Portable Cold-weather Goat Shelter Development and Testing

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $7,494.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Cherrie Nolden
1dr Acres Farm

Annual Reports


  • Nuts: walnuts
  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: goats


  • Animal Production: housing, animal protection and health, grazing management, grazing - rotational, stockpiled forages, winter forage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, agritourism
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, wildlife
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture, transitioning to organic
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships, community services, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    I will be developing and testing cold-weather portable goat shelters, testing goat preferences for variables of floor space, lighting level, and goat density. The results of this project could improve farm profitability and sustainability, expand goat production opportunities and help improve the environment.

    I sustainably produce and use goats for invasive vegetation control but, due to cold and wet weather, I cannot start them browsing until April, and typically have to bring them back to permanent shelter buildings by October in the southern part of Wisconsin. Goats are not hardy enough be outwintered in Wisconsin weather, and restoration browsing sites are not close enough to permanent shelters to efficiently keep goats in the brush during early spring and late fall.  Additionally, city-dwelling small-scale goat producers are limited in their production ability due to access to and expense of land with goat-suited permanent buildings, and they are hesitant to invest in permanent structures on rented land. This limits access to high-quality goat forage and increases production costs due to additional months of stored forage feeding, for me and other goat producers in the NCR. It also restricts the environmental improvement that goat browsers like me can provide through invasive vegetation management with goats.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    A solution to this problem would be development and testing of portable goat shelters that would increase farm profits, environmental improvements, and rural goat production by: 1) enabling extended goat browsing of invasive plants earlier into the spring and later into the winter, 2) facilitating goat production on rented land without permanent structural improvements, and 3) enabling goat producer investment in herd expansion through use of shelters that can be readily moved to new rented properties. Tested portable goat shelter designs are not available, so I would like to apply my skills and knowledge to design, build and test goat use of cold weather portable shelters.  

    I will test goat preference for opaque vs transparent portable shelter covers, and single vs double decks in the fall of 2014, and will test goat use of portable shelters at 1.5 and 2 times the Animal Welfare Approved standard of 16 square feet per adult goat in the fall of 2015.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.