Several goat owners have expressed concern about keeping their newborn kids in the barn overnight during extremely cold temperatures, and have asked how to handle birthing (kidding) during a cold snap. In all of these situations the goats were either in a four or three sided barn, and all had a full roof overhead. I advised that the open areas, if there were any, be shielded from the wind. Cold drafts must be blocked.
There are several ways to add extra draft protection – one is by using tarps, and the other is the use of straw bales. I do not advise stacking bales of straw two and three high within a stall or paddock because they can fall on top of a very young kid and pen them under, but a straw bale, just one high, can provide extra protection for a dam and her kids to butt up against. Straw bales can be stacked outside of a pen wall, though, such as against a heavy wire panel. This provides a thick layer of insulation from wind and drafts.
I also believe in allowing a layer of used bedding to remain on the ground inside the barn in colder climates, especially around the corners and along the base of outside walls. The used bedding, just several inches thick, packs down and provides a layer of insulation from the cold ground. Very damp or wet bedding will lead to the chilling of a kid and must be raked out.
If you use electrical sources of heat, such as heat lamps, always ensure the lamps are on a safe circuit, and keep the lamps high enough, away from combustible materials, and out of the reach of kids and adult goats. I am not fond of using heat lamps when I am not in close proximity of the barn, due to fire danger, but I have known others to use them successfully by following careful safety measures.
I am a fan of using boxes for the kids to crawl into. Inexpensive sturdy plastic storage boxes, laid on their side, lined with a towel or dry straw for the newborn goats to snuggle into, have provided extra protection for many kids on our farm.
When due dates fall into the cold season, or when newborn kids are on the ground (in the barn) during extremely inclement weather:
- ensure newborn kids are nursing (which gives them a much better chance of retaining body heat and surviving)
- promote the eating of hay at a very young age (it helps the young goat to develop rumen activity, and helps them to generate their own body heat)
- ensure kids are dried off after birth as quickly as possible (keep dry towels on hand to assist the doe with cleaning the kid, which prevents the kid’s body temperature from dropping below normal, and prevents frostbite – especially important for kids with susceptible long ears)
- set an alarm during the night, more than once if the temperatures drop below freezing, and check on the youngest of kids frequently
- have supplies on hand that will help you revive an overly chilled kid (see Reviving a Chilled Newborn Kid link below)
- Provide warm water as often as possible – goats tend to shun the drinking of ice cold water
I have several blog posts in my archives that may assist you: