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As frigid temperatures arrive, livestock farmers are taking special steps to protect their animals. Goats and sheep are often considered more “fragile” than cows and horses; they need extra protection from the harsh elements. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann spoke with area farmers and has this story on the lengths they go to in protecting their livestock.
Getting ready for the harsh winter weather takes planning -- and that goes for any livestock farmer. Those who raise sheep or goats have to be even more cautious when temperatures take a dip.
Jodie Pennington is an expert with the University of Missouri Extension. He says typically the adult animals can handle the colder temperatures fine, but the babies often can't.
“What generally we have to do is provide some type of shelter for those babies. If they kid [give birth] inside usually they’ll do fine. Some people will go one step farther and have a heat lamp, or they will have individual pens with heat lamps, where they can put the kids or the lambs with the mothers so they will do okay,” says Pennington.
Kids and lambs are much smaller than calves, for example; they usually weigh less than 10 pounds at birth.
Pennington says their smaller size makes it harder to regulate body temperature in the cold, and the combination of wet and cold can be deadly. He recommends that farmers have shelter available especially for kidding goats, whether it's a barn or wind break.
Pennington says most farmers are familiar with complications during the birthing process--also known as kidding--especially during the winter months.
“If the lamb or kid stops breathing, they may first shake it or tickle its nose to make sure it is breathing adequately. If that doesn’t work then some people will actually put compression on the chest. You have to be careful because these are very small, just like a human baby, and you can damage the chest cavity,” says Pennington.
Rachel Kennedy raises meat and show goats. She chooses to kid during the winter months because she wants her baby goats ready to show in the Spring. Kennedy says goats tend to venture off, trying to keep their babies away from other animals. The trick, she says, is being in tune with the herd and getting the "nannies" inside to the warm birthing boxes equipped with heat lamps.
“The natural goat cycle is to breed in the fall and kid in the spring. Now we go ahead and have ours breed in July and so we have our kids usually on the ground around Christmas. Now that requires more on our part because we’re usually in the dead of winter when we are having these babies,” Kennedy says.
She provides barn shelter, alfalfa hay and grain to supplement sparse winter pastures and running water to drink.
Both Pennington and Kennedy agree farmers also need to check their goats for internal parasites. They say a good overall body condition is critical to weathering any winter weather.
For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.