Arctic temperatures blasted much of the United States on New Year’s Day, setting new record lows. Aberdeen, South Dakota, broke a 99-year-old record when the mercury dropped to -32 degrees Fahrenheit. When factoring in the wind chill, those of us in North Iowa faced similar conditions.
January 1, 2018, delivered the kind of weather that’s perfect for curling up in your favorite blanket and watching the Rose Bowl Parade on television. Instead of feasting on chips and queso with my family, I found myself in a pickle!
The water was frozen at Enchanted Acres when I attempted to do chores about 7:00 AM. I couldn’t get a drop from the hydrants or faucets. My son and I ended up hauling six, 5-gallon pails from our house to the barnyard. This was a short-term solution to meet our goats’ immediate needs, but we needed to find a fix. Our fix involved putting space heaters under each sink in our barn, as well as in the room that controls our well. Fortunately, five hours later we had thawed enough pipes that water was again running. Thank the Lord!
There was no way I wanted to haul as much as 30 gallons of water twice a day until the spring thaw. Goats won’t eat if they don’t have an adequate water supply, and feed consumption is essential to generate body heat.
“Energy to generate body heat comes from food or stored fat. If feeding levels are not increased during periods of cold weather, goats will burn body fat and lose weight,” according to an Extension publication. “Other livestock such as cattle and horses add layers of fat on their sides under their skin. These fat layers serve as body insulation in cold weather and as a source of stored energy. Goats, however, add fat to their internal organs before storing it under their skin. Therefore, goats are vulnerable to cold weather and require protection from wind. If cold weather continues and the goat’s stored fat is used up, signs of hypothermia will appear as animals become weak, stop eating, and become depressed.”
Humans can become depressed during severe weather, too. Humans also can become dehydrated during the winter months for two main reasons: (1) We tend to drink less when the days are shorter; and (2) We don’t realize how much water our body has lost since we’re not thirsty or sweaty. When the days are longer and the sun is stronger, we tend to cool off with a cold drink of water or a glass of lemonade. We also eat more water-rich foods like watermelons and strawberries during the winter months.