September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
With a little work and vision, some of them could be turned into perfectly fine barns for dairy goats. So said Dave Kammel, a University of Wisconsin-Madison agricultural engineer, during the recent Focus on Goats conference at Platteville, Wis.
The first step in figuring out what to do to a barn to make it work for goats is to write a management plan. How many groups of goats will go into the building? How many goats will be in each group?
Remember to take into account the needs of dairy goats: their comfort, the environment, nutrition, health care, movement between groups, and manure handling.
Next, list the needs and wants of the goats' owner. Kammel noted that the needs and wants might not mesh, due to lack of money or the limitations of the barn. However, convenient feeding and convenient manure handling will probably wind up on this list.
From there, get the plans down on paper and come up with a sketch of what the finished barn will look like. Design the barn so pens and other space can be used for different things, as the seasons change. For example, it's useful to be able to convert a pen into an area for does to kid in. But that pen won't be needed for kidding all year long. Pencil in places for group housing, along with ones for handling, examining, and treating the goats.
A goat barn will probably be laid out for five groups. Milking does and dry ones will get separate areas, as will bucks. Newborn kids and growing kids will also get two separate areas. A further division might be made of buck kids and doe kids, so they can be managed differently.
Needs of a goat
Much like cows, goats need space to rest and walk, along with a barn that is free of drafts but also gets fresh air. But the ideal temperatures for dairy goats are different, Kammel said.
Adult does do best at 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but can handle temperatures as low as zero without milk production suffering. Kids, by contrast, do best at temperatures between 54 and 65 degrees.
Kammel outlined the amount of bedded resting space goats need in various kinds of housing. In a pen, a doe needs 12 to 18 square feet, and 25 to 40 square feet in a dirt lot. In a paved lot, she needs 16 square feet, and 20 to 25 square feet in total confinement. In an individual pen, a doe needs 36 square feet, and half an acre if she's on pasture.
A mature buck needs 30 to 40 square feet in a bedded pen, and 100 square feet in a dirt lot. In a pen by himself, he should have 36 square feet.
Young kids each need three to 5.5 square feet of space in bedded pens, and 16 square feet if they're in individual pens. In total confinement, young kids should have eight to 10 square feet each.
Weaned kids need a bit more space: eight to 10 square feet each if they're in bedded pens, 16 feet in individual pens, 10 to 30 square feet in a dirt lot,, 10 feet in a paved lot, and eight to 10 square feet each in total confinement.
When it comes to feed, does typically get 16 to 20 inches of space each if they're limit fed, and four to six inches if they're self fed. For bucks, the numbers are 12 inches each for limit feeding and six inches for self feeding. Kids need nine to 12 inches of space each with limit feeding and four inches with self feeding.
No matter which type of feeder is used - slant bar or keyhole - it should keep the feed off the floor, Kammel said. That will help keep the feed clean and lessen the chances of parasite infestations.
Feeders should also be equipped with toe boards so goats can place their front feet on them, since goats are notorious for liking to climb. The throat board - if one is used - needs to be 15 to 18 inches above the feed, for adult goats, and 10 to 12 inches above the feed for kids.
Dairy goat farmers make several feeder designs work, for hay, silage, grain and minerals. An inexpensive mineral feeder can be made from a plastic barrel fastened on end to a post. The barrel has a rectangular opening cut out for the goats to reach in and get to the minerals.
Don't forget about water. Depending on the goat's age and environmental factors, each animal needs half a gallon to four gallons a day.
One drinking bowl can handle 40 to 50 does, while a 12-inch tank can accommodate 15 to 25 does. One bowl can serve 50 to 75 kids, while a 12-inch tank works for 25 to 40 kids.
When building pens for groups of goats, make sure the fences are sturdy and tall enough. Kammel said fences and gates need to be four to five feet tall to keep does in. But for bucks, build everything at least six feet high.
Pens for individual goats should measure six feet by six feet, but kidding pens can be five by five feet.
Kammel offered other ideas for remodeling dairy barns for goats. First, convert the milkhouse into a milking parlor, or use the milkhouse as a room to get newborn kids warm.
Second, take out the gutter barn cleaner. It's not needed for the manure pellets goats produce.
Third, protect those water lines so they don't freeze. This will probably mean burying them.
Fourth, design good ways to feed the goats and remove their manure. And fifth, plan for a ventilation system, since many older dairy barns need better air flow if the goats are going to be free of pneumonia.
Heifer sheds, loafing sheds, hay sheds and hoop barns can also be remodeled for goats, Kammel said. Just keep in mind the goats' needs.
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