Build a Goat Sleeping Platform

goat sleeping platform

Building a goat sleeping platform was one of the simplest projects we have put together on the farm. The hardest part of the project was nagging  reminding my son to please pick up some pallets for me since he has the large truck with out a cap on it.

Each section of the goat sleeping platform goats, used two pallets. You can make your goat sleeping platform as large as you need to or what your barn space will allow. 

goats on the goat sleeping platform

Raising different species of livestock adds much to our lives. I love thinking up projects that will enrich the lives of our animals and keep them comfortable. It doesn’t have to be a fancy fix to add some comfort to the goats, sheep and pigs lives. They don’t get fancy around here, but they sure are kept comfortable! Lots of dry bedding is one of the care essentials. As I age, I feel aches and pains where there were none before. Animals experience this phenomenon of aging, too. 

Goats require good nutrition, safe, dry housing, and plenty of forage. Mostly, goats are easy keepers, as long as they have their needs met and any problems addressed promptly.

As often as possible, I like to use natural preventative care and natural remedies for my goats. Building these raised goat sleeping platforms fit right in with our preventative goals.

Why Build a Raised Goat Sleeping Platform?

Age is one consideration when thinking about building a goat sleeping platform for goats. Our flock of Pygora fiber goats are getting up in years now. Our first goats, that we purchased in 2004, are considered senior citizens! Goats can get sore joints as they age. Similar to large dogs in size, goats can get stiff, sore joints, and be stiff when they try to get up from resting. Giving goats a raised goat sleeping platform can help by keeping the joints warmer. Add a thick cushion of dry straw to make everything really comfortable.

Foot rot is another reason to build a goat sleeping platform. Anything you can do to keep the goat on dry ground, helps prevent an outbreak of foot scald which, with the right combination of bacteria, can lead to foot rot. Once foot rot is present in your barn or paddocks it will remain there. It waits for the right opportunity to flare up from a tiny sore area in between the goat hoof “toes”.

pygora goats

A third reason to build a goat sleeping platform is because goats like to climb! They will enjoy being up even a few inches off the ground. As long as the platforms you build are sturdy and stable, the goats will use this structure. 

Fiber goats will have a nicer fleece harvest, if the goat remains clean and dry throughout the winter. Sleeping off the damp ground helps keep the fiber in top shape.

In Case Of Emergency….

If your barn happens to get a minor flood from a heavy storm, having a platform already built, gives the goats somewhere to stand while they wait for you to “rescue” them. This happened to us one winter. We arrived to find the goats fighting for places that were anywhere above the few inches of water that had invaded the stalls. Building a few swales helped redirect the rain waters but the goats were very unhappy about the situation!

goat sleeping platform

What We Used for the Goat Sleeping Platforms

Two pallets per section. – I made a double platform for the stall with six goats. They can’t all sleep on it, comfortably but it keeps most of them off the ground. As we reconfigure the barn, arrangements will be made to have sleeping platform space for all the goats. 

Stack two pallets. Add pallet stacks as needed. Two sections of stacked pallets will require one sheet of plywood to cover the open slats. 

goat sleeping platform

Cover the pallet structure with the sheet of plywood. Use a nail or two in each end to keep it stable. 

goat sleeping platform

Cover the pallet goat sleeping platform with straw. The space underneath the platform will trap warmer air. Also cover the stall floor with a good layer of dry bedding and straw. Replace wet areas as needed to keep the flooring dry.

Let me know in the comments if you try this with your goats or have found another method. I would love to hear your feedback. 

goat sleeping platform

Look for this project and over 50 others in my next book- 50 Do It Yourself Projects for Keeping Goats (Skyhorse Publishing 2020)




Overgrown Goat Hoof Care Steps to Take

overgrown goat hoof care

Overgrown goat hoof issues are a big problem for goats. It’s unlikely that you will always keep up with hoof trimming. Life gets busy, bad weather occurs, goats are feisty and hard to control, and the next thing you know it’s been too long. Your goats have overgrown hooves.

Keeping up with hoof trimming should be a priority for all goat owners. The first step in the proper care of goats is learning how to perform a proper hoof trimming. I understand that it can be scary to begin cutting off hoof material on your goat. The hoof shears are very sharp, and your goat is probably not going to cooperate.

Gather Supplies for Hoof Trimming

The first steps in a successful remedy of overgrown goat hoof issues is to gather the tools for the job. You will want the hoof shears to be sharp. Struggling with a wiggly goat while trying to cut through excess hoof material is not fun. The sharp clippers will help you cut the first time, with less struggle.

Treats are helpful for keeping your goat distracted. A yummy snack also helps the goat associate hoof trimming with good things.

It is possible to trim an overgrown goat hoof without placing the goat on a stand, but it’s much easier if you have one. A simple home made milking stand is all you need, or you can purchase a metal stand from a livestock supply retailer. The goat stand will provide a way for you to secure the goat’s head and reduces movement while you trim the hooves.

What to Look for on the Overgrown Goat Hoof

Goat hooves grow from the sides down and the overgrowth folds under the hoof. The over grown goat hoof provides a place for pockets of mud, manure, and rot to hide out. It is recommended that goat hooves be trimmed every 6-8 weeks to keep this under control. If I am honest, I will tell you that I usually can get to this every 10 weeks.

Overgrown goat hoof care

Supplies for Hoof Trimming

Get ready for overgrown goat hoof care by gathering the supplies and tools. Here’s what I use.

  • Hoof Shears
  • Towel for wiping muddy hooves
  • Hoof Pic
  • Treats to distract the goat
  • Milking stand or some way to hold the goat still
  • Cornstarch for a blood stop if needed

Removing the Overgrown Goat Hoof Material

Once your goat is secure, run your hand down a front leg, towards the hoof and life the lower leg, while bending it at the knee joint. If necessary, wipe away mud and use the hoof pick to clear out excess mud and manure from the bottom of the foot. Be careful to not dig or scrape too hard as the center is softer tissue than the outer rim.

a well shaped goat hoof

Once you can clearly see the over grown goat hoof material, use your clippers to trim away the excess hoof growth. The final shape should be wedge like. If your goat has extreme overgrown goat hooves, you might need to work in slow, frequent trimmings, to get the shape back to normal.

Moving on to the Back Feet

Usually I work around the goat from front foot to back feet and finish on a positive note with the remaining front foot. Once you have trimmed your goats hooves you will understand what I mean by this. Here’s the psychology behind the goat behavior.

Goats are prey animals. If a large predator was chasing the goat, the back leg is often what they will catch, and pull the goat down. The instinct when you try to grab the back leg and work on overgrown goat hoof care, is to resist. The goat will fight you, kick, and even try to jump from the stand. Be ready. This is a great time for a helper to distract your goat with treats and soft words.

Work Quickly on the Back Feet to Reduce Stress

If you are ready for this behavior you can prepare by pinning the goat more firmly against the wall, talking to reassure the goat that it is you, and working as quickly as possible. While your goat may never be completely comfortable during hoof trimming, a continued regular routine will reduce the anxiety.

Overgrown Goat Hoof Care – What Else to Look For

Examine the hoof for general good structure. Is there any odor, soft spots on the outer hoof, and rotting? Note any areas of tenderness and look for the cause. If the ground has been very wet, the goat may have early signs of hoof scald. Hoof rot has a particular smell and is caused by a fungus and a bacteria.

hoof trimming

Healthy hooves are integral to good goat health. If a goat experiences pain when walking, it will browse less, move less, and eat less. Some goats that need overgrown goat hoof care will even begin walking on their knees. Hoof trimming is one of the most important care routines you will perform on your goats.




Goat Care and Maintenance of Healthy Goats

Goat Care and Maintenance of Healthy Goats

Goats have to be one of the most entertaining farm animal to own. Knowing how to perform the required goat care is the most important first step to take, as you begin keeping goats. All breeds of goats need some sort of hoof care, proper nutrition, treatment for preventing worms, and more. Read on, for more information on goat care and maintaining a healthy herd.

Proper Goat Care When Raising Goats for Fiber

Two popular breeds in the fiber arena are Angora and Pygora goats. Both are registered breeds with beautiful, soft fiber,  Their needs differ in some areas from other goat breeds such as the Pygmy and the Nigerian Dwarf, or Nubian, but all require certain regular health and wellness care. The Angoras and Pygoras, though, require a shearing of their fiber once or twice a year. 

goat care baily pre shearing

We bred Pygora goats for a few years, but decided to cut back on the size of our herd so that we could maintain them all in good health. Now, we own ten Pygoras and they yield quite enough soft beautiful fiber for our needs. Pygora fiber is soft and fine and we use it to blend into our sheep wool.

Goat Care Fiber goat Pygora goat

The Pygora goat breed, that we raise, is a cross between the Pygmy goat and the Angora. This results in a breed that has fiber but a smaller size. The fiber on fiber goats, needs to be harvested at least once a year, but we prefer to do the shearing twice a year. We found that not shearing in the fall leads to more matted fiber on the animal in the spring. Pygora fiber is very fine and lends softness and sheen to a yarn, when blended with other fleece.

goat care DSC_0666

goat care DSC_0310

Should you hire a professional shearer?

We spent many weekends each year shearing. We did get better at it but I would never say I reached a professional speed or quality. This is time consuming and hard on your back. Please keep this in mind before purchasing fiber goat breeds. The alternative is to hire a professional shearer to do the job. We went this route a year ago, and it has freed up so much time in our spring and fall schedules. Our sheep and goat shearer can do all of our animals (14) in one afternoon!

After shearing, sometimes, you can see lice living on the skin. We treat for lice twice a year after each shearing by using Pyrethrin powder rubbed into the back area, along the top line. Another product that kills lice on the skin is Ivermectin Pour-On for cattle.

Hoof Trimming is Essential Goat Care

Hoof trimming needs to be tended to every other month. Starting early in a goats life, will help make this less traumatic but don’t be surprised if they still resist. The back feet, especially, seem to be an issue for our goats. Even the older goats do not like having me lift up and hold their back foot for a trimming. I think it is because they can’t see me back there and it probably is a fight or flight response. It helps to have another person stand by their head and distract them with a treat while you trim the back feet.

Goat Care goat care hoof trimming DSC_5521TCF
In this picture you can see the overgrowth of the hoof

goat care well shaped hoof DSC_5535TCF
A trimmed hoof should return the hoof to a smoother natural wedged sha

Using a Stanchion or Milking Stand for Hoof Trimming

Putting the goat on a stand helps by making it easier on the person trimming.

goat care goat on milking stand for shearing

I have done a number of hoof trimmings by having someone else hold the animal still, while I trim the hooves. This requires a lot more bending and reaching but can certainly get the job accomplished. I look at the stand as a great tool to have but we went many years without owning one, too. Gather all of your tools and some treats before you get started.

goat snacks and treats to use when shearing and trimming
Some yummy treats for hoof trimming time on our farm, include honey nut cheerios type cereal, whole peanuts and apple and oat horse treats

goat care using cornstarch to stop minor bleeding

Some of the items I recommend having close by are, extra breakaway chain collars, the hoof clippers, yummy treats, an old rag to wipe mud off the hooves and a sturdy lead rope. Have a plastic container of corn starch ready, If you accidentally trim too close and cause a mild bleeding, applying corn starch will stop the blood flow. Then I apply a dab of antibiotic ointment and it takes care of the mishap. I have never had a serious problem occur after a slight nick of the hoof.

Using hoof clippers makes the job easier because they are shaped to trim hooves. I wear sturdy gloves when doing the hoof trim because the clippers are extremely sharp and animals make sudden moves! I also have used Fisker’s Garden clippers but the shape of the blade makes the job a bit more tricky.
For goat hoof trims I recommend this type of clipper

Maintain a Goat Care Hoof Trim Schedule

Keeping up with the hoof trimming makes the job so much easier. It is possible to bring a neglected goat back to some measure of good hoof health, but it takes time and dedication. I have missed a trimming and the amount of over growth is pretty amazing. Plan to trim hooves at the minimum,  every other month.

goat care and maintenance

Health Maintenance in Goat Care

Keeping goats requires that their health needs are tended to on a regular basis. In addition to making sure that you are feeding a quality goat chow to supplement any grazing, and providing fresh water each day, there are vaccinations to be updated and occasional de-worming medication that needs to be administered. The vaccinations given and the worming schedule is something that every goat owner should read up on and make their own decision about.

If Goats Leave the Farm….

If you are going to take your goats to shows, county fairs and other events, your decision may be different than mine on these matters. I do not want to sway you one way or another on these issues by telling you our schedule. One site that I do recommend you check out is FiasCo Farm’s website. Clicking on the link will take you to their options of schedules for vaccinations and worming. If you are interested in using herbal natural supplements, we are now using these from Biteme Goat Treats.

On our farm, we have what is called a closed herd. We have not been regularly adding to the goat population, and our goats do not leave the farm unless they need an unexpected trip to the vet’s clinic. Because of this, we do not have a quarantine pen.

goat care  sheared pygora goat

If you do plan to bring home new goats regularly, a quarantine or holding stall, would be a good thing to have. Waiting at least 30 days before allowing direct contact with your herd will give you time to see any signs of possible illness. When the new goats first arrive, worm them and include a treatment for cocci. Knowing what parasites and worms are common in goats in your area is important. Ask your veterinarian what parasite treatments they recommend. Not treating parasite infestations can lead to anemia and death in the goat herd. 

Proper Feeding in Goat Care 

Goats should not have full access to feed concentrates. Goats are very efficient browsers and can readily make use of many plants and growth on your property even if you don’t have grass pasture. They will stand on their hind legs to reach the branches and leaves they want and have a high tolerance to plants that other species find toxic. People often utilize a goat  herd to clear poison ivy as it seems to be a favorite food of goats, with no complications. Goats can clear up your pastures in no time.

Should You Add Grain?

If you keep your goats in a barn or a dry lot with hay feeding, you might want to supplement with a small amount of properly balanced grain. The amount will vary depending on the size of your goat, but around a half a cup to a cup of grain per animal once a day is a good starting point. Goats can colic easily from over eating concentrate feeds.

Keep the feed in a metal trash can with a tight fitting lid somewhere that the goats do not have access to. Voracious eaters, as most goats tend to be, will eat without stopping, so make sure you secure the feed. Feeding hay should keep them happy and provide nutrition and roughage. Fresh drinking water should always be available.

Feeding Fiber Goats- Special Copper Issue

The last thing I want to mention concerns feeding fiber goat breeds. If you should choose to raise a fiber breed of goat, their nutritional needs are more in line with sheep. For proper goat care remember that copper is toxic to sheep and fiber producing goats. When purchasing a commercial food, make sure you read the label carefully. The best choice is to feed Sheep and Lamb concentrate or a feed specifically formulated for sheep and goats in a mixed herd situation. This will eliminate the copper toxicity issue. Supplement your fiber animals minerals using the same care. You can read more about copper toxicity in sheep and goats here.

Keeping goats will certainly keep you on your toes. In return, your goats will reward you with endless amusement, goat cuddles, and possibly cute baby goats!

For information on dairy goats,and lots more goat info, please visit Better Hens and Gardens and Feather and Scale Farm

Look for my books that cover goat care, Keeping Sheep and Other Fiber Animals, and 50 Do it Yourself Projects for Keeping Goats. Both books are available here, in our shop and on Amazon.

New! I am now using this product. (not an affiliate link, I just like to share the good stuff with you!)

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Goat Urinary Stones in Dwarf Goat Breeds

urinary stones

Goat urinary stones or calculi blockages in dwarf breeds of goats is more common than you might think. You may have heard this illness called water belly or obstructive urolithiasis. If you haven’t tried to help a goat with urinary stones, you might not be aware of the causes, symptoms, and possible treatments available for the suffering goat.

Once you’ve seen a goat that is in pain from a urinary stone blockage, you will think suffering is a mild way of describing it. We’ve had only one clash with this condition in a goat, and an advanced case in an older sheep wether, years ago. In the case of the sheep, we were unable to save him. With the goat, we tried different, more extreme measures and he is surviving and now thriving.

dwarf goats

Please read….

Before continuing, I want you to know that I am in no way giving you veterinary advice. In fact, in Trevor’s case, with urinary stones, in the end, we went completely off script. We made up a protocol that made sense to us as a last ditch effort. We gathered advice from other goat breeders and goat keepers. And we used a pain reliever/anti-inflammatory medicine for goats that had been prescribed for another animal.

Judge me all you want. We had a dying 14 week old kid on our hands that was in pain, screaming, and could only pass drops of urine at a time, due to the urinary stones. I thought his bladder might explode, because his belly was so tight. In our opinion, as long time goat owners and livestock keepers, it was time for a Hail Mary pass. We threw the entire kitchen sink at the little fellow.

And it worked.

Trevor’s Story with Urinary Stones

Trevor was born on another farm, about 14 weeks before we adopted him and his sister, Annabelle. The farm notified us that another little goat had just died from urinary stones. The farmer realized he realized he needed to trim his goat herd. He was looking to rehome the last two kids. I volunteered to take them.

The male kids had been wethered early to prevent any unwanted breedings. In addition to being wethered earlier than recommended, Trevor and the rest of the goats had access to a lot of grain.

Over years of research, veterinarians and other goat farmers have come to realize that early neutering combined with heavy grain feeding (especially improperly balanced feeds)leads to an increase in urinary stones. In the dwarf goat breeds, Nigerian dwarf goats in particular, the blockage is often fatal.

Does this Happen in All Goats or Just Dwarf Goat Breeds?

The condition is not limited to Nigerian Dwarf goats but the small size of these goats adds to the problem. Once a male kid or lamb is castrated, either by banding or surgically, the urethra growth stops. Castration before the urinary tract has reached full growth leaves a very narrow urethra, and increases the chance that calculi will block the tube completely.

Adding in excess grain feeding, to support growth or keep them happy, further increases the likelihood of urinary stones forming. The urinary stones can become lodged at any point in the urethra, causing partial or complete blockage.

urinary stones

What Are Urinary Stones Made Of?

Urinary stones are comprised of non absorbed phosphate salts. The main cause of urinary stone formation occurs when feed percentages of calcium and phosphorus are improperly balanced.

When small ruminants are fed a balanced diet combined with forage and hay, excess phosphorus is in the saliva, and excreted through feces. If grain is overfed, or is improperly formulated, and contains excess phosphorus, the excess ends up being excreted through the urinary tract. Lack of water can also play a part in urinary stones.

Now add in early neutering, thus stopping urethra growth, and you have all the pieces in place for a perfect storm. Bucks, rams, and females can have urinary stones, but have a better chance of eliminating the calculi.

urinary stones in dwarf goat breeds

Signs of Urinary Stones in Goats and Sheep

Trevor began yelling on a Sunday evening. Since his brother had died from urinary stones, I was watching for any symptoms.

Trevor exhibited the classic signs of urinary tract blockage. Having seen it in our wethered sheep, it was easily recognized. No fever was present.

The constant cries, the stretched out stance, and the rejection of food gave me a pit in my stomach. Other possible symptoms could be biting at their sides, swollen abdomen, straining to urinate, dribbling urine with no stream, and a swollen penis.

dwarf goat with urinary stones

First thing in the morning I called our livestock vet, and brought Trevor right to his office. The vet agreed with my non-professional diagnosis and examined Trevor. Unfortunately the blockage was not near the opening, or urethral process, of the penis. When the blockage is near the opening, a procedure can be done that snips off the urethral process.

I opted to have the vet insert a catheter to try to dislodge the blockage. This did not work since Trevor is so small. The smallest catheter was still too large. Dwarf goat breeds are very tiny.

The Vet’s Protocol

Trevor was started on a sedative in hopes that is would allow the urethra to relax and allow passage of urine. In addition, children’s aspirin tablets could be given for pain and inflammation. We watched for improvement.

After a few days, the vet said we could not keep Trevor on sedatives any longer and would have to rely on just the children’s aspirin to help manage the obstructed urethra.

What We Did

At this point, I was not feeling very optimistic about Trevor’s prognosis. While he was not continuously crying, the urine was only drips now and then.

I began massaging his abdomen, from the bladder towards the penis. Often this helped release some additional drops of urine.

Apple cider vinegar (2 tablespoons per two gallons of water) to help acidify the urine and help break up the urinary stones. 1 teaspoon of ammonium chloride added to the water to further acidify.

urinary stones

Drench twice a day with a mixture of water, ammonium chloride, and apple cider vinegar. (12 ounces water, 2 tablespoons ACV, 1 teaspoon of ammonium chloride) From this I pulled 20 cc into a drench gun, administered twice a day to further acidify the urine.

At this point, Trevor still had a very poor appetite. Vitamin B complex was given orally according to label directions. Administered once per day. This helped him regain his appetite and he quickly began eating more forage.

And One More Thing

A goat owning friend offered me some prescription Banamine. This pain reliever is often used as a medication for urinary stones. My vet preferred his decision to use the sedative, Acepromezine.

I gladly accepted the gift of Banamine from my friend. At this point, there was little left to try and if the Banamine didn’t help Trevor, I was prepared to euthanize him. This was no life for a baby goat.

Goat Urinary Stones in Dwarf Goats

Do You Believe in Miracles?

I do. I think that the Banamine pushed Trevor’s condition into healing status. By the second dose of Banamine, Tevor’s swollen abdomen and distended bladder reduced noticeably.

I also think that the other measures we were following helped keep Trevor alive and comfortable enough to keep eating. Trevor continued to improve and is now weeks past the initial illness.

What now?

Trevor will always be more susceptible to bouts of urinary stones. Because of this there are some strict protocols in place for Trevor. These protocols might save his life, and they pose no risk to Annabelle, the female goat in the same stall.

Frequent water changes. During the cold spells, room temperature water is brought from home for their bucket.

2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar added to the water at all times.

Ammonium Chloride salt added to the balanced grain ration. Also, the grain amount is kept to no more than 3/4 cup a day, split into two feedings. At this time ammonium chloride is no longer being added to the bucket of water.

Fresh hay is always available.

urinary stones in dwarf goat breeds

Future Care and Prognosis

The protocol in place is no different than what should have been happening. It became more important than ever, since Trevor is predisposed to urinary stones. I was using ammonium chloride and ACV with our goats and sheep but honestly I was not adhering to a strict schedule. I am now making sure all of our small ruminants are given a top dressing of ammonium chloride each day.

Right now, Trevor is a happy healthy playful kid. That makes all we did for him during his two week acute illness worth it.

Urinary Stones and Holistic Approach

I have no scientific study data that what we did for Trevor had any impact on his survival. My instinct tell me it did. The Banamine might have pushed him over the edge to complete healing but the rest of the measures kept him alive and fighting.

I also believe there is great power in the healing touch. Because we handled Trevor twice a day, talking to him, syringing fluids and massaging his abdomen, he felt loved and cared for. Animals as well as humans are responsive to this. I believe our efforts gave Trevor the strength to fight.

I hope you never have to experience urinary stones with dwarf goat breeds or sheep. If you do, I encourage you to call your vet at the first signs of difficulty or pain. Wait until 16 weeks to neuter males. Give ammonium chloride with grain. And go with your gut to a certain extent. Holistic methods may be unproven but that doesn’t mean that these methods are not worth a try.




Can Goats Eat Christmas Trees?

can goats eat Christmas trees

This is the time of year to ask, can goats eat Christmas trees? Many of us will have spent hard earned dollars, purchasing a fresh cut tree from a local tree lot. After the tinsel and ornaments have been removed, using the tree as a food option in the barnyard can add value to the money spent on a fresh cut tree. So can goats eat Christmas trees? What about sheep, cattle, and even the chickens? The genus Pine contains a lot of plants, some not even true pines. Yew is not in the genus of Pinus, (its actually a member of the Taxus genus). Yew is often confused with pine but can cause toxicity and illness  in most animals.

Many of the popular varieties selected as Christmas trees can be used as a food supplement in limited quantities. The White pine, and Scotch pine are common along with the Fraser Fir, Douglas Fir and the Blue Spruce. With any edible, I never recommend over feeding. Illness can result just from the upset in the diet routine. Stick with the old adage of everything in moderation.

can goats eat christmas trees
photo credit Glen Miller

Can Goats Eat Christmas Trees and Receive Health Benefits?

Pine needles provide trace nutrients, antioxidants, minerals, and forage. Trees should not replace the normal forage, grain or other feed material. Pine is good for intestinal worm control and high vitamin C content. Some varieties contain higher amounts of Vitamin A, too. In addition, the activity of chowing down on a tasty novelty, interrupts the boring days of winter and eating only hay.
 
Not only can goats eat Christmas trees, but the chickens will enjoy either nibbling or playing with the pine needles and branches. The entire Christmas tree can provide a wind break in the chicken run, and an activity center for bored chickens. If you live in an area that doesn’t get very cold, the chickens will find insects among the tree branches too. 

What Problems Can Arise?

Pine needles can cause abortion in cattle, if eaten in varying quantities. Although cattle and sheep and goats are all ruminants, the absorption mechanisms in cattle seems to have more of a problem with pine. Problems seem to be documented with certain plants in the pine genus. Ponderosa Pine, Lodgepole Pine, and Monteray Pine have documented incidents of causing premature birth and abortions in cattle. The Yew is another member of this group that can be extremely toxic. Horses and ponies can colic from too much pine. 

can goats eat Christmas trees

What Amount of Pine is Safe?

Can goats eat Christmas trees if toxicity is a potential issue? one tree per small flock of ten to twelve animals isn’t enough to cause toxicity issues. Goats eating nothing but pine bark, branch tips, and needles, every day can lead to toxicity and abortion, along with other health risks. Cattle seem to be more susceptible to pine toxicity. What I have found concerning toxic plants is this. In truth, it’s like so many toxic plants on lists. They’d get full before they ever had any toxicity issues. Or they’d have to eat it for a long time period. If the toxic plant is the only choice, the ruminant or chicken will eat it. If there is plenty of other nutritious food available, the animal will not normally choose to eat the toxic plant. In short, a small amount of pine Christmas tree will add nutrients and not cause harm to your flock.

pine boughs
photo credit Glen Miller

 Can Goats Eat Christmas Trees from Sale Lots?

What about the toxicity of man-made products applied to Christmas trees. This is a topic that always comes up when talking about feeding fresh cut trees to livestock and poultry. Some large retailers still apply a fire retardant spray or a colorant to the trees. Ask your seller about this. This article shares that the fire retardant spray is a green color that can be seen on the trunk and some of the branches. The tree may appear to be a brighter green than you would expect. In any case, ask questions and inspect the tree carefully if you are planning to feed the tree to your farm animals.

pygora goat

 We try to avoid chemicals of most types when caring for our farm animals. I was surprised to read that this Virginia Cooperative Extension report suggests that the colorants and sprays are no more harmful than household chemicals! I sure wouldn’t feed my goats any of those household chemical cleaners either!
 
Check with your seller before assuming that a tree is all natural. If you buy your tree from a small independent lot, they should know where the trees came from and how they were prepared for sale. If you cannot be certain, don’t feed the tree to the goats, sheep and chickens.

Common Pine Varieties Used as Christmas Trees

White pine, scotch pine, Fraser fir, and other varieties commonly found on the tree lot can provide nutrients to your goat, sheep and chicken diets. Some varieties may be more desirable than others. Sheep tend to dislike the scotch pine needles due to the more prickly nature. Goats are not usually as tender in the mouth and may not discriminate as much as the sheep.  

After feeding the tree to the barnyard animals, the trunk and branches can be recycled further into wood chips. The wood chips can be added to the garden area, or the poultry run to cover muddy areas. Goats, Sheep and even the chickens, can help you recycle the Christmas tree and keep it from ending up in the landfill. There are healthy nutrients in the tree and feeding it to your barnyard animals is safe in occasional small doses. Pine needles are healthy for humans too. Try a pine needle tea for what ails you with a winter cold. For more ideas on recycling the fresh Christmas tree, look here.

For more goat care info including information on goats and Christmas trees, check with Feather and Scale Farm.

can goats eat Christmas trees




Build a Goat Sleeping Platform

goat sleeping platform

Building a goat sleeping platform was one of the simplest projects we have put together on the farm. The hardest part of the project was nagging  reminding my son to please pick up some pallets for me since he has the large truck with out a cap on it.

Each section of the goat sleeping platform goats, used two pallets. You can make your goat sleeping platform as large as you need to or what your barn space will allow. 

goats on the goat sleeping platform

Raising different species of livestock adds much to our lives. I love thinking up projects that will enrich the lives of our animals and keep them comfortable. It doesn’t have to be a fancy fix to add some comfort to the goats, sheep and pigs lives. They don’t get fancy around here, but they sure are kept comfortable! Lots of dry bedding is one of the care essentials. As I age, I feel aches and pains where there were none before. Animals experience this phenomenon of aging, too. 

Goats require good nutrition, safe, dry housing, and plenty of forage. Mostly, goats are easy keepers, as long as they have their needs met and any problems addressed promptly.

As often as possible, I like to use natural preventative care and natural remedies for my goats. Building these raised goat sleeping platforms fit right in with our preventative goals.

Why Build a Raised Goat Sleeping Platform?

Age is one consideration when thinking about building a goat sleeping platform for goats. Our flock of Pygora fiber goats are getting up in years now. Our first goats, that we purchased in 2004, are considered senior citizens! Goats can get sore joints as they age. Similar to large dogs in size, goats can get stiff, sore joints, and be stiff when they try to get up from resting. Giving goats a raised goat sleeping platform can help by keeping the joints warmer. Add a thick cushion of dry straw to make everything really comfortable.

Foot rot is another reason to build a goat sleeping platform. Anything you can do to keep the goat on dry ground, helps prevent an outbreak of foot scald which, with the right combination of bacteria, can lead to foot rot. Once foot rot is present in your barn or paddocks it will remain there. It waits for the right opportunity to flare up from a tiny sore area in between the goat hoof “toes”.

pygora goats

A third reason to build a goat sleeping platform is because goats like to climb! They will enjoy being up even a few inches off the ground. As long as the platforms you build are sturdy and stable, the goats will use this structure. 

Fiber goats will have a nicer fleece harvest, if the goat remains clean and dry throughout the winter. Sleeping off the damp ground helps keep the fiber in top shape.

In Case Of Emergency….

If your barn happens to get a minor flood from a heavy storm, having a platform already built, gives the goats somewhere to stand while they wait for you to “rescue” them. This happened to us one winter. We arrived to find the goats fighting for places that were anywhere above the few inches of water that had invaded the stalls. Building a few swales helped redirect the rain waters but the goats were very unhappy about the situation!

goat sleeping platform

What We Used for the Goat Sleeping Platforms

Two pallets per section. – I made a double platform for the stall with six goats. They can’t all sleep on it, comfortably but it keeps most of them off the ground. As we reconfigure the barn, arrangements will be made to have sleeping platform space for all the goats. 

Stack two pallets. Add pallet stacks as needed. Two sections of stacked pallets will require one sheet of plywood to cover the open slats. 

goat sleeping platform

Cover the pallet structure with the sheet of plywood. Use a nail or two in each end to keep it stable. 

goat sleeping platform

Cover the pallet goat sleeping platform with straw. The space underneath the platform will trap warmer air. Also cover the stall floor with a good layer of dry bedding and straw. Replace wet areas as needed to keep the flooring dry.

Let me know in the comments if you try this with your goats or have found another method. I would love to hear your feedback. 

goat sleeping platform

Look for this project and over 50 others in my next book- 50 Do It Yourself Projects for Keeping Goats (Skyhorse Publishing 2020)