just use the low 60-gallon tanks or the “muck” tubs for smaller pens. We use drop-in heaters to keep the water from freezing and a heated hose for filling the tanks in the main barn.
In our machine shed, we have an overflow pen, but we don’t have water in that barn. We will use three 100-foot expandable hoses with shut off valves (like the “as seen on TV” hoses) to fill the tank in the other barn from the hydrant. When we are done, we’ll coil up the hose and put it in our heat milk house room in the barn so it doesn’t freeze. This has worked better than hauling buckets or filling a large tank.
Severe Weather: Extreme Cold or Major Snowfall
If we hit a really cold stretch or anticipate a big snowstorm, we may close the barn door and feed the goats inside.
If it's an especially snowy winter, we will also plow paths in the pasture to help the goats get to their hay feeders. We’ll also strategically plow snow to create windbreaks.
We also try to keep an eye on the snow load on the barn roof as well, to make sure we don’t have a collapsed roof issue and then have to figure out how to house our animals while it gets fixed.
We see fewer health issues with our goats in the wintertime than in the summer. High heat, wet summers and temperature swings in the spring are harder on the animals (pneumonia, parasites, other pathogens, etc,).
It may be natural to think that we should keep our goats in an insulated, heated barn, however it can lead to more health problems. An enclosed barn without ventilation can run the risk of respiratory issues such as pneumonia.
We also do not kid in the coldest months in our Wisconsin winters to avoid the risk of pneumonia or hypothermia. There are goat farms who do kid in winter, we just choose not to do so. It’s easier on the goats and ourselves as farmers.
If it is a late “spring” from Mother Nature and kidding as started, we may use jackets for our goats for the first week. Then we will transition them off to help the goats get adjusted to the temperature. In general, jackets are usually not necessary. We’ll also use heat lamps with kidding stalls and infrared heaters in the creep area to keep kids warm and safe from the bigger goats.
Livestock are hearty animals. Ruminants do a great job of keeping themselves warm from within through fermentation in their rumen. As farmers, we make sure they have access to dry, draft-free shelters and they do quite well throughout the winter months.
Products + tools mentioned in article
Drop in tank heaters / deicers: We use a variety of tank heaters depending on the size of the livestock water tank and the placement (is it outdoors, is it near an open door, inside, etc.). I try to size the heater to the tank and also minimize the wattage (check the box for the size) to keep our electric bill down and not overload our electric circuits in the barn.
I prefer to use drop in heaters vs buckets with heaters built in because sooner or later the heater will die. I'd rather replace the heater than everything.
The Perfect Bucket Heater by K&H Pet is my favorite for the muck bucket tanks (see picture). It's small and only uses 80 watts. Why use a big heater if you don't have too?
I also like having a couple extra heaters on hand. I always seem to have one that decides to stop working in early spring when most farm stores stop restocking their shelves with winter supplies.
Heated hose from K&H Pet, 40 ft. We use this at our hydrant to fill our main livestock tank in the winter. We will plug it in before we need to use it and then it's ready to go. Each time we use it we make sure to keep the end that screws on the hydrant "up" so excess water doesn't freeze in the opening, making it hard to unthaw. We've been using this hose year-round for hour seasons.
Expandable hose by XHOSE, 3 100 ft hoses to run from the water hydrant in our main goat barn to our machine shed to all for filling up the water tank in our overflow pen.
When we use heat lamps I really like the Prima Heat Lamp from Premier 1 Supplies since it is durable and has a number of features that make it safer than the traditional heat lamp. Caution should always be used with heat lamps in barns to avoid fires.
I really like the Sweeter Heaters, they're an infrared heater. No lamp, just heat. They're much safer than using a heat lamp, to help avoid the fire risk. A bonus is that they are owned and manufactured by a family in northern Wisconsin!
Collapsible Round Bale Feeder: We use Ketcham's Collapsible Round Bale Feeder for feeding round bales. We have four of them. I wish we had at least two more. I love that they are easy to move by myself without equipment (of course equipment helps), and the best part is that the goats hardly waste any hay.
Learn more about raising meat goats
If you’re interested in learning more about what we do on our farm raising goats for meat, join our online community here.
Our hemp is making its way to becoming legit CBD oil. It’s been an exciting, yet a bit stressful journey, growing industrial hemp this last season. Stressful in that everything about the crop was new to us from planting, growing, harvesting and selling it.
I have a basic agronomic background, based on plant science and horticulture classes from college (and even high school) and growing our own hay and pasture. But, oh was this new. I was glad to be working with our partner Kinni Hemp Co. throughout the growing season.
If you’re a farmer in Western Wisconsin and possibly considering growing industrial hemp this next season, Kinni Hemp Co. will be holding three growing workshops Jan. 24, 25 and 26 at their farm in River Falls. See below for the grower workshop info..
If you want to just use a CBD product that you know where it came from, check out Kinni Hemp Co.’s Whole Plant line of CBD products: topical, drops and tea. All of their CBD products are sourced from industrial hemp grown on farms, like ours, in Western Wisconsin under the Wisconsin Industrial Hemp Program. The crops were all tested to ensure THC levels are in the federally allowable range.
This past weekend we started preparing for breeding season for our goats. We will do this herd health work about 1-2 months before we actually put the bucks in with the does.
So here’s what it looks like for us:
Bucks: The bucks get the same attention.
Why do we start the process in advance? It gives any goats that need a little extra attention some extra time before the big dating day comes. We can make sure all the goats are at their best, in terms of health. If any kids are still nursing, it also allows the does bodies to readjust before making the transition to growing babies.
The day of health work: We bring the goats from the pasture back to the barn. It’s just easier to have a contained space to work with them and sort them. We will have 1-2 friends or family members helping sort goats and doing the hoof trimming and health work.
I’ll also make observations and record all the health work and other notes into our online record system EasyKeeper on my tablet (if you try it out, you can get a $30 credit here).. This year I also was keeping tabs on our almost 2-year-old-daughter. It was a bit of a balancing act!
We use the over the fence feeder troughs to put our supplies in order of use and so they’re easy to access. There’s a whiteboard with a checklist of tasks for each goat and dosages based on animal size. This helps streamline the process. Next year I’m hoping to add a chute and sorting facility to our system. Right now, it works, but it has the potential to add extra stress on the goats and is also hard on our own bodies.
At the end of November, after Thanksgiving, we’ll split our herd into groups and put the bucks out. The timing works out well. We kid in mid-April, which its usually starting to warm up. We often have extra family and friends around the farm with the holiday and deer hunting season.
We’ll put our yearlings into one group so there’s no extra competition or stress with the older does during breeding. We also will often use a smaller buck.
The older does are split into two groups with our other bucks. We use breeding harnesses to know when does are exposed. They are kept in their groups for 20-30 days, or until all does are marked. Then we combine the groups at 45 days. Around 60 days we will usually pull the bucks and put them in their winter pen.
Five months later it’s baby goat time!
Wonder why we kid later in the season? Read this blog post here.
If you’re interested in learning more about what we do on our farm raising goats for meat, join our online community here.
This blog post includes affiliate links. I only endorse products I use and find helpful for my work on the farm. If you have questions about these products send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In celebration of Goatober, we’ve partnered with the Farm Table Restaurant in Amery, Wis., to bring a brand-new dish to highlight flavorful goat meat, with the Smoked Philly Goat with meat from our farm. The sandwich is a special at the restaurant throughout the month of October.
If you’re not local, I’m excited to share the full recipe below for you to enjoy at home. A big thanks to the Farm Table staff for celebrating goat meat and sharing this recipe with our farm customers and community.
Smoked Philly Goat Sandwich
Thank you to the team at the Farm Table Restaurant in Amery, Wis., for creating this wonderful, smoked Philly Goat Sandwich and sharing the recipe with our community.
Makes 6-8 sandwiches
Full Ingredient List for rub, braise and sandwiches
1 – 4-pound Goat Roast (leg or shoulder)
3 - Yellow Onions
3-4 - Heirloom Tomatoes
2 – Bell Peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch - Fresh Rosemary
½ bunch - Fresh Thyme
½ Tbs. - Cinnamon
6 - Bay Leaves, divided
1/8 cup - Hungarian Wax Pepper, dried
6 - Garlic Cloves, divided
1 1/2 Tbs. - Oregano, dried, divided
Salt and Pepper
1 Qt. Stock
1/4 cup - Red Wine Vinegar
1 1/2 Tbs. – Dijon
Mayo, to taste
8 slices – Provolone
8 – Hoagie rolls, or other bread of choice
Butter for sautéing and grilling bread
Mesquite pellets for smoking
Goat Rub Directions
Goat Braise Directions
Assemble Philly Goat Sandwiches
Recipe and photos by the Farm Table Restaurant, Amery, Wis.
Order your goat roasts or leg of goat from our Farm Store. For more goat meat recipes, cooking tips, promotions, and to know when goat meat is available, sign up for our email list here.
While this recipe take a while to cook, it is so worth it. You'll have a super tender, braised goat meat dish with a flavorful Thai sauce.
I will often make it before I go to bed. When I wake up, I'll put it in the fridge and then re-heat (and add the veggies) in the slow cooker before dinner.
Braised, Thai Goat Curry in Slow Cooker - Recipe
Serve with rice, cauliflower rice, naan flatbread or double the veggies while cooking.
P.S. I’m working on an Instant Pot version of this recipe that I’ll share in the future. I need a little more work on getting the right timing for the goat meat to be the perfect tenderness.
Inspiration from Danielle Walker’s Crockpot Thai Beef Stew at AgainstAllGrain.com at https://againstallgrain.com/2014/07/07/crockpot-paleo-thai-stew/
Goatober is just around the corner – it’s an international celebration of goat meat.
Join in and Celebrate Goatober Locally
Whether you eat out or at home, share your experience on social media with the hashtag #Goatober. Learn more about Goatober at www.goatober.com
Join me at the Hungry Turtle Farm Day in Amery, Saturday, September 21, noon- 4 p.m. I'll have a table and bring meat for purchase (curry cubes, chops, gyro meat).
You can pre-order goat meat here to make it a quick pick up so you can enjoy the rest of the activities on the farm.
More on the Farm Day is below!
Clydesdales, Pinewood Tractor Derby, and More: 1st Annual Hungry Turtle Farm Day
Clydesdales | Birdhouses | Heritage Breeds | Pinewood Tractor Derby
Saturday, September 21 | 12-4 p.m.
Location: Hungry Turtle Farm Day, 410 125th Street, Amery, WI 54001
Fall is a great time to bring the whole family out to Hungry Turtle Farm, just 10 minutes outside of Amery. Enjoy a Clydesdale team wagon ride, build a birdhouse, participate in the pinewood tractor derby, and see the farm's heritage breeds and heirloom seed-saving gardens. Chili, cornbread, and cookies for sale. Event is free.
RSVPs appreciated. You can RSVP here.
Purchase your pinewood tractor derby kit at Farm Table in Amery.
PLEASE NOTE: To participate in the official pinewood tractor derby you will need to check-in between noon and 1 p.m. at the Hungry Turtle Farm Day on September 21.
Have you ever wondered: Is buying a whole goat right for me? The reality is that buying a whole goat isn’t for everyone. So how do you know if it’s for you?
Here are seven questions to ask yourself if you’re considering ordering a whole goat for you and your family.
Is buying a whole goat for me? Take the quiz!
1. Are you willing to try new cuts of goat meat?
Are you willing to eat all your cuts of goat meat? Part of the experience of purchasing a whole goat, may also mean trying out new recipes and ways to cook goat.
If you only want goat chops and shanks, buying a whole goat isn’t for you.
A whole goat order typically includes ground meat, leg, shoulder roast, shoulder steaks, chops, rack or rib chops, ribs, shanks, stew meat (curry cubes) and an option for organ meat (liver, heart, tongue, and kidney), as well as bones. You do have the option to leave out some cuts and opt for more ground or stew meat.
How do you feel about trying new cuts of goat meat?
2. Are you looking for a "deal"?
This one is a two-part question.
A. Goat meat can be hard to find in the grocery store, or it can be hard to find a farm to buy goat meat directly from. This means goat meat is often in demand more than is can be found to purchase, which means it’s usually more costly per pound than beef or even lamb.
It makes total sense to ask the question: How much does goat meat cost? Most folks will do that and weigh out the decision.
Our goat meat has an added value because is telling a story of how it came to life, raised, care for and harvested to make its way to your kitchen. It’s not just the story of the farmer, but it’s also extending to your story – how you’re keeping your cultural heritage alive with the food on your plate, or expanding your journey with truly, good food.
Customers who buy direct from the farmer appreciate this added value and are often willing to pay for it.
If you’re thinking, that’s more than I want to pay for, compared to XYZ, then it might make sense, you may want to hold off on purchasing a whole goat.
How do you feel about paying more for goat meat as compared to other meats?
B. Buying a whole goat vs. individual cuts of meat is a way to get a “deal” on goat meat. A whole goat price/lb. (hanging weight price, plus the butcher’s fees) can range from $8-$10/lb. (or more, depending on where you buy the whole goat). As compared to the retail price of $12-$18/lb. on cuts various cuts of meat.
Are you interested in getting the best deal when buying goat meat?
3. Will you eat it within a year?*
Typically, a whole goat will give you about 22-30 lbs. of usable meat (this is different from hanging weight, see this article for more details). Depending on your recipes or cuts of meat, this could work out to 10-15 meals, or a recipe using pound of goat meat every two weeks.
Are you able to eat all of your goat meat?
*Note: The USDA says frozen meat can be stored up to a year.
4. Do you have enough freezer space?
Typically, a whole goat is about 22-30 lbs. of usable goat meat (as mentioned in the question above). This will fill about a whole regular size reusable-style grocery bag (the smaller standard size ones, not the big rectangle size ones).
Often when ordering meat in bulk direct from a farmer it can be useful to have a deep freezer.
However, this amount of goat meat CAN fit in a refrigerator-freezer, but it depends on how much extra space you have on hand at the time of when you order the goat meat.
Do you have enough freezer space?
5. Do you want to know your farmer?
Knowing your farmer is important, because you’re able to know how they raise their goats for meat. This includes where the goats live (Do they have enough room to move around? Do they have access to pasture?), how the goats are being fed (pasture, hay/grain combination, heavy grain), how the goats are being handled and so on. Ask about these farming practices to know what you’re getting.
By supporting local farmers, you know your meat is coming from a local source, and not imported from thousands of miles away, which is often the case with most goat meat found in grocery stores in the U.S.
Do you want to support local farmers?
6. Do you like to meal plan?
If you like to plan ahead, having goat meat on hand is perfect. You’ll know what you have in advance and can work with recipes for the week or even month if you are really into meal planning. You don't have to worry about finding a grocery story that even carries it when you actually need it.
You can even plan ahead for special occasions, keeping in mind which cuts of goat meat you’ll use and then use the other cuts on a more regular basis with your menu planning,
Do you like to meal plan?
7. Are you willing to wait to order your whole goat?
Typically farms who sell whole goats, will offer the opportunity to order once or twice a year.
Usually, this happens because farms raise goats on a seasonal basis, meaning goat kids are born once a year and are ready for market (the general term for sale!) during that year.
While some goats might have multiple groups of goat kids born throughout a year, it is not as common.
Are you ok with waiting to order your whole goat once a year?
You're all done! Now count up your responses.
If a whole goat is right for you - sign up here to be notified when we're taking whole goat orders, as well as early bird pricing opportunities and deadlines.
This is the second blog post in a four-part Grazing Goats Article Series. The first article, Pasture Fencing for Goats, can be read here.
Electric fence is a great fencing option for goats. However, it is only as good as the training the goats receive. If there's no training, there's a greater chance, or even better chance, that your goats will get out. With the proper training, the goats should respect the fence and not escape.
Each spring our goats are given a "refresher" training, and new goats to the farm, kids or purchased goats, are also trained on how to use the electric fence. Between having good perimeter fencing (see part I) and fence training with portable electric fence, we have little to no issues with our goats staying in the pasture. On occasion kids may get outside a paddock with portable fencing or out of the perimeter fencing since they are smaller, but they always come back to their moms. Once they get older it's not a habit that continues.
Here's how we fence train our goats:
The prep work:
The actual fence training:
Tips for success all season
If you raise goats, what has worked for you for training goats to respect electric fence?
In the video below you'll see an example of how we fence train our goats to portable electric fence.
Watch for the next blog post on the basics of rotational goats in this grazing goat series. Sign up for our online community here so you don’t miss the next post and to learn more about what we do on our farm raising goats for meat.
If you missed the first article in this Grazing Goats Series, you can find it here: Pasture Fencing for Goats.
I’m honored, and a bit humbled, to share that I’m featured in the most recent issue of the Rural Route magazine, which goes out to farm families and others involved in agriculture in Wisconsin. You can read the full article below to learn more about how I got my start in farming, as well as raising meat goats and direct marketing goat meat in western Wisconsin.
I’d also like to give a big thank you to Amy Eckelberg from the Wisconsin Farm Bureau for asking me to do the interview and coming all the way to northwestern Wisconsin to take photos for the story in one of the hottest times of the year.
She also started to learn the art of taking pictures with livestock guardian dogs sniffing and licking you and figuring out how to get a good shot of grazing goats. This includes not just getting them to face you but attempting to not get too many goat rear ends or anyone taking care of business in the shot. I think Amy did ok, if you look at her pictures!
Enjoy the read!
P.S. The magazine also featured a number of grilling recipes in the Farm Flavor section from my personal food Instagram account: @GrillingLikeSteven You can check those out here.
If you want to see the whole magazine, click here to read it.
If you haven't joined our Meat List, you can sign up here. We share goat meat recipes, cooking tips, promotions, and let you know when goat meat (including when to order whole goats).
If you're raising meat goats or are thinking about rasing meat goats, you can sign up for our online community here to learn more about what we do on our farm raising goats for meat.
I own and manage Cylon Rolling Acres in northwestern Wisconsin. On my farm I raise Boer - Kiko meat goats on pasture.
Sign up for the Meat List
Join our community to find out when goat meat is available, recipes & tips for cooking goat meat, and, when there are promotions.
Cylon (pronounced Si-lon) is the name of our township in St. Croix County, Wisconsin. Sorry fans, our farm is not named after the robots of Battlestar Galactica.