How much cold goats can take is a question we get asked each winter fairly often. Perhaps because ours are the smaller, cute, and fuzzy
Nigerian Dwarf goats, folks seem to question whether they can take the cold. We live in Northeastern Ohio, so temperatures of -15°F are pretty common.
Adult Goats Handle Cold – If Not Wet or Windy
If goats are housed so that they can get out of the wind and stay dry (and they’re receiving adequate nutrition and health care), then they generally tolerate temperatures that cold without issue.
Even in the coldest US areas, goats tolerate the cold winter temperatures if they’re dry and protected from the wind. We have Maine friends that don’t provide additional heat in their barns, and they’ve successfully kept goats for many years.
In winter, Nigerian Dwarf goats grow a nice undercoat of cashmere that helps to keep them warm. The fluffy cashmere fibers puff out to surround them (that’s why they look so fuzzy in winter). It keeps warm air trapped around their bodies.
As long as they can keep that protective layer around them (and it’s not wet or has wind cutting through it), then they can tolerate cold temperatures. One way to think about it is if you can bundle up sufficiently to tolerate the temperature where you’re housing them; then they should be able to tolerate it with their protection.
They Prefer Warm Drinking Water
One thing that all goats do seem to enjoy in cold weather is warm drinking water. I’ve been quite shocked by how much they prefer the warm water, how big a drink they’ll take, and how warm (hot) they actually like it.
For those of us keeping bucks and wethers, it’s important to remember that keeping lots of water moving through their systems helps prevent urinary calculi. So, providing them with warm water is important not just because they like it, but because it also keeps them healthy.
Goat Kids Need Help
Goat babies are a different story. They’re born wet and don’t have that dry protective layer. If temperatures are close to or below freezing, I think goat owners really need to be present when the babies are born to get them dried off quickly. Otherwise, the babies (or some parts of the babies) freeze. We hear stories of this each winter and it makes us sad. We also think that folks should have these basic goat kidding supplies on hand too.
Adding Supplemental Heat
When does are due to kid during cold weather, in addition to being present to help get the kids dried off quickly, many goat owners use heat lamps to keep the kids warm. However, heat lamps are also the #1 cause of barn fires! So, if using heat lamps, it’s critical to use sturdy models built for barn usage and use them correctly.
I’m not big on recommending brands, but we’ve switched over to the sturdy plastic heat lamps from Premier1 Supply or carbon fiber lamps (shown here). We like these choices better than the standard metal heat lamps commonly found in stores. They’ve got additional safety features that make it much less likely that they will start a barn fire.
An alternative to heat lamps is to either make goat kid coats or provide the kids with huts to warm up in. For our Nigerian Dwarf size babies, kid goat coats can easily be created from “onesie” outfits for human babies, or the sleeves of old sweatshirts.
For sweatshirt sleeve coats, use the wristband as the collar, put the seam under the kid’s tummy, cut two little holes for the front legs, and trim the length to fit the length of the kid.
Protective huts for the kids can be created by removing the door from a small dog crate or poultry carrier, and simply placing it in the kidding stall.
Kidding Does Are Less Resistant To Cold
Goat does that are kidding are also less resistant to cold. I’ve observed that the rigors of kidding in cold weather often cause does to shiver badly. It’s just a lot of work and sometimes they don’t have the energy reserves left after kidding to keep themselves warm.
We find that they appreciate the heat lamps we have in place for the kids, a nutritious-warm post-kidding meal, drinks of warm water, and some kind of covering (dry towel, blanket, or old sweatshirt). With a little special “after-kidding” care they return to normal quickly and are great mothers.
Because kidding does and new kids don’t withstand cold as well, we tend to breed does in late October or early November so that the kids arrive in mid-March or early April (goat gestation is five months). That means that kids are arriving when the weather is starting to warm up in our area and temperatures aren’t so severe out in the barn. With proper attention, there’s no reason goats can’t be bred to kid earlier in the winter, we just find it more comfortable to plan for slightly warmer weather.
Hello, my comment may be outdated, but if it helps… I share my experience. I live in Quebec, Canada. I have had pet goats for over 20 years. Female, no baby and friend of a 34 year old horse who passed away last year. Here we have winter temperatures that can go down to -28 F and more often -20 F. My goat winters inside in a stall. The floor is covered with a rubber mat which is covered with a good bedding of wood shavings. I built her a kind of tent along a wall where she can lie down in it. But in winter, she prefers to stand under the 2 safe heating lights. As for the coat, I’m still waiting for the temperature to drop below 22 F to put his coat on for the rest of the winter. This way, my goat has enough time to make her down under her fur. I’ve been doing this for several years now and it’s going well.
Hi Nathalie, Thanks for sharing! The more we hear from others the better we can learn to care for our goats 🙂
Hello, I have neighbors nearby that have 3 goats (2 parents and a baby). There are 2 walls for them to shelter in, but no roof. It’s been pouring rain and snow off and on and tonight it’s going down to 14 degrees. I know nothing about goats, but am concerned. I’ve only just moved in and don’t really know the neighbors. Any suggestions for approaching this?
You’re right to be concerned! If they’re wet and in the elements at 14 degrees the prognosis may not be good. But I don’t know how to fix neighbors that don’t take good care of their livestock. You also didn’t mention the breed of goat and perhaps they are accustomed to this? Perhaps you could check on them and offer assistance if it looked like it was necessary. Or, call animal control if they appear to be freezing to death.
Hi Lesa, I don’t understand how goats are any different from horses who grow a fuller coat in winter months too. I’m quite curious what arguments come into play when it comes to caring well for an animals welfare in cold temperatures when it comes to putting a COAT on them. Brutal cold is felt by all animals & thus the need for proper shelter, additional heating sources (which we all agree can and does burn down barns). We live in Northeastern PA and have a trip of much beloved Nubians. They’re very well cared for in all ways including Great Dane sized Derby Originals dog ‘blankets/coats’ for during cold temps. Our barn is just a barn, as in DRAFTY, albeit entirely closed up at night for protection from predators, which we definitely have in these parts, it’s still quite cold in there. We open the barn & let out the goats to different pastures, which have more than adequate large run-ins, during daylight hours. Still they wear their ‘blankets’. Have I missed some articles on arguments in not putting goats in coats? Thanks for your input!!
Could you share the product name of the dog coat you used for your goats? I have 2 Nubian wethers and I have been looking for a reasonably priced coat . My barn is same as yours , closed but drafty and I know they’re cold . I love my boys . Thank you !
Derby makes horse blankets. They have small version marketed to Great Dane owners. I have two for my dogs, super durable and simple to take on and off.
hi, i live in Louisiana and the winter has been mild so far, but now we are facing 3 days in a row where the temps will drop below freezing at night, with the coldest night being just 17 degrees and the night before and after getting down to around 28 degrees F. I have a pygmy goat male who lives outside, I have a platform that he sleeps on which i have placed tin and wood on the north and east side to block the wind. Should I be concerned about the freezing temps coming or will he be able to weather it without somehow providing supplemental heat for him with an infrared lamp or something? I don’t have one but I can probably pick up a clamp lamp and infrared 250 watt bulb somewhere around here if needed. Thanks for the info!
Hi David, with temps getting that cold and him not being used to cold, I would be concerned since he’s not in a barn. I would seriously consider getting him a supplmental heat source, just be careful you get a good heat lamp model – don’t want to start a fire!
Terri Starks says
Hello! I also live in Texas. I have 5 boys around 5 months old. Monday it is supposed to be -2 at night and below freezing for 60+ hours. We never get this cold with winter precipitation. I have a goat house a small wooden building they are in with straw and pine covering the floor. Do you think they will be ok?
Hi Terri, the fact that they’re in a goat house should keep the wind away; however your boys aren’t used to cold temperatures and -2 is getting mighty cold. I would seriously consider getting some sort of additional heat in there, but if adding heat lamps, make sure it’s a reliable model that’s not going to start a fire.
I have two Nigerian dwarf females. (They will be 1 on March 22) Live in Texas and extreme cold weather is quite uncommon. We are in the teens now and come Monday will be 0 degrees. I have goats on my girls and I continually take them warm water. Don’t have a heater but they have a small dwelling that keeps them away from the wind (still cold). I’m actually have anxiety about upcoming Monday temps. In your opinion should they be fine? They haven’t been eating as much just because I think they are spoiled and this is their first winter too.
Coats is what I meant to say…
Hi Trina, I think that putting coats on them is not a great idea as that prevents the cashmere from trapping and holding warmer air around them. For a dog with no underlying fur or cashmere a coat would help, but I think it just prevents the cashmere from doing its job on the Nigies. Also, I would be concerned about 0 degrees – that’s pretty cold and they’re not accustomed to it. Can you bring them in for a couple of nights?
I have heard mixed reviews about the coats…
Bring them in…ha. Where? Not to sound I Se sit I’ve because I love these girls so very much. I just have no idea where I would put them…
Tape down tarp in your laundry or bathroom floor for your goats & add hay to soak up urine. A small tent is a great “coop” that will keep your chickens contained in the house.. That’s my plan for my goats & chickens if it gets any colder – expecting 12°f in Southeast Texas on Sunday night/Monday morning. If we lose power (Ice Storm predicted) we have an inverter charged up for their heat lamps. Lamps go, critters are coming in!!!
Yay Patty, bring those critters in!
Lucas Bales says
I had 2 baby goats born at about 11:30 yesterday morning and they were plenty warm and dry long before nightfall. The mom is a good mom. They are Lamancha-Boer crosses. Temps got down to 33 F last night and they seem to be okay but temps are supposed to be like that for the next little bit. Is there anything you think I should get for them? They are kept in a barn stall and are completely out of any wind/weather.
Hi Lucas, sorry I missed your question earlier this month, but I think they should have been ok at 33 F – how did it work out?
Thank you SO much for this! I have goats kidding around the beginning of February and it’s a bit cold here in Colorado. This is my first year kidding, so I have a lot to learn and am very grateful I came across your blog post.
Hi Kristin, I’m glad you found it helpful! There’s lots more information on goats and kidding in the archive here: https://www.betterhensandgardens.com/category/goat-2/
I have Nigerian dwarf and I’m thinking she got pregnant in the end of August , I m a first time goat owner I live in central Arkansas do you think I’ll have trouble with the birth in January?
Hi Emilee, I think it will be cold so you should make sure that she’s kept warm and the kids get dried off quickly after they’re born. Usually, Nigerian Dwarf does do fine by themselves but it’s always a good idea to be prepared and be there to assist if she needs any help.
Mike Oconnell says
Thanks for the help
Hi Mike, glad it was helpful and thanks for visiting the site.
Tammy Ivey says
I have two male And one female Nigerian Dwarf goats, they are 10 and 11 months old. Weighing 40-50lbs. We live in Florida, it is just now getting cooler temps. 40-50 degrees at night.
Should I use a heat lamp in the barn at night or put shirts on them or will they fine without it? They are super healthy.
They should be fine, no need for heat lamps or shirts in your climate!
I found the information you provided on goats to be useful. I was wondering why where you ask for my email it automatically corrected it to all caps. I was thinking that could be a problem with getting some addresses correct.