So, be sure to take a few minutes and walk through your property to see what might need attention. Items to take a look at include:
1. Are your chickens molting?
It seems odd that mother nature selects fall and early winter as the time for birds to molt, but that's when many do. If you aren't accustomed to seeing molting birds, you may walk out one morning and think your chicken may have been attacked by something or contracted some horrible disease. Although that's certainly possible, it might also be a case of molting.
Some birds will molt to the point that they almost go bald. Chickens may preen and fluff and send 7 or 8 large feathers to the ground. The key is to look for new quills to confirm molting. As long as new quills are forming, the bird will be fine, but you may want to supply the bird with extra protein in her diet. Extra worms and insects as well as a suet block will all be welcome.
2. Clean out gutters and drainage ditches and repair berms to help prevent land erosion.
Fall has the distinction of bringing leaves and other debris to accumulate in your gutters and drainage areas which can cause rain and melting snow to back up onto your roof and along your foundation. If water pools and refreezes, it can create dangerous ice dams that can cause structural damage to your buildings. Remember, water has a bad habit of expanding when it freezes.
If you are collecting rain water, you don't want to lose precious water to spill-over or run-off. Rain water is best used on your own land to seep into the ground for trees and grasses instead of rushing down the ditch to a nearby stream or river. However, if flooding begins, make sure ditches are clear so water can productively move off your property.
3. Make sure lights are working.
Make sure all your work areas will be well lit when and lights are aimed where you need them.In the long daylight hours of summertime, you may not notice or care that indoor or outdoor lights at the barn are no longer working or have burned out---until suddenly dusk comes early, and you find yourself fumbling in the dark to determine what is wrong.
Ensure solar panels are properly positioned to receive the maximum available sunlight during the winter months. Rats are fond of chewing through cables, so be sure to check lines and make sure they are in good working order. Be sure to check motion detectors to make sure they are positioned correctly and working properly.
4. Inspect your roofs.
Stand inside your barns, sheds, milking room and coops or other buildings you may have on a sunny day and look for defects that are allowing light to come through. Repair any problems you find or arrange to have the work done. Also look out for unintentional holes, cracks and rot in the walls, especially along the floor, which may allow rodents and other small creatures to get in.
Be sure roof lines and walls either have sufficient overhang or are secured with flashing to prevent rain from coming down between the cracks, wetting feed and floors and eventually rotting walls.
5. Adjust the airflow in animal shelters.
Too little ventilation means that airborne dust can accumulate quickly to unhealthy levels; too much airflow can mean bone-chilling drafts. Check how the air is moving in each stall with one of these two methods:
• Scuff your shoes in the footing, enough to kick up dust. After five minutes use a flashlight or other light source to check the air. If you can still see floating particles, the air is too stagnant.
• Hold a strip of toilet paper, about a foot or two long, at arm’s length at different places in the stall. You want to see it waving gently, to indicate a gentle breeze. If it’s either hanging motionless or flapping vigorously, the airflow is too low or too high. Open and close doors and windows until you reach the ideal amount of ventilation. Usually, a few open windows on the leeward side of the barn, sheltered from snow and rain, provide a healthy supply of fresh air.
6. Walk your fence lines.
Shake the posts as you go, looking for loose boards or wires, protruding nails or fasteners, leaning or other signs of developing weakness.
For wire fences, look for lose wires, broken electric fence insulators. If you use goat panels, make sure they are in a configuration that will serve you well into fall and that they are securely in the ground. Be sure to check gates to ensure they are sufficiently clear of the ground, open and close with ease and latches are in good working order. Carry a tool belt to make minor repairs as you go, as well as brightly colored tape to mark areas that will require more attention later.
7. Stockpile hay, feeds and necessary supplies.
It’s a good idea to have extras of all necessities on hand in case winter storms make deliveries or trips to the feed store impossible.
How much hay you’ll need to store depends on many factors, including how cold it’s projected to be and how long your goats can be turned out in pastures with forage, However, a good rule of thumb is to buy about 10 percent more than you think you’ll need.
Keep about two extra weeks’ worth of feeds and supplements on hand — just be sure to check expiration dates. You don’t want to buy more of a supplement than you can use before it expires.
Make sure your first aid kit has anything you might need in an emergency.
8. Mow and spread manure in your pastures.
Ideally it's best to use livestock to keep grass and weeds at bay, but inevitably there will be plants that need mowing.
Cutting weeds before they go to seed will help keep them under control next year, and especially if you’re taking your livestock off the grass for the winter. However, don’t mow to less than four inches---the grass still needs reserves to help the roots survive the cold months.
Spreading manure now will give it plenty of time to decompose. If you have too much manure, scoop up the excess and add it to your compost pile for composting.
9. Inspect, mulch, check irritation systems and and replace fruit trees.
All trees should have their bases freshly mulched to protect roots from colder temperatures and help keep moisture around the tree. Winter means reduced rainfall in some areas of the country and it's rainfall that protects tree roots from cold. Make sure trees will receive enough water, but that irrigation lines are sufficiently protected to prevent freezing.
If you have lost trees over the summer or have a tree that is no longer desirable, fall is an excellent time to replace trees. There is no need to feed them when they are first planted but remember to do so in the spring.
Be sure to prune at the appropriate times. Check out the Life Slice tree pruning calendar for more information.
10. Make sure animals have access to free choice supplements.
When animals use their body heat to help keep warm in the winter, they will require more feed with more calories and protein. Remember to keep free choice minerals on available to the animals at all times, as well as baking soda to aid with digestion.
It is likely that many of the does will go into heat during the fall and winter, so keep a close eye on them for when they will need to go to a buck if there is not one housed with the does.
Some does will already be fairly along in their pregnancy with some births occurring as early as December and other does are likely still being milked, so fall can be a very busy time in the goat barnyard. Be sure to have both kidding and milking supplies on hand if it is anticipated they will be needed in your barn as they can sometimes be challenging to find in the off-season.