Goats and sheep are herd animals and get nervous when they’re separated. Our 70 goats and 60 sheep share half the barn together, giving them more room for feed and exercise all together. The shared access to heated shelters, water, hay and each other (to keep themselves warm during the cold nights) creates resiliency and make winter animal management easier.

Shelter: wooden A-frame structures with heat lamp There are 4 wooden A-frame structures for them to share in their pan, 2-3 of them with heat lamps hooked up. The wooden A-frames shield the animals inside from any drafts and creates a warmer microclimate within. The structures had partial foam insulation, and we’ve added cardboard to fill the gaps for better insulation. Although our sheep and goats end up eating most of that cardboard, the A-frames still provide the warmth they prefer using their body heat and heat lamp. We also regularly add hay they wasted into the structures to provide a better insulating bedding, and clean it out along with the poop accumulated inside to feed our pigs.

Food: hay in DIY round bale feeders

This year, we almost doubled our flock, and our feeders can barely provide enough eating space and hold enough hay for half a day to feed all of them. We experimented with making a feeder for a large round bale using old wire mesh and wooden stakes. With the feeder in place, sheep and goats are held back from walking over the hay bale, breaking it apart and peeing and pooping on it (which results in wasted hay that they will not eat). The low temperatures makes the wire brittle, especially under the constant tempering by our gluttonous goats, but some basic maintenance and repair can make it last longer.

Water: water heater, water trough insulated platform

We used to place the water trough directly on the ground with a water heater, but ice would form all around the trough as well as the top, especially on the extreme cold days. That greatly reduced the holding capacity of the water trough, increasing both labour due to higher watering frequency to keep the animals hydrated and power bills to keep the water thawed. We experimented with an insulated platform for the water trough and we are able to maintain it with minimal ice built-up with a 500W water heater up to -30ᵒC. The platform was built without side walls since it could hinder animals’ access to water and will make it harder to do regular cleanup of the water trough (there are times the water will have sediments, hay and even poop that needs to be removed). A separate platform is built as a step so smaller shorter sheep/ goats will be able to reach when water level is low.

Others: salt, mineral & treats

There shall be constant access of livestock salt and mineral. We provide them occasional trimmings of branches for them to munch off the bark. We also provide potatoes, onions and citruses, cut into bite size to supplement their diet, along with shredded paper.

Learn more about other tips we have about raising livestock in the North.