Goat Nutrition and Feeding
Feeding your goats can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it. Basically your goal is to promote good health and maximum production, while staying within a reasonable budget. Goats are pretty accommodating and will thrive on any number of different diets as long as their nutritional needs are met through two primary sources. Roughage (fiber) is provided through the hay, browse and pasture. Concentrates in the form of grain ration comprise the other half of the nutritional picture. Our experience on the subject of goat nutrition is very fundamental.
How much hay and grain is appropriate?
Although the amount varies from animal to animal depending on breed, gender, size , life stage (lactating or dry), age, etc. as well as the quality of the feed itself, there are some general guidelines. Both hay and grain offerings should be finished up in about 20 minutes. Remove any excess after the allotted time. Around five pounds of high quality hay daily should be sufficient per animal. Usually the grain ration is regulated by production when feeding milking does. The general rule for the grain ration of milking does is to feed one pound per day “for the doe” and an additional pound per day for each quart of milk she produces.
What kind of roughage?
Alfalfa is probably the most popular but if other types of roughage are more readily available and comparable in quality by all means use what works best for you. Mixed grasses, clover and cereal grain plants are excellent alternatives. Of course any vegetation harvested while plants are young makes the best feed and all hay should be closely monitored for freshness. Watch for mold or contamination by rodents, cats or bird droppings. During the growing season your garden can be an excellent source of roughage. Plants that are no longer producing, carrot tops, any veggies such as melons, pumpkins, squash, greens and carrots that are in over abundance make great roughage. Just be sure they are fresh and clean.
What kind of grain ration?
The variety of grains is just about unending. Commercial goat ration may be the easiest and best for you or you can mix your own combination using the grains most available and economical in your local. These include sunflower seed, cotton seed, soybeans (heat treated for digestion in goats) and beet pulp. Once again, no mold or contamination please. Be sure to smell any new grain ration to be sure it is wholesome and fresh. Commercial grain mixes for dairy cows won’t work if they contain urea. Check out the label. Urea is a synthetic protein that is inaccessible and toxic to goats.
Are supplements necessary?
Free choice loose minerals that are formulated just for goats are perfect for providing all necessary trace minerals, salt and vitamins for strong bones and teeth and promote general good health. A ratio of two parts calcium to one part phosphorus is best. Kelp is high in iodine as well as other minerals and fiber. It can be offered free choice or a small amount may be added to the grain every day. Rumen Buffered Bicarbonate of Soda is of great benefit in maintaining pH balance in the rumen for good digestion. It can be offered free choice. Mineral mix for sheep should not be given to goats because it does not contain enough copper. Salt and mineral blocks don’t work very well for goats simply because they can’t get a sufficient amount to meet their nutritional needs.
Water Water Water
An abundant supply of fresh, clean, pure water is absolutely essential. If the water in your area does not taste good you might try adding a flavoring (our goats enjoy a little bit of Kool Aid) to encourage water consumption. Warm water is appreciated in cold weather.
Is there any particular order or timing for feeding?
Start the morning out with a light portion of their daily hay ration. Their rumen is fairly empty and this will get things started. Next comes half the daily grain allotment. By feeding the hay first you avoid acidosis. Goats enjoy smaller, more frequent feedings so some hay at midday is nice, too. Grain ration should not be fed alone.
It’s okay to try new things. Good goat ration should be derived from at least three or more different sources. Oats, barley, wheat, milo and corn are all great in combination. Not too much corn, a little goes a long way. Feed what’s plentiful for your locale and most of all, enjoy your goats!