Shelters and Storage Important Part of Goat Operation


In last month's column I discussed equipment for goats. This month I will cover shelters and storage buildings.

Again, I am located in West Central Texas, depending on your location and climate, you may need different or additional facilities to accommodate your needs.

Shelter For Kids

Even though I live pretty far south, temperatures during the winter can be quite cold for extended periods of time. Last winter we went through a four day period of temperatures in the low teens during the heaviest part of kidding season.

Kids can survive temperatures like that pretty easily if they are getting adequate milk from their mothers, but I usually provide them with their own shelter to help out.

When I first got into the business my wife made me buy a couple of dog houses for the LGD's, so they could get out of the weather. We soon learned that Great Pyrenees actually love cold, damp weather, and will not use a dog house even if you give them one.

I will never forget driving out to the ranch after the first snow storm to find the dogs chasing each other and wrestling in the snow. I don't think I have ever seen two happier dogs.

The dog houses I purchased were Dogloos. They look like an igloo and are very large. Since the dogs wouldn't use them I decided to use them for the kid goats.

The Dogloos are large enough for a mature goat to get in, so the first thing I did was to cut a piece of 4" welded wire mesh (you're probably getting the idea by now that I place 4" welded wire mesh in about the same indispensable category as many people place duct tape) to the size of the opening.

There is a channel at the bottom of the Dogloo and a tab that sticks down from the top that can be used to keep the wire mesh in place without using any fasteners if you cut the wire mesh to the correct size and shape. Just pry the top of the Dogloo off the floor, insert the wire mesh, than replace the top.

Next I cut out a 2 square wide by 2 square high opening, so only small kids can get in.

Finally, I put a couple of inches of wood shaving bedding on the floor, and put the Dogloos out during kidding season.

It is very important that you limit the number of kids that have access to each shelter because they will all try to pile in the same one, and the kids on the bottom will get smothered.

If 15 kids can fit comfortably inside one, and you put two out for 30 kids in the same pen/pasture, you will find out exactly how stupid kid goats are. They will all pile inside the same Dogloo, and you will have many dead kids the next morning.

If you are going to use these, be sure to separate the herd into small groups so it is impossible for too many kids to get inside one at the same time. As the kids grow, fewer will be able to fit, so you may need to reshuffle your herd, or remove the Dogloos since larger kids really don't need them anyway.

It is surprising how warm it is inside one of these when it is full of kids. On a 20 degree morning I have stuck my arm inside a Dogloo full of kid goats, and I would say the temperature in there was about 80 degrees! Steam was coming out the opening.

Goat Shelters

In my area we frequently get large hail, so I provide the herd with shelters so they can get under cover during severe weather.

The shelters are constructed from 2.75" pipe set in concrete with cee purlins welded to them to form a frame to support a painted steel R panel skin.

They are completely enclosed on three sides, and the south side has 4' wide openings for easy access. The south side isn't completely open because during severe storms we usually get strong winds from the south which would blow rain and hail inside the shelters.

The shelters have waterlines run to them to supply water troughs, and electricity for tank deicers and lights. Inside the middle of each side of the shelter is a bunk feeder.

The one thing I would do differently would be to add another 4" cee purlin around the walls. The goats have a bad habit of butting each other into the walls, which damages the steel panels.  In the photo below my son MJ points to the damage caused by the goats.

The additional cee purlin would cover from about 18" to 22" above the floor, and I would attach the panels to all the cee purlins. This is not the place to skimp on fasteners. I use one screw every 4 inches.

If you use fewer screws the goats will eventually butt the panels, and push the fasteners through the panel leaving the panel unsecured. Then you will have to go back and add fasteners.

Storage Building

If you don't live near your ranch, I highly recommend that you construct a storage building or barn that is climate controlled with power and water. I did this at my ranch and I don't know how I got along without it before.

I purchased the building in kit form from a local steel supply company, and made a few modifications to the plan to meet my needs. The primary modification I made was to add an attached carport to the side, so I have a place to store equipment like lawn mowers, tractors, etc.

I also cut a hole in the back wall for an air conditioner. The building is climate controlled using a window unit type air conditioner, and a 220V electric wall heater. I framed interior walls, and insulated the entire structure to R-22 before finishing the walls with iceboard and installing a suspended ceiling with fluorescent lights.

Inside I have an area to store my feed where birds and rodents can't get to it. Above the feed storage I have a long very strong shelf for storing large, heavy items. Under the feed sacks I am using display tables made by Plastics Research Corporation (without the legs) as pallets. Unlike wooden pallets, the display tables don't have slats, so dust and feed don't get underneath simplifying cleanup. Also the display tables are only two feet wide so they take up less floor space.

On the other side of the building I have cabinets, and I have mounted an outlet strip the full length of the building to the underside of the cabinets to provide easy access to electrical power.

The cabinets provide a place to store my meds and supplies that don't have to be refrigerated instead of hauling them around in my truck everywhere.

Under the counter there is a refrigerator for snacks/refreshments and the meds that have to be kept cool.

I have installed a sink in the countertop to provide a source of clean, cool, freshwater to drink on hot summer days, and there is a water heater in the cabinet under the sink  to provide hot water for hand washing and other purposes.

The storage building also has a blender to prepare milk replacer; a microwave oven to heat up lunch and other items; a clock radio, a shop vac, and counter space to work on projects.

I built it myself and the materials and equipment for the entire project were only $4,960.37 for a structure with 180 square feet inside, and a 150 square foot covered slab next to it.

That covers the equipment and facilities I use at my operation. Hopefully, you will be able to utilize this information to improve your own ranch.

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This page updated 03/13/04