And now for something a wee bit different.
Last winter (2012-2013) we had brought all the goats into a barn that we had converted from its original purpose as a 5-bay vehicle shed. By mid-winter we realized we had ventilation problems -- the building had been designed to house vehicles, not living, breathing, pooping and peeing animals, so it was difficult to get fresh air into it without opening the garage doors. On beautiful, sunny winter days, this was fine as long as it wasn't too cold, but otherwise -- which was most of the time -- this was impractical. Even with the doors open, air couldn't really move through the building because there was no way to vent the stale, inside air out. The trick is to keep fresh air moving through without a) creating drafts (which can be deadly) and b) without losing too much of the natural warmth in the barn created by all those goat bodies.
As we wrestled with this last winter, I devoured article after article that I found online about livestock housing ventilation. Of course, as I quickly discovered, the "modern" solution is to install expensive mechanical ventilation systems that rely on electricity to power fans pushing air into and pulling air out of livestock buildings.
But across New Hampshire and Vermont, we noticed all these old barns with cupolas on top of the roofs. That led me back to some of our books on traditional agricultural practices, and I was soon reading up on why and how the old-timers used cupolas to deal with this issue. I realized this was what we needed for the goat barn, but who knew how to build real, working cupolas any longer? Well, as it turned out, our neighbor Jim D. -- who has done other projects for us -- had built a couple of smaller, more ornamental style cupolas during his carpentry career. He offered to tackle this project. Drawing on what I had read, we worked out a ventilation plan for the barn with an old-fashioned cupola as the centerpiece.
Today -- on a warm and sunny January day, with the snow all melted again for the second time this winter! -- I took some photos of how we retrofitted the barn to fix the problem. The photo at the top of the post is a close-up of the cupola. Here is a more panoramic shot:
One of the problems in the goat barn was that it had a hay loft overhead with a solid wood floor. This prevented the air -- even with garage doors open -- from flowing up, so instead it just swirled around inside the goats' area below the hay loft. Even if we put a cupola on the roof, it wouldn't work unless we could create a natural flow of air. The main answer to this was some basic iron grates in the floor:
We also put much smaller air vents at the top of the exterior walls under the eaves, so air could constantly flow in without creating drafts on the animals:
We installed a dozen of these on the warmer, south side of the barn. This way, with the garage doors closed most of the time, there is still fresh air entering the barn.
Here's a view from the hay loft looking up into the cupola:
The cupola is four feet by four feet. Jim cut a hole in the roof, installed the solid-sided base, then set the rest of the cupola -- the louvered sides and roof -- on the base. The round device you see attached to the rafter is a fire detection sensor, which will set off an alarm in the house.
The goats were enjoying breakfast this morning when I took this photo:
The barn is facing south, and you can see how nice it is when we open those garage doors on warm winter days like today. There are two garage doors on the north side, too, which means in the summer we open both sets of doors and it's a wonderfully cool, airy barn on the hottest of days.
If you're wondering what's on top of those hay feeders ... <sigh>. Contrary to myth, goats are very picky eaters who like to sample a little of this and a little of that, and discard what doesn't interest them. Out on pasture and while browsing, this selectivity makes them excellent foragers because they always choose the highest-protein part of the plant ... and then move on. They apply this same selectivity to a bale of hay, however, and you can pretty soon end up with half the bale scattered across the floor. Even better for a goat is to stand up on the hay feeder and pull the hay straight out of the top, drop it on the ground, and sort through it there before going back for something else.
We finally blocked off the top of the feeders with some lightweight panels, which is what you see there.
In the other corner of the barn is the winter quarters for the Maremmas:
That's their "bale hut" in the background, with the green automatic waterer in the foreground. It's a double unit, with the one for the goats on the other side of the corral panels. Wonderful friends and supporters, Shirley and James from Portland, Oregon, came out this fall to help with some projects, which included reconfiguring the barn for the winter. James built the A-frames to keep little goat poop pellets from getting in the waterers. (That is the problem with automatic waterers -- sooner or later an animal will back right up to it and unload. Ick. Goats also look at an automatic waterer as a convenient and fun platform for jumping and frolicking.)
Oh ... and if the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, so is the hay bale:
I put the Maremmas outside this morning for exercise, which is why they aren't in the photos.
Melody says, "Got anything else for me to eat today?":
Final bonus photo -- what a beautiful day!
(Click on photos for larger images.)
2014 Shelter Challenge Underway
The first round of the Shelter Challenge for 2014 is underway and runs until March 30th. You can vote every day here. To search for us, type in our name, Rolling Dog Farm, and Lancaster, NH 03584. We've won thousands of dollars in the previous contests, so your daily votes do bring in serious money for our disabled animals!
Please note that I cannot help with technical or voting problems. I also do not have an "inside track" to anyone at the Shelter Challenge, and I don't know any more about the contest than anyone else does. So if you find yourself having issues, please consult their FAQ page here and their Rules page, which is a pop-up you can find linked on this page.
Thanks for your votes!