Tuesday, October 25, 2011

31/21 - Feeding Article


Whether you are a novice goat owner to an experienced rancher, it seems there are always the constant questions about what and how much to feed. After many, many changes over the years with our herd, figuring out what works best and what doesn't, I think we have finally narrowed things down for our herd. But as always, one thing is not going to work for everyone. Depending on what part of the country you are in, whether you are dry-lot feeding or pasture raising your goats, management and feeding issues are going to vary.

Goats have many nutritional requirements and are one of the harder to keep livestock, at times. Milking does and growing kids need calcium. The most common source of calcium for goats is good Alfalfa hay or pellets.
Remember when you are feeding goats, you are feeding the rumen. The goats rumen is a very complex system, and requires lots of nutrients from hay, pasture and browse. Goats are browsers, which means they eat lots of forage and cannot do well just off of a pelleted or grain based diet. Turned out in a lot with forest and grass pasture, typically the goats will go to the forest first and eat the leaves, bark and various things first before going to eat the grass. Whereas sheep on the otherhand, will not typically eat the leaves and bark like goats do, they'll go straight for the grass (which has earned them many nicknames, but this book isn't about sheep).

What we have been feeding our herd for years now, is this.

Milkers get Alfalfa or Alfalfa/Orchard grass hay twice a day. After the morning feeding, during the pasture months, they will go out and browse all day long. During the winter months, they get fed more hay. On the milk stand, each milker gets between 1 to 1.5 pounds of grain each milkling. So a doe, depending on production and size,will get a total of 2 to 3 pounds of grain a day. We feed a 14% protein grain, with 3-4% fat.

Kids get fed grain once a day and then are given lots of alfalfa or alfalfa/orchard grass hay. It is best for kids to have free-feed hay. I am not a big grain fan, so if the kids are growing well and don't seem to be lacking, they will not get any grain at all, only hay and milk. If you are bottle raising your kids, the longer you can keep them on the milk bottle, the better. They get a much better start in life this way. Our kids are typically bottle fed until 5 months of age.

Dry does and bucks get pasture all day (when it's there), and alfalfa or alfalfa/orchard grass at least once a day. If the pasture is not good, they get fed hay once in the morning and once in the evening.

If there is any animal that is thin for some reason, first start out with trying to figure out why they are thin. Worms, mineral deficiency, etc. Once you have that taken care of, you can give them Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, Rice Bran, Soybean Meal or Calf Manna as these are all very high in fat and protein.