Feed is the largest cost associated with raising goats. It can affect herd reproduction, milk production and kid growth. Late gestation and lactation are critical periods for doe nutrition. Nutrition level determines kids growth rates. Goats not receiving adequate nutrition are more prone to disease and will fail to reach their full potential.
Goats require energy, protein, vitamins, fiber and water. Energy is the most limiting nutrient, while protein is the most expensive. Imbalances of vitamins and minerals can limit animal performance and lead to various health problems. Fiber maintains a healthy rumen enviroment and prevents digestive disturbances. Inadequate water intake can cause various health problems.
WATER - Water is the cheapest feed ingredient and often the most neglected. Goats should have free access to clean fresh water at all times. It is critical that they have an adequate supply of water in the Winter months. A mature goat will consume between 3/4 to 1 1/2 gallons of water per day.
PASTURE AND BROWSE- Pasture and browse are the most economical source of nutrients for goats. Pasture tends to be high in energy and protein in its vegetative state. As the pasture plants mature the palatability and digestibility decline, making it important to rotate pastures to keep plants in a vegetative state. Some of the best pastures for goats are Bahiagrass, millet, sorghum, sudan grass and a mixture of a grain, grass and clover. During the early part of grazing season, browse tends to be higher in protein than ordinary pasture. Goats are natural browsers and select plants at their most nutritious state. Goats that browse have less problems with internal parasites.
HAY- Hay is the primary source of nutrients for goats during the winter months. Hay varies in quality and the only way to know the nutritional content is to have it analyzed by a forage testing laboratory. Legume hays- alfalfa, clover, lespedeza- tend to be higher in protein; this also depends on which cutting it is.
Briers and such - Goats love eating multifloral rose bushes, green briers, poison ivy and just about every type of unwanted brush located on your property. Many herds are used specifally to "clean" up overgrown property, which can be more economical than hiring people to do the job.
VITAMINS AND MINERALS- Many mierals are required by goats. The most important are salt, calcium and phosphorus. Vitamins are needed in small amounts. Goats require vitamins A, D, and E. Offer a pre-mix of loose minerals free choice; goats will consume more if loose is available.
GRAIN- It is often necessary to feed grains when forage alone cannot provide enough nutrients. CREEP FEEDING and supplemental feeding of kids does increase growth weight, but should only be done to the extent that increases profits. There are two types of feed- carbon and protein. Carbon or 'energy' feeds include cereal grains- corn, barley, wheat, oats, milo, and rye- various by products feeds such as fat, soybean hulls and wheat middlings. Protein supplements may be of animal or plant origin and include soybean meal, cottonseed meal and fish meal. 14% CP to 16% CP will usually fill the nutritional requirement for various classes of goats.
Nutritional content of various feeds commonly fed to goats.
Mature pasture 8% CP
Clover pasture 25% CP
Orchard grass pasture 18% CP
Browse 16% CP
Soybean meal 44% CP
Complete pellets 12% CP
Barley grain 13.5% CP
Corn grain 10% CP
Poor hay 8% CP
Mixed hay 15% CP
Legume hay 18% CP
Goat feeding programs should take into account animal requirements, feed availability and costs.
1. Wilted cherry, peach and plum leaves