Goat Nutrition

                                                  ~What Goats Eat~

Besides the rose bushes in moms flower bed.... (lol) what do goats eat? 

Goats need good nutrition to thrive. In this article I am going to tell you exactly what I feed my goats on a daily basis and how I go about keeping them healthy.

Disclaimer: I am in no way a vet, but rather a farm girl. If your goat is not gaining weight or has other health/diet issues I recommend you see a veterinary. This is just what I feed my goats and how I combat some of the basic nutritional needs of our own goats. :)

1. Pasture/ Browsing 

Goats are known for their ability to brows. They are wonderful for clearing land, eating brush, shrubs, weeds and other forage. If you need land cleared, goats would definitely be a great option. Another great thing about having pasture for your goats is being able to rotate pasture! Fence off a small section at a time and rotate to new grass every few days or so. This really has a lot of benefits, such as the goats having a less chance of getting parasites so quickly and much less money spent on hay and even grain! Rotating will also keep your land from dry lotting so quickly or at all (at least in the spring/summer months when grass is continually growing).

2. Hay! What if I don't have pasture?

If pasture is not available hay will be a huge part of your goats diet. There are many different types of grass hays. Where we live, Bermuda Hay and Prairie hay are readily available. Our goats tend to like Prairie hay the best and I believe this is do to being goats being browsers. They love all the different varieties of grasses, within the Prairie Hay. However Burmuda, Timothy and Alfalfa hays will have better nutritional value. If your goat is not on pasture, I recommend giving your goat 24/7 access to hay. Continual grazing is better for a goats digestive system. Usually one fleck of hay will last a goat a day or so, so it will last a while, depending on how many goats you have. I find the key is in how you feed it. Putting your hay in a hay feeder will help there to be less waste. You can make an easy DIY hay feeder from some wire fencing. I used wire fence, with chicken wire on the bottom. There is virtually no hay waste and it's so nice to be able to monitor how much they are eating.

3. Grain

Grain can help give them the extra nutrition they need, that may be lacking in their hay. 
There are different types of grains, being Whole grains and Textured grains, etc. For example whole grains such as oats and corn and Textured grain such as sweet feed.
*Oats are a very good whole grain to feed goats. They are easily digested and feeding them along with Alfalfa Pellets will help dairy goats bring in milk.
*Corn: Corn is not safe to feed goats, as it can cause bloat and bloat is dangerous. If you do feed corn, only feed in small amounts and cracked corn is suggested.
*Goats can survive without grain. Personally however, I like to supplement my goats with some grain, seeds and other types of forage, to give them a good healthful boost, especially because they are milking. 

4. Supplement Feeding

*Alfalfa Pellets are great for milk goats. I will usually feed Alfalfa Pellets the night before I milk and in the morning when they are on the milk stand. You do not have to soak the pellets before feeding and this is great because goats don't care for soggy food.
 The alfalfa will help milk production and is the only hay with enough protein to meet the needs of a lactating doe, along with the added energy and calcium, it's a perfect supplement for a dairy goats needs. I feed my milking does about a cup of pellets 2 x a day.

*BOSS "Black Oil Sunflower Seeds" contain vitamin E, Zinc, Iron, and selenium, and also add fiber and fat to the diet. BOSS will make a goats coat shinier and increase the butterfat in their milk.
It's a great way to add more healthy calories. You can feed the shell and all! Just buy regular sunflower seeds (the kind for birds, etc). You can mix the seeds in their daily ration of feed. I usually mix in a 1/2 cup.

5. Minerals

It is also important to give your goats a free choice mineral. This way they can eat what they need, when they need it and they will know exactly when that is! I feed a Goat Mineral (for all life stages) from Purina and usually pick it up at our local Tractor Supply. One bag lasts quite a while!

6. Diatomaceous Earth

I also feed Diatomaceous Earth (DE) either once in a while or everyday over a period of weeks when the parasite levels are high, usually in the fall and spring. DE is said to help kill worms. I definitely think it helps keep the worm level down. For 5 to 7 goats, I will mix in about 3 scoops (approx 1 cup) in with their feed once a day. Make sure you've got some molasses or sprinkle a little water when mixing it in their grain and wear a dust mask as it is not good to breath (follow directions on bag for further directions and cautions). I love DE as well for keeping the goat pen from having too many parasites. I will just sprinkle it around in their shelter and paddock when I feel it needs it.

7. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

I love Apple Cider Vinegar for so many reasons! It has amazing health benefits. For goats the benefits range from:
*Greater milk production
*Reduced Mastitis 
*Improved Hair Coat
*Increased Doe Kids of supplemented dams
*Decreased urinary calculi in bucks
I think it also just helps with overall health and digestion as well, much like it does with humans. I just mix it in their feed along with the DE. You would think they would be picky about the smell and taste, but I have no problem with my goats eating every bit of their grain with the ACV on it. 
To feed mix 1/4 cup with 1 gallon of water and then just poor about 1/4 cup per goat a feeding. Store in the fridge.

8. Water

Water is the #1 most important thing in your goats diet. Make sure your goat has unlimited fresh clean drinking water available at all times. 

9. Treats

In the summer, when our apple trees are loaded down with leaves and fruit, our goats absolutely LOVE a good snack. So I cut some branches (Which helps keep the trees pruned anyway) and feed them to the goats. Goats are browsers, so they love leaves and things. They can also eat the apples (I just wouldn't feed them a whole lot at a time, everything in moderation.) Goats can also have several other types of bushes, shrubs and leaves.


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