Winter camping with goats? Coats or no coats? Anyone using horn insultion at all?
Hey Everyone,

I have what could be considered a dumb question for you. 

I started goat packing last Sept and I am feeling very confident in my skills.  However I have not really done any winter goat packing.  I am originally from Vermont and I am a good winter camper.  My question for you is, do the goats need anything special for winter camping in the snow with temps down around 0 degrees F.  I have listened to the podcast Marc Warke did with Cannon about his goats in the winter and how they all curled up on the fire pit after it had cooled down some.

Some back ground on my goats and where they live.  I live in Gig Harbor, Wa very near Tacoma.  Our elevation is about 150’ and the nightly temps where the goats are at can get into the mid to high twenty’s regularly.  My guys get good free choice hay feed along with loose free choice mineral every day.  They get about a cup of Purina goat feed, sunflower seeds, timothy pellets, and crushed corn 4 out of 7 days a week (I am a firefighter so I am at work the other days).  Also we do at least one 2 mile run and 3 mile light pack hike a week. I also brush each goat daily.  So there diet, fitness, and coat health is pretty good I think.

Will the guys be ok if we when on a winter pack trip in the snow at 2,300 ft?  My current plan to make the trip survivable for them is to stay out of deep snow so their chests and panniers don’t drag.  I will camp in thicker timber so there will be less wind, and make sure the guys stay dry.  I am going to cut and lay down a thick layer of pine boughs so the boys are insulated from the snow and getting wet.  As far as low lining for the night, I might actually pin each one near the fire individually so they can all lay near it and catch some of the radiant heat.  Now we get to the human add on stuff.  Do you think that the goat coats would be any use in this environment for them over night?  Also have you ever hear or seen anyone make a really horn insulating system for a goat and is one even needed?  To be clear I am not talking about some dumb knit crap with dumb pomp pomps.  I mean a sleeve of maybe neoprene covered in a high vis nylon with a connector between the two side so they can slide off.

The reason I bring up the horn insulation idea is because if a goat can use its horns to cool itself, them wouldn’t it stand to reason that the blood going into the horns in the winter would come back into the system cooler after going out into the horns?  I have spent one night out in the winter with one of my goats in Bend, OR.  We camped out in a state park and when we woke up it was 8 degrees F.  Gabie’s (my goat) horns where ice cold.  He did not seem to care about the temps at all.  However he was acclimated to those temps because that is where we was from.   

So in all your opinion would goats that have a coat for and are acclimated to living in 20 degree’s F be super miserable at 0 degrees F?  Would goat coats help?  Is making super sick horn covers a dumb and useless idea?  And finally does that camp set up maximize what I can do for the goats?

Thanks for all you time, and expertise!!!
Quote:Also have you ever hear or seen anyone make a really horn insulating system for a goat and is one even needed?  To be clear I am not talking about some dumb knit crap with dumb pomp pomps.

What!? I want to see pom-poms! It's not cool if it doesn't have pom-poms.

Goat coats can help keep body heat in at night. Cuzco slept in an igloo when it was -20 in Vermont one Christmas.

Yes, it was very cold that night, but he did just fine. We lined the bottom of the snow shelter with hay so he could bed down and stay dry.  

Evergreen boughs are a good idea for bedding them down on the trail. What do you plan to feed them? Roughage, more than anything else, is what keeps a goat warm when the temp. drops real low. Chewing their cud is like activating their internal furnace. I don't see why they shouldn't do just fine in 0* temps if they're in good condition with thick coats, well-fed on the trail, and you're able to keep them sheltered from the wind. 

I wouldn't worry about "horn muffs". Many wild animals with horns live in cold climates. The closest thing I've done to that is I made Cuzco a pair of earmuffs when we lived in Lake City, CO. It got to -20* (not counting wind chill), and there was no shelter (other than a few trees) on the ranch where he and my horses lived. His ears got frost-nipped around the edges so I sewed him some ear protection. He loved them!  
Of all the goat pictures ever taken that ear muff picture of Cuzco is my all time favorite. Regarding winter camping keeping goats dry and out of the wind is a big deal. Going from nearly sea level to higher elevation may require a goat coat. Some coats are a light cover and some are insulated for thinner built animals or a goat with thinner fur. I carry a light nylon tarp in case of unexpected weather. Pine bough does work well. Cut extra they will snack on it during the night.
Most blood supplies vasoconstricts when cold and dilate to increase blood flow and dissipate heat when hot. There may only be a little blood flowing to horn when it is cold. That is why a horn feels cold. It would seem from the head butting behavior of goats there are no pain receptors in the horn. The goat probably can't feel if the horn is cold.
Thanks alot guys for the input.  I felt pretty dumb asking about the horns, but like Idaho Nancy said such a quick enviromental change in weather, temp and altitude made me wonder.  As Nanno mentioned I have seen alot of ear muffs.  Maybe I will just whip up 3 pairs of those and call it good.  Again thanks alot.
I doubt your goats will need earmuffs either. Cuzco was living without shelter in a pasture that was regularly getting down to -20*--colder when you factor in wind chill actually. The only thing he could do was huddle next to the horses for warmth, and his big airplane ears were right out in the elements. His ears and the tip of his tail suffered frost nip after one of those nights. The edges of his ears were swollen the next morning, and a week or two later the edges scabbed over and sloughed away. He had small notches in the edges of his ears for the rest of his life but they were so small you couldn't really see them under the hair. Properly sheltered and in warmer temperatures, your goats' ears should not suffer the way Cuzco's did. Alpine goats also have shorter ears for cold weather. Your guys should be just fine.
Thanks again for your time and first hand info.  I have about 3 days, 2 night in January when my wife is going to be out of town so my kids and I where thinking about trying the guys out in to the snow.  I like to get ahead of logistics and any issues that could arrise.  

So what your saying is my Alpine goats will be ok in Alpine condition as if they where more or less designed for it Big Grin

Thanks for answering my kinda dumb questions!!
Great thread!  Hope you post back on how your trip goes.  My last overnight trip of the year with my goats was in Oct up at 5300' over in eastern WA - there was snow on the ground but found a snow-free dry spot for the goats.  I could tell they still didn't like it, dipped below freezing in the night but they are kind of pampered fellows haha...  I did bring their fleece-lined goat coats - northwest ones - you can see in the pic. My white goat has ripped his up a lot, he's a big fellow - using gorilla tape to keep it together this winter.

Been doing weekly hikes this winter with them ~ 5 miles 1400' gain with saddles & weight, so hopefully they'll be easier to ramp back up into shape this spring.

Attached Files Thumbnail(s)

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)