Chert Hollow Farm is a sustainable homestead farm growing certified organic produce near Columbia, Missouri. In addition to vegetables, the farm manages dairy & meat goats, poultry, small grains, fruits, timber, and more as part of a diversified model that emphasizes economic and environmental sustainability. We feed ourselves year-round by raising, processing, and preserving our own meat, milk, cheese, eggs, vegetables, some fruits & grains, and more from our land.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Winterizing the goats

With winter well on its way, it was time to establish warmer and more secure housing for the goats. They don't mind cold temperatures too much, but everyone says they don't like drafts or moisture, and who doesn't like to be warm and dry? At some point I'm planning to build a small, permanent goat barn, but we don't have time right now. So we winterized their summer hoophouse with a few easy steps.

Way back in May, I wrote about our method of setting up quick, inexpensive cattle-panel hoophouses. An 8'x16' one of these has been the standard goat house for the summer, offering both shelter and ventilation. For winter, all we really needed to do was close the ends in. On the south side, we piled straw bales up to the top, spiking them in place with t-posts and tying them to the hoop with baling twine. This gives a solid wall that keeps most drafts out. At the north end, we reused an old wall/door setup that had originally been used on a chicken version of these hoops. It works great for closing in this end and making it possible to shut the door on really cold days and keep the goats inside.

The tarps on the hoop really accept solar heat well, and it gets nice and warm in there during sunny days. On cloudy days, it will be cooler, but as we're told they don't really mind that. There are few drafts, and the floor is thick straw. Overall, lots of room for loafing and moving around. Their hayrack is built out of wood and cut-down cattle panel, such that they can reach their heads through the holes to get at hay, but don't waste as much as an open trough. The flat rack at the base catches smaller alfalfa leaves and keeps them off the ground, preserving more food and discouraging worms. It works quite well.

This was about a morning's work, and we're set for winter. Someday I'll get that barn built, but in the meantime these hoop buildings are an easy and fantastic substitute.

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