Goats are considered hardy animals that can tolerate changes in climate pretty well. Other than that, they can live off poor grazing matter and can adapt to different housing styles. However, although they are hardy animals, they still have the tendency to be vulnerable under severe wet and drafty conditions. Therefore, they should be provided with a shelter to keep them protected.
Housing requirements for dairy, meat, and fiber goats are generally similar. The only differences are that the meat and fiber goats may require minimum shelter compared to the dairy goats. This is because of their ability to tolerate adverse weather better. Moreover, dairy goats tend to be more sensitive during the milking process. They may produce less milk when they use more energy to stay warm or dry.
Generally, goat housing requires a location that will keep it dry and clean. It is also important to build housing for the specific requirements of specific goat groups; for instance, kidding does. Moreover, the housing should not be overcrowded as overcrowding may be detrimental to the goats’ health. And significantly, the housing should be well-ventilated and well-lit, either naturally or not.
Although considered as hardy creatures, goats, like humans, can also get sick due to environmental causes. They can get sick by being exposed to severe weather conditions such as rain, snow, and excessive heat. Hence, they will need a house to keep them dry and warm during cold weather or cool during hot weather. Below are pointers to consider in planning and and eventually constructing goats’ housing.
Before proceeding with the construction of the housing, goat farmers ought to take a moment to consider a few things.
Permanence and Location
It is important to consider whether housing will be staying in its location for a very long time. Otherwise, one might need to keep moving the housing under certain circumstances. For instance, if the location is somewhere wherein the rain will runoff during or after the pour. In this case, the housing needs to be moved to a relatively drier location. Moreover, it is also important to consider whether it is accessible for feeding, watering, waste storage, and other facilities.
Furthermore, the housing location should be safe from potential hazards such as fire and flooding. Generally, the location should be not less than 50 meters from bodies of water. Also, the distance between the facility and the water source, surface or ground, should be at least 60 meters. In more vulnerable situations, the distance should be up to 300 meters.
Also, never plan goat housing next to a fence, or else the goats will soon be on the other side of the fence. The housing should sit no less than a meter and a half away from the fence.
During the planning, one should the design of the housing for the different goat groups. For instance, does that are about to give birth need plenty of room. They also need to be away from the other goats while they are kidding.
Dairy goats especially need to be separated from the others, from noise and bad odors. This is due to the fact that it may affect the quality of milk. Additionally, kidding does may also require electricity, lights, heat lamps, or a camera system for monitoring.
How many goats are going to be in the same shelter? It is important to have a definite number to answer this question, as it is crucial for the goats’ health. They have the tendency to get stressed when their shelter is overly crowded. Also, it is possible to have some of the herd pushed outside due to the lack of space.
A pen can house up to 30 goats, provided that there is adequate space for each goat to live in and move around.
The housing space should at least accommodate an area of 1.8 square meters for every adult goat. However, a space bigger than that may be necessary so that the goats can move around. The bucks generally will require bigger space, up to 2.5 square meters. As mentioned, they should be located away, at least 15 meters from the kidding does, especially dairy ones.
Kidding spaces, on the other hand, should at least be 2 square meters per goat. Similarly, kid rearing spaces should be of the same size and should accommodate 12 kids for the first four weeks. After, a 4-square meter space is required.
As mentioned, does that are about to give birth require an isolated, self-contained space from the herd. Ideally, an isolation pen should be present for every 50 goats. It should have at least an area of 2.5 square meters. Kidding and/or kid rearing spaces or pens may be used as isolation spaces provided that it is within isolation pen standard.
Milking parlors, additionally, for a small herd, milked by hand, a 4-square meter shall be provided. It should have a milking stand with yoke tying roughly 1.1 meters long (that is 1.25 meters high) by 0.4 to 0.5 meters wide. It should also be raised 0.4 to 0.5 meters off the floor, with a seat if preferred. Also, the cold water supply to a sink is suggested.
Generally, meat, milk, or fiber production is not affected by temperatures between zero and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. However, dairy goats are more comfortable between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. However, beyond 80 degrees, their feed intake may be reduced as well as their milk output.
Alternately, meat, and fiber goats have the ability to deal with adverse conditions. This is due to the fact that meat goats have a fat layer under the skin. The fiber goats, on the other hand, have a thick layer of coat. Hence, the concern for them is how to keep them cool during hot weather.
Ventilation is necessary to get rid of heat, moisture, and odors. Without due ventilation, goats are vulnerable to suffering pneumonia. Improper ventilation, especially alongside poor insulation, can result in wet walls and ceilings.
During the winter, additional heat and insulation are required in order to avoid frozen water pipes. This shall also keep the stable air fresh within the space. A good air distribution shall be provided by an air inlet system. Certainly, air inlet openings should be at least 0.15 square meters of unhindered ventilation every adult milking goat. Vented sheeting is ideally the best to achieve inlet ventilation.
Furthermore, proper ventilation during the summer needs moving 150 to 200 cubic feet of air per minute for every goat. The winter, on the other hand, may reduce the amount of air to be exhausted to at least 20 cubic feet.
Outlet ventilation, conversely, should be provided to no less than half the inlet area. It should have at least 0.05 square meters of unhindered ventilation per goat. However, it is ideal for raising the area up to about 0.075 square meters per adult goat. Moreover, outlet ventilation needs to be at least half a meter higher than the inlets. It may consist of a continuous open ridge along the entire apex of the building 600 millimeters of unhindered width. Also, it may be fitted with a ridge cap in order to avoid the ingress of rain. Spaced sheeting or boarding can be used for outlet ventilation.
In the milking parlors, permanent open ventilation of at least 0.075 square meters per milking goat is needed. Moreover, ventilation ope of 0.2 square meters should be in the dairy, covered with a fly screen.
Planning and designing goat housing should also consist of manure handling. Removing manure with a front end or skid loader shall do the job. Moreover, unprotected heaps of manure should not sit in the way of possible runoff and should be covered. The manure can well be composted to reduce odors and fly problems and to make for good soil amendment. The manure can be distributed over pastures and crop fields using a manure spreader. However, keeping the goats outside will significantly reduce the labor in manure handling.
Ideally, a manure storage of 0.5 cubic meters for every goat shall be provided. Also, a soiled water tank with a capacity of 0.55 cubic meters for every square meter of manure pit is needed.
Light is essential in constructing goat housing. Hence, closed barns would need to have windows to let sunlight in. This shall allow for warmth, drying, and for vitamin D for the goats. Barns that are well-lit are usually kept cleaner. During the summer, opening the windows will allow for air movement.
SPECIFIC HOUSING SECTIONS
Kidding pens that are about 6 meters square should be located in an area free of cold wind. These are where does are placed during kidding and for three to five days after kidding. The practice allows for bonding between the doe and the offspring. Additionally, it allows the farmers to give assistance should complications arise. It also ensures that weak newborn kids are fed a sufficient amount of colostrum during their first 12 to 24 hours after birth. After the kidding season, these pens can be taken apart and stored.
Milking area (especially for dairy goats)
The milking area should be separated from the stable area. Its floor should be a concrete floor for easier cleaning. Moreover, the milking platform should be raised 15 to 18 inches higher from the floor for easier milking. Also, the platform should be 18 inches in width and 1 meter in length for each goat to be tied. The manger is required to be 6 inches deep and a foot wide. If a number of goats are to be milked at the same time, a lever that opens and closes the stanchion headlocks is useful.
Other farmers who keep their milking herds in stall barns milk their goats on a milking stand at the corner of the stable. However, the milking stand may be in a separate screened-in facility to guarantee clean milk free from dust and flies. A 12 square meters room that has a concrete floor and drain is enough for milking a small herd. However, plenty of light should be made sure whether it is from natural sources or from electric bulbs.
Furthermore, the milking area should be equipped with a double sink for washing utensils, a water heater, and refrigeration. Also, a table or work area, and a drying and storing utensils rack should be provided. At least half of the milking area should be open floor space with a fair amount of room for equipment.
Working area (especially for meat goats)
A working facility is necessary for activities like ear-tagging, vaccinations, medication, counting, sorting, grooming, etc.
A working facility should be sturdy, preferably solid-sided, and at least 1.5 to 2 meters tall. A basic working are for larger numbers of goats should consist of a catch or crowding pen. Also, it should consist of a working chute, a headgate, and sorting alleys, gates, and pens to separate the goats. Certainly, the crowding pen should be half the length of the working chute and up to 3.5 meters wide at the open end. The working chute should be about 3 meters long, 1.5 to 2 meters high, and 12 to 15 inches wide. Longer chutes may cause crowding and trampling at the forward end. Hence, it should be divided with sliding gates into partitions. It is advantageous to use an adjustable chute in handling kids and large bucks. Moreover, a series of canvas flaps poised about halfway down the chute shall keep the heads of the goats down and eliminate riding. The sides of the chute should be smooth and solid and ideally tapered for horned goats. It is helpful that the top of the chute is nearly twice the width of the bottom.
Working operations should importantly be quiet such that excessive noise will cause the goats’ agitation. Moreover, goats tend to rush toward an opening if they see one. They readily drop to the ground under crowding pressure. Hence, they are at immense risk from smothering and trampling.
TWO MAJOR TYPES OF HOUSING DESIGN
There are two major categories for goat housing design for dairy, meat, and fiber goats. These are open or loose housing and confinement housing. The loose housing provides protection from weather conditions while at the same time giving access to pasture. Confinement housing, on the other hand, means that the goats are entirely kept within the structure.
It is significant to take note that meat and fiber goats require minimum shelter compared to dairy goats. This is due to the fact that meat goats have a fat layer under the skin and the fiber goats, a thick layer of coat. Hence, they have the facility to resist adverse weather conditions.
Open or Loose Housing
Open or loose housing are advantageous, being cheap in cost for construction. Also, it provides for easier access to machinery for manure handling. For the goats, it allows for freedom of movement or exercise and good air circulation and quality.
- To deal with the drafts, the open portion of the loose housing should face the south or away from prevailing winds. During severe weather conditions, the open side can be made smaller. This is provided that the number of goats does not limit the necessary space in the area.
- Creating a bedded pack by layering new bedding on top of the existing one reduces the frequency of manure removal. A bedded pack can stay dry and warm. However, it should be cleaned out periodically. Leaving the bedding wet can cause the formation of dangerous gases, odors, bacteria, parasites, and worms.
- To keep the bedding drier, it helps to add clean gravel over dirt floors. At least four inches of bedding material should be used on a sloped gravel floor when starting a bedded pack.
- The floor space for the bedded area in loose housing should be at least 3 to 5 square meters per adult goat. However, an additional 7 to 8 square meters of space per goat should be provided for exercise. This space can be either in or outside of the housing.
- Kidding pens should be separate areas and should provide at least 6 square meters of bedded area.
- Water and feeding troughs should be in separate areas from the bedded area. This is to avoid feed contamination from fecal material, which is a source of parasites.
Open or loose housing comes in a variety of structures such as the following:
- three-sided pole barns
- framed sheds
- hoop greenhouses
Confinement housing is advantageous, especially during foul weather. Also, it allows for more supervised management and easier access for handling individual animals. However, confinement housing can require a fair amount of labor than loose housing.
- First, the goats need to be turned out to exercise if there is no space inside.
- Second, there tends to be more frequent spoiled bedding removal.
- Lastly, the ventilation system should be maintained; hence, it should be checked frequently.
- If needed or if there is no outdoor space, a separate space for exercise should be provided in the confinement housing. Space should provide at least 7 to 8 square meters for every goat.
- It is essential to have excellent ventilation. Inadequate airflow can cause respiratory problems. Without good ventilation, the goats may accumulate respiration gases, volatile manure gases, dust, and mold from too much moisture.
- The ceiling and the walls should be free of condensation. To achieve this, proper insulation and ventilation should be installed up to code. Windows shall be provided as well to allow for the entry of sunlight, and for warmth and drying during winter. Sunlight that comes through the south-facing windows provides Vitamin D for the goats. During summer, the windows can be removed to help increase airflow. The window space should ideally be at least half a meter for every goat that is housed.
- Goats that are housed in confinement barns require around 1.5 square meters if in pens. Also, individual stalls should be at least 2 square meters and contain feeders and water.
- Bovine dairy operations housing such as free-stall and tie-stall housing, are applicable for goats.
- Old existing structures can be renovated and reused into housing for goats as long as they meet the requirements for density, age, and breed.
What are the best materials to use for goat housing?
Goat housing can be constructed from almost anything. However, those that are made from old pallets covered with plywood, in particular, should be structurally very sound to last. This is due to the fact that the pallets disintegrate over time. Hence, the weakened pallets will weaken the entire structure. To save, old barn structures can be renovated or reused as goat housing. Other materials may even be recycled, such as old plastic fertilizer tanks cut on one side for a door. The floor on this should also be cut on some parts for the drain. Also, many people create nice portable huts that work well as goat housing.
What are raised goat housing floors for?
A raised and slatted floor are particularly useful in tropical and subtropical areas where there is a constant risk for muddy and wet floors. It allows for manure, urine, and debris to drop through the slatted floor, easy cleaning, and additional ventilation. However, it can be relatively expensive in construction. Cheap-constructed floors such as those that are made out of bamboo tend to be less secure. Hence, commercial wood is ideal such that it is stronger and longer-lasting.