Caring for Sheep and Goats in Changing Weather

June 20, 2023

As anyone who has ever tended to farm animals knows, caring for livestock is a year-round commitment that ebbs and flows with the changing seasons. This is particularly true for small ruminants like sheep and goats. Both species have unique needs that can vary widely depending on the time of year, necessitating thoughtful adjustments in their care routine.

1. Spring Care: Preparing for New Life

The arrival of spring is often synonymous with lambing and kidding season. During this time, close attention should be paid to the nutritional needs of pregnant and lactating ewes and does. High-quality forage and supplemental feed can help meet the increased demand for nutrients.

Spring is also an optimal time to administer vaccines, as many diseases are more prevalent during this season. Parasite control is essential, too; warmer weather brings a surge in parasite populations that can pose significant health risks.

2. Summer Care: Beating The Heat

Summer brings with it high temperatures and a heightened risk of heat stress, a condition to which both sheep and goats are quite susceptible. Providing ample shade and fresh water can go a long way in mitigating these risks.

Because forage quality can decrease in summer, you might need to supplement with grain or hay. Also, take care of fly control measures to keep pesky insects from bothering your animals and potentially spreading disease.

3. Autumn Care: Preparing for the Cold

With its cooler temperatures and abundant forage, autumn can be a good time to condition your sheep and goats for the coming winter. Now is the time to fatten up your animals and check that their overall health is optimal.

As autumn progresses, you should also prepare their shelter for the winter, ensuring that it’s well-insulated, dry, and free from drafts. However, good ventilation is important to prevent respiratory problems.

4. Winter Care: Surviving the Chill

Winter can be a challenging time for small ruminants. Sheep and goats need additional calories to maintain body heat, so you’ll need to increase their hay intake. Access to fresh, unfrozen water is vital, and you may need to employ heating elements or change water frequently to prevent freezing.

Make regular checks for signs of hypothermia, especially after storms or drastic drops in temperature. Symptoms include shivering, lethargy, and weak or cold ears.

5. Seasonal Fencing and Housing Adjustments

Changes in weather may also warrant adjustments to your fencing and housing. In spring and summer, strong, secure fencing is crucial to keep young and active animals safe. In winter, additional windbreaks or shelter areas can provide essential protection against the elements.

In conclusion, shepherding sheep and goats through the changing seasons requires vigilance, flexibility, and a deep understanding of their specific needs at each time of year. By adjusting your care routine to accommodate these needs, you can ensure the health and happiness of your flock throughout the year, come rain or shine, heat or cold. Being proactive with seasonal changes in care not only helps to prevent potential health issues but also optimizes your flock’s productivity and well-being.

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