While our Wisconsin weather lets us practice rotational grazing (feeding on pasture) during the spring, summer and fall months, the winter is a different story for feeding our goats. In the fall when the pasture quality starts to drop, we’ll let the goats have access to the barn and start to feed them hay, usually in a feeder in the pasture closest to the barn. Just like during grazing season, our goats always have access to fresh water and loose minerals (think goat multi-vitamin).
We feed hay outside for a few reasons. First, the goats get regular exercise. And, second, is to keep the barn cleaner, moving the hay debris and extra manure waste outside. As a bonus, the manure also helps fertilize our pasture. The goats are fed in the barn when the temperature drops below zero. They do great in the cold weather and grow and impressive, thick winter coat, much like you’d see on a dog.
We’ve been lucky this last week, as it’s been seasonably warm for Wisconsin in January with day temps in the mid-30s. Now, I’m closely watching the snow melt, mud and puddles to make sure the pasture doesn’t get too damaged by all the hoof traffic, and more importantly, the goats’ hooves aren’t exposed to too much moisture, which can cause infections. If it gets too muddy and wet, we will have to start feeding in the barn again until the ground surface freezes again.
In another month we’ll be getting ready for kidding (baby goats!). Depending on the mobility of the pregnant goats, I may start to do more feeding in the barn to give their legs a little more rest.
I own and manage Cylon Rolling Acres in northwestern Wisconsin. On my farm I raise Boer - Kiko meat goats and dairy buck kids all on pasture. We also harvest maple sap. Read more here.
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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.