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Does this udder make me look fat? – Putting weight on your dairy goats

Does this udder make me look fat? – Putting weight on your dairy goats

Would you believe me if I said that the first rule to putting weight on a goat does not involve grain? You will probably think I am really crazy if I said that grain isn’t even in the second rule, either. A common question that many goat owners have is how to put weight on their goats and keep their conditioning optimal. In my previous article I talked about how to tell the body condition of your goat. In this article I will talk about how to change their body condition to the optimal range. I will talk of putting weight on a goat, since that is the most common issue.


The first rule to putting weight on a goat is to address anything that is harming their ability to absorb and utilize the calories and nutrition in the food they are eating. This mainly comes in the form of parasite management. Internal and external parasites live by stealing nutrients and calories from goats. Some, like tapeworms, steal directly by absorbing food from the intestines before the goats can. Other parasites steal indirectly by sucking blood from the goat, either internally or externally, and using that as a food source.


Proper parasite management includes rotating grazing areas, keeping resting and eating areas free of manure, doing consistent and continuous monitoring with external and internal parasite checks, and appropriate use of deworming medications. Rotational grazing with other species of livestock and herbal deworming blends can also be added to your parasite management regime.


There are two major diseases that goats can get which will affect their weight. Johne’s Disease (also called Paratuberculosis) is a bacterial infection that causes thickening of the intestinal lining. The goat will lose weight and starve to death even though it is eating voraciously. Suspected cases of Johne’s should be examined by a veterinarian. Fecal samples and blood samples can help make a definitive diagnosis. Johne’s is highly contagious to all ruminants. There is no treatment, cure or vaccine for it.


The other disease that may cause weight loss is Caseous Lymphadentitis (commonly called “CL”). This bacterial disease can cause large internal and external abscesses. Most abscesses are located in the lymph node regions of the goat but internal abscesses can form in the digestive system. These internal abscesses can interfere with nutrient absorption. Caseous Lymphadentitis is highly contagious when uninfected goats come in contact with pus from a burst abscess. Any goats with suspicious abscesses or unexplained weight loss should be tested for CL. The pus from an abscess can be cultured by a veterinarian for diagnosis. There is also a blood test available. CL is not treatable.


Once the issues with parasite management and diseases are addressed, you can move on to rule number two. The second rule to putting weight on a goat is proper mineral supplementation. Goats need an extraordinary amount of supplemental minerals compared to other livestock. Hay, pasture, and grain do not have the adequate mineral content to support a goat’s needs. Don’t assume you can plop a goat in a pasture with a salt lick and all of the nutritional demands are being addressed.


The best way to supplement a goat’s mineral needs is to offer them a good quality loose mineral blend that is designed specifically for goats. Minerals labeled for other species or “all stock” loose minerals are not going to contain enough of the right amount of things goats need. Beware of mineral blocks and salt licks because they use salt as a binding agent to make them hard, and thus are too salty for goats to get the right balance of minerals from. Depending on your area and the minerals found naturally in the soil, you should compare brands of loose minerals in order to find the right blend to match what your goats need.


You may need to supplement your goats with some minerals extra, even with free access to loose minerals. In my area, upstate New York, the soil is very copper and selenium deficient. Along with my goats’ free choice loose mineral blend, I choose to supplement my goats specifically with copper and selenium in order to keep them healthy.


Finally, the third rule to putting weight on a goat is what you feed it. Goats require some form of fibrous material to eat every day. Their rumens are designed to digest long-stem fibrous material like grass, hay, brush and weeds. Lack of fiber in the rumen can cause upsets in the stomach and make a goat very sick. Keeping your goat full of fiber is a good way to keep them healthy. Good quality hay, green pastures with lots of grazing area, and forage supplements like haylage, fodder or cover crops are ideal sources of fiber. Fiber is the groundwork for good nutrition in a goat.


Now, let’s talk about grain. As you have probably figured out, I am not a big fan of grain. I use it sparingly in my herd because I like to compare grain for goats to donuts for people. Donuts are great for putting weight on but they are not a well-rounded diet! Balance is the key to feeding grain to goats. I firmly believe in the power of the calcium to phosphorus ratio when creating a diet for goats. Goats need a 2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio in their daily diet in order to be optimally healthy. Things that goats normally eat like grass, non-alfalfa hay, and all cereal grains (wheat, barley, corn, and oats) are high in phosphorus. Alfalfa is high in calcium. Thus it is important to make sure that your goats are getting some form of alfalfa in their daily diet. All goats need calcium, even wethers and non-lactating females and should be fed alfalfa. There are several commercially available forms of alfalfa, including alfalfa pellets, alfalfa hay, and alfalfa silage. I prefer to use alfalfa silage in my herd because it not only provides the necessary calcium but provides some fiber content as well.


By addressing parasite and disease problems, providing loose minerals, feeding high quality fiber, and adding alfalfa to the diet, you can put weight on your goats and make them look sleek and shiny!


Rose has been raising goats near Vermontville, New York, for 10 years. She has raised dairy goats, meat goats, and fiber goats. Over the years, she has learned a lot of information and tips for raising happy and healthy goats. Rose loves to share the information she has learned to help goat owners and aspiring goat owners to take good care of their animals. Goats are intelligent, resourceful, funny, useful animals that have unique needs when compared to other farm livestock.
In 2011, Rose stared the Adirondack Goat Club to bring together goat owners and enthusiasts all over the area. The mission of the club is to create a network of people who can rely on each other for help with their goats, for the sharing of information and equipment, and for the sale and trade of quality animals.
Rose lives on her farm with her husband and 3 year-old daughter. Currently the animal count is up to three Alpine dairy goats, one Saanen dairy goat, two Boer meat goats, one Angora fiber goat, 28 chickens, one rabbit, one barn cat, and two dogs. The extra milk on the farm goes into goat milk soap that Rose sells locally.
Contact Rose Bartiss at or follow her blog at Her soap can be found on Facebook at Rose’s Goats.

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