Do Goats Need Shade?

When rearing livestock, there are a lot of factors to be considered, which include feeding, shelter and the general health of the livestock. Furthermore, the general health of your livestock is also affected by several factors as well, which usually includes their feed, environment and the weather.

For most ruminant livestock, the weather has far more effect on their health than most owners or farmers care to acknowledge.

So do goats need shade? Yes, of course, goats need shade. Extreme heat is a stressful situation for everyone, including humans, so why then wouldn’t it be an issue for livestock.

The only thing is that some livestock tolerates heat better than others, so goats and sheep are affected less by heat than cattle.

For example, goats are extremely allergic to cold, as cattle are similarly not too good with heat, hence, when exposed to such weather conditions their instinct is to find an out, otherwise, it would be detrimental to their health.

As such, one would expect most goat owners to put this into practice and safeguard their goat pets from such detrimental conditions, but as we’ve stated above, most are usually unaware.

This is the main factor that causes many pastures – full of grazing livestock – in severe heat, often results in death cases.

So, before letting your goats outdoors, you should check if the conditions are appropriate for livestock.

If it is hot outside, be sure that there is a shelter where your goats can find shade and get away from the direct sunlight. You’ll notice that they spend most of their time in those shelters at all times of the day.

Goats in Extreme Heat

For goats, during periods of extreme heat, they still get affected by heat stress and this affects their performance by diminishing dry matter intake while increasing the need for water.

The effect of heat stress goes on to directly impact weight gain and milk production in goats.

As with all livestock, extreme heat is tough for goats to deal with.

If you are planning to take your herd out during the day, make sure that they have shady trees or some sort of barns where they can retreat into when things get too hot

The shelter doesn’t need to be an enclosed building; it can be a sheltered area, protecting them from the direct heat of the sun

Goats need to have sufficient access to food and water, every day. If it is hot, or if they are recovering from illness, or after having kids – their nutritional requirements increase greatly.

With that said, the question to be asked is “Are your goats cool enough in their immediate environment?”.

The answer to this question then determines the need for shade, be it a natural shade or otherwise. There’s also something else to understand before getting there, and that is the signs of heat stress in goats.

Some of the signs to look out for are:

  • A goat that is very hot to touch, or whose temperature is running high
  • Heavy panting in an attempt to cool down. Make sure you take note whether it’s just heavy breathing or using tongue excessively while doing so, if it’s the latter, consider taking your goat to a veterinarian.
  • A goat that is lying down, with its legs stretched out as opposed to being on its feet or sitting upright
  • The color of their gums, tongue and the whites of their eyes are not bright red but more pale in color
  • Inability to stand up properly
  • There may be some drooling, whichin most cases is in various degrees of severity.

Goat Diseases in Extreme Heat conditions

The combination of heat and humidity can lead to the proliferation of parasites, which leads to problems like Summer Sores.

This disease starts off as a painful ulcer, though gradually it becomes a hole on their body, almost as if they’re disintegrating

It is caused by flies laying their eggs in open wounds and other moist areas

Also, as with all livestock at times like this, diseases like Pasteurella and the likes of Coccidiosis start to show up.

The condition can be worsened if there is a lack of good nutrition for your goats.

When you are thinking of taking your herd out, take note that the heat stress doesn’t only affect the extreme conditions alone, it also affects other diseases in various degrees of severity

If you notice your goat is sluggish or lethargic when standing up to eat or drink water, there is a possibility they are suffering from heat stress.

If you notice any of the signs listed above, make sure to get your goat indoors and in its cool area ASAP.

You can’t do much else except sit back and wait until the weather gets better for them. The best approach is to keep an eye on them until they get through that phase, sometimes it takes hours or even days.

Understanding Heat Stress

As aforestated, goats are far less susceptible to heat than other ruminant animals like cattle, and the reason for this is the numerous factors that contribute to whether a goat will experience heat stress or not.

These factors include the temperature, humidity, solar radiation, wind speed and even the goat’s breed.

On a side note, although it sounds strange and relatively untrue, the reality is that the breed of the goat does affect its response to heat.

For example, Angora goats have a reduced ability to respond to heat stress, which is in contrast with other goat breeds. Apart from the breed factor, the more important factors to consider are temperature and humidity.

For goats, there’s isn’t a  defined temperature comfort zone like that of a sheep, however, it is generally accepted that they are more suitable in hot conditions than sheep. Hence, their temperature comfort zone would be slightly higher than the defined measure for sheep.

Nonetheless, the temperature is only a part of the full picture when it comes to heat stress in goats. This is because humidity has a huge impact on whether most animals will feel cool or experience heat stress.

Consequently, what does matter is the combination of both temperature and humidity, which gives us the Temperature Humidity Index(THI).

The THI is the best option for measuring the heat stress levels in goats.

Another way to determine heat stress in goats is via the symptoms, which mainly include open-mouth pants, sweating, increases in respiration rates and rectal temperature.

In most cases, those main symptoms can result in certain effects of the goat’s biological function, such as affecting water and protein balance, depressed feed intake and an overall performance reduction.

As you’d expect the solution to this is simply the prevention and alleviation of heat stress, and a simple way to do so is by providing shade.

Goat Shade as a Solution

As it goes, to be well equipped and prepared for the scorching sun is very important.

There are various aspects of goat farming where you need to consider implementing shade in your barn, among these include: housing and yard, shelters and equipment and also transportation.

Although there’s little scientific data about how much shade goats need, it is clear that their optimal shaded area should be around 20 – 30% of their dry and clean floor space.

The thing to keep in mind is to not overdo it with the shade because there’s a chance you end up restricting their access to other parts of the barn which could lead to other problems.

It is also in the best interest of the goat if you don’t cover more than 70% of their floor space in shaded areas, this is because it will give them access to dry dirt which they might need especially when there’s a lot of rainfall.

Providing Shade For Goats

Providing shade for goats is the proper thing to do in periods of extreme heat like summer, as it will help to prevent and reduce the effects of heat stress.

For this purpose, the minimum amount of shade can be around 40 to 50 Square feet, but it ultimately depends on how big the herd is, as well as if there’s already adequate natural shade.

Most farms or pastures already have natural shade via trees and such, and often it can be enough to protect your livestock, as they would instantly get there if the heat is too much.

On the flip side, the natural shade available may not be enough, and in such a situation, constructing shade structures is ideal. You can opt for a combination of both natural and artificial shade, but it is important to note that the bigger the herd and yard space, the more shaded areas you’ll need.

These shade structures can either be permanently placed or made portable, depending on how the farm is structured and the choice of the farmer.

The benefit of a permanent shade structure is that it doesn’t require any maintenance and can be your long-term solution

On the other hand, if you move around a lot from one place to another, having portable shades might be more suitable for your situation.

Final Thoughts

The idea that goats don’t need shade because they can handle the heat a bit better than their ruminant peers is a bit of a hard sell. Because of this, it is a good idea to make sure your goats have access to shade if you live in high-temperature areas.

Having an awareness of the signs and symptoms of heat stress can help greatly as well, because it will give you the opportunity to provide shade before any issues arise

In addition, providing adequate water and feed as well as ensuring proper ventilation can help to make your goats feel comfortable and at ease

This is especially true when you consider the adverse effects heat stress can have on a goat’s overall performance.

Therefore, ensuring access to shade, as well as water, during extra hot days would go a long way.