December 10, 2008

On Owning Goats - Feeding

We believe feeding should be kept as simple as possible. Fancy Feeding (top dressing or adding unnecessary additives like beet pulp, soy or cottonseed meals, powdered additives like calf manna etc.) we feel is not necessary.

Goats require/need good quality hay and/or browse. In addition to their browsing, we feed Alfalfa Orchard Grass hay mix. Hay is a source of energy; energy is what fuels the body. Any good quality horse hay will work if Alfalfa is not available or not affordable to your budget. Desirable roughage/types of hay are Alfalfa, timothy, brome, orchard grass, sudangrass, canary and clover. Two thirds of the protein from hay is found in the leaves. Alfalfa, orchard grass, timothy and brome are leafy hays readily available to us.

Many will say that Alfalfa is too rich for their systems. We disagree. Alfalfa is chocked full of the necessary nutrients for our goats to produce milk and fiber.

Note - We do not feed fescue hay, fescue is known to create kidding problems and low milk production.
Note-During summer months we cut back on feeding hay when pasture is plentiful. In winter, hay is available 24/7.
Note - Never feed moldy hay.

They have fresh water 24/7.

We set out loose goat minerals, baking soda (for upset rumens), Sweet Lix mineral tub licks and salt blocks. Our goats seem to enjoy having a variety to choose from and know what they are missing from their diets. If you observe their eating habits, you will see some will choose only the salt lick, some will only nibble the minerals, some will devour the Sweet Lix tub.
The loose minerals and baking soda are more important than the Sweet Lix or salt blocks if cost is a factor. The loose minerals usually have salt as a main base ingredient where the Sweet Lix has the same minerals as the loose just offered in a different form.

We do not top dress their feed with vitamins supplements. A goat should get all they require in their normal diet (most feeds will have vitamins added) and a few vitamins are manufactured in their bodies. Microorganisms in a healthy rumen manufacture K and B vitamins. It is when their rumen is not functioning properly that you need to add B vitamins (Thiamine). Consuming large doses of some vitamins and minerals can also be dangerous and toxic.

With our having a small herd we chose to feed a bagged pellet non-medicated goat feed (14% protein) from a local grain mill/feed store instead of mixing our own. We prefer not to feed a sweet, molasses coated, whole grain formula. In our experience sweet feeds as well as feeds containing whole or cracked corn leads to overeating, which can cause Enterotoxemia. Our goats would also sift through the sweet feed picking out the corn and other sweets leaving all that was good for them in the feeder. Pellets eliminate the waste.

We feed their ration once a day (in the mornings). Feeding in the morning is a preventative to their going out on lush browse and developing frothy bloat, scours or overeating. All but the dairy does are fed in V-shaped trough feeders (bowls work fine too). We do not believe in feeding off the ground. When eating off of the ground the goats can and will pick up any nasty’s in the soil (worms, bacteria, etc.)

For a dairy goat to produce an adequate milk supply she needs energy, protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamins and clean, fresh water. Our dairy girls receive the same feed as mentioned above plus are supplemented with a free choice feeder of Alfalfa pellets. We definitely see milk production directly related to the amount of Alfalfa in their diet. The dairy girls are fed on the milk stand, twice a day. I milk twice a day, roughly 12 hours a part, by hand. They eat while I milk.

I do know some that milk once a day due to their work schedule and other obligations off the farm. Most important would be to establish a routine (whether once or twice a day) and stick to it.

For the lactating does we do not milk, the Alfalfa hay provides the necessary nutrients to produce adequate milk to nurse their offspring.

For our bucks and wethers we mix whole oats in with the pellet goat feed. Crimped rolled oats are preferred, though in our area crimped rolled oats only come coated in molasses. Again we don’t like the molasses coated feedstuff so we mix whole oats with the feed for a bit of bulk and fiber in their diets to avoid UC (urinary calculi). Oats also have the highest carbohydrate content of the cereals and supply a high content of energy and heat.

Note - Oats are added to all goats feed in winter.
Note – Hay and browse alone is enough to sustain them in warm weather, when it is COLD, it takes a lot of calories for them to stay warm.

How much do we feed?
For a non-productive or non-working adult goat a maximum of 1 pound per day for body maintenance, actually a cup or two usually will be enough for bucks, wethers and non-lactating or open (not bred) goats.
For dairy does (milkers) 1 pound of grain for each 3 pounds of milk produced is a rule of thumb. A gallon of milk weighs 8.59 lbs so if your milker gives you a gallon of milk a day you would feed her 2.5 to 3 lbs of feed per day. Divide that by the number of times you milk a day, you would be feeding 1.5 lbs of ration each time you milk.
If the goat is a growing yearling, an Angora or pregnant or nursing, we feed 1.5 to 2 lbs. each. (each of these animals are supporting a growing body, producing fiber, kids or milk)

Read Your Feed Tag
Urea is not recommended by any means.
Never feed medicated feeds to your milk goats.
To avoid problems with urinary calculi, your feed mixture should be at least 2 or 3 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus.
The tag will advise how much to feed.

We only have full size goats, Pygmy or ND breeds will require lesser amounts.

In a nutshell -
Have good hay and water available to your goat 24/7
Feed them a little bit of good goat ration mixed with a bit of oats every day
Make sure they have loose goat minerals and baking soda


Joanna said...

Thank you again JK, I printed this so Mike and I can study it. Really appreciate your well written thoughts on the care of goats. :-)

DayPhoto said...

You have posted a really great post. Do you have any ideas on chickens? I'm trying to move away from harsh chemicals for pest control and worms, but I am not sure what to use.


Shiloh Prairie Farm said...

Good post! I am on the look out for some reasonably priced alfalfa for our dairy girls in the spring. Actually we only have one full dairy goat now. (I would like to add a couple more Nubians though.) But I milked one of our Nubian/Boer crosses last year and she actually did quite well. :) I am sure she would produce even more milk if I had some more alfalfa for her in the spring. (We typically feed prairie because the meat goats do fine on it and it is what we have available from our own farm.)