What do goats eat? What should you feed your goats so they have the best nutrition? Find the answer to goat feed below in our Homesteading Handbook:
What Do Goat's Eat?
By now, you should no longer believe in the myth that goats will eat anything – let alone the tin cans. They likely got the unfitting reputation because they are the type that various vegetation that most farm animals do not go near. It is nothing too scary since they eat on rose bushes, weeds, and young trees as browsers. They are the pickiest of eaters out there and eating garbage will cause their digestive system to get pretty upset. If you do not feed them with something they like, you will be wasting your time and money. Feed will be the largest expense for you as an owner because you will have to restock it continually and most often.
So what do goat's eat? A goat’s diet should be primarily high in fiber with foods such as green plants, hay, browse, and weeds. Properly feeding your goods are not only good for them, it yields the best quality milk production.
4.1 – Goat Feeders and Waterers
You can purchase troughs and feeders for your goats that are already made, or you can do it yourself and customize it fit your personal needs better. Keep in mind that any great feeder system designed for your goat have a single common goal and discourage any food wasting. Being the picky and sensitive animals that they are, you will not find them laying a hoof on hay, minerals or hay that have been peed or pooped on. However, they see no problem peeing and pooing in their bedding and feed. The kids can make things worse for you and decide they want to make the hayrack and grain feeders their second home – or should I call it their hotspot for the restroom? They will not want to leave it for anything when nature calls. It is the opposite of what you want to occur, so it is your mission to prevent wasteful and unclean practices. If you believe you can get away without feeders to save on expenses, it is best to throw that mindset away because you need them. If you were to feed your goats their grains and hay off the ground, you will be multiplying the likelihood they could get parasites or diseases. You will want to feed the goats in your group at the same times or else their social order kicks in big time, and the timid goats will not be allowed to have any food. You should have at least sixteen inches of feeder space for every goat that has horns and a foot of space if they are disbudded or polled. You should pick the grain feeders to can travel with on your own. It is more manageable to some smaller sized feeders than it would be to get one large feeder. Be aware of the type and weight material you buy; those made with rubber and plastic are lighter in weight compared to metal ones. If you have only a few goats, you should think about the feeders that can be hung on a fence when it is time to eat and removed soon after. It is not too hard to make yourself even if you are not the best craftsman, or craftswoman, out there. An easy, inexpensive way is to get 8-inch PVC pipes cut in half lengthwise. You will want to attach them to the fence using S-hooks. V-Shaped feeders are elevated and help prevent goats from spoiling and wasting their food. You can position grain feeders at least half a foot higher than the tail of your tallest goat and give rails or booster blocks for your goats to stand on.
If you have a lot of goats and want a feeder that can handle a larger capacity. Pick one specifically made for goats. As it will be a feeder of larger and heavier stature, chances are you will not be moving it around often. To prevent muck and dirt from developing around the feeder, place it on a concrete pad and extend it at least 6-7 feet from the feeder. When you want to feed little rectangle shaped bales of hay, V-shaped feeders welded with wires vertically or diagonally are exceptionally better than using those constructed with horizontal bars. When you are feeding large amounts of hay to your goats, limit their access to it with a feeder ring to prevent a lot of waste from happening.
When you are feeding your goats through loose mineral feeders, place them in a spot it will not get rained on because mineral based foods are 10-25% salt – an extremely corrosive substance. The best material for loose mineral feeders you can use are those made of plastic because it is the most durable. If you make a PVC mineral feeder on your own, they work just a good as a commercial one. If you choose you want to build a sturdy gravity feed mineral feeder, you only need a few materials. Glue a Y-type PVC cleanout plug at the end of a 3-5 foot length of a 4-inch PVC pipe. The arms of the Y should be facing upwards. Cap the stem of the Y, it should be sealed shut, and place a removable cap on top the tube. You will be able to pour your minerals through the upper part in a snap.
The watering devices you get are just as important as the feeders. Most goats can drink between one to three gallons of water in a single day. The amount is dependent on weather conditions, individual mindset, and whether or not they are a goat that is pregnant or lactating. Does that are in the lactation period have the highest need for water. Wethers and Bucks need a steady amount of water too as it helps prevent the development of urinary calculi – mineral stones that can potentially cut off the bucks urinary tract that possibly can result in death. Remember when I mentioned how picky they were? The same situation is no different with water as well. If water happened to be contaminated by even their droppings, dead animals or insects, algae, leaves or debris, they would drink no more than what they need to survive on. If you serve water to your goats that you stomach yourself, be sure that they are thinking the same thing. You can use just about any container out there on the market for your goats to drink in. Make sure to empty out any contaminated troughs, tanks or tubs and spray or scrub the inside of it with a good cleaner. A solution of chlorine and water works splendidly; keep the solution at a ratio of 1:10. Smaller troughs or automatic waterers, they are the easiest to clean. Most people will use tubs and buckets and fill them with water. If you do, make sure you move them in an area with plenty of shade during the summer months. This way, not only will the water stay fresher, it prevents algae growth. When the temperature outside hits ninety degrees or more, find some empty bottles and fill them with water and place it in the freezer. Once they are frozen, submerge it in your goats’ waterer; they will surely be thankful for the kind gesture. You can keep refreezing them during the night, so they can be finished first thing when you wake up in the morning.
When the climate gets colder, you will want to prevent your water supply from freezing by getting bucket or tank heaters installed. Remember that you should have the corded protected in the PVC pipe or within a garden hose split; you can tape it back with duct tape. If you don’t tuck the cords away safely somewhere, your curious goats my attempt to gnaw it and possibly have themselves electrocuted in the process. If you have children that are around you and your goats, the depth of water should not be more than fourteen inches. If your kid happened to be moving about, which is what you would expect from them, you don’t want a terrible situation occurring where they fall in and drown. You also do not wish to bring 5-gallon buckets or containers in the kidding pens, if you have one, for similar reasons.
4.2 – Foods to give dairy and meat goats
Before I go over which foods are best to feed your goats, I want to brush briefly over the basic nutritional requirements they need.
Carbohydrates: A dry plant of generally compromised of 75% carbohydrates, the primary sources of energy and heat. Carbohydrates contain sugars, starch, cellulose and other compounds and are easily digestible. There are certain sugars that are not as easily digested and takes a longer time such as cellulose and lignin. When you purchase feed for them, the tag with have carbs in two classes: crude (plain) fiber and free nitrogen extract, which is the most soluble attribute of a carbohydrate.
Fats: When feed tags list fat on their label, it also includes oils. Real fats are in grains and seeds. The fat found in hay and grass has other substances in it. Fat is necessary and includes cholesterol, ergosterol (forms vitamin D), and carotene that animals can convert to vitamin A.
Proteins: Proteins are complex compounds that are crucial in nutrition. They are called the body’s building blocks for a food reason. They take a great role in the development of muscles, skin, internal organs, hair, horns and port of the skeleton. Younger goats that are still growing have a higher affinity in need for protein in the diet. The same goes for does who are in the reproduction stage or are lactating. Though is it critical, as long as you meet minimum requirements you do not have to go too crazy on it – protein is the most expensive of livestock feed.
Minerals: Minerals are just about anywhere. The minerals from plants came from the soil. The mineral amount in animals is much higher than that from the plant. There are many minerals, but the two most important are calcium and phosphorus since it is the primary mineral found in bones. The body stores double the amount of calcium than phosphorus, so it is important to keep a proper balance. Other traces minerals, like iodine, prevents goiter masses from developing in the throat and iron is highly needed for healthy blood content, namely oxygen.
When you are feeding your goats, you should a goat ration formulated on what they should eat. Roughage is commonly green and includes grass, clovers, shrubs, and trees that goats will eat. The dried form of plants such as hay and two types exist. Legume hay has alfalfa and clover. Then there is the carbonaceous hay that are made up of brome, timothy and other types of grass. There are various other foods that are classified roughage are carrots, artichokes, beets, turnips, sunflowers, silage, comfrey, and corn stover. Green forages are the richest in vitamins, excluding vitamin D and B12. No worries there when an animal is grazing it is getting plenty of sunshine and animals, like the goat, can synthesize B12. It typically has a high amount of water; it does not have a right amount of minerals. Though is it an excellent food option; you do not want this to be the only thing in your goats’ diet.
Rotational grazing is an option people may choose, especially those who only have a couple of goats with an average sized land. Instead of putting a fence around your area for the goats and allow them to spend all grazing season on it, subdivide your pasture into smaller paddocks. Have your goats stay on one area at a time for a few days before they can travel to clean, fresh field. There are several ways you can best utilize rotational grazing depending on how many goats you have. Using four livestock panels to make a 16×16 foot pen that can be moved by you every few days is helpful for those with a bit of land and a few goats. For goat owners that have a larger number of goats and land, at least five acres, the grazing area is best closed off with a permanent perimeter fence. A temporary electric fence may also be used to divide the fenced area further when the goats rotate. How often you turn your goats should depend on you, the weather and whether you are looking to control parasites or implement pasture utilization. The height of the grass also has a prominent role in regards to rotation, and many agree goats should not eat any further than their knees. However, since goats are not much of a grazer, you barely need to worry about such a situation occurring. Rotational grazing gives you the ability to raise other livestock on another piece of land without issue.
Goats in general often accept hay very well. Grass hay favorable to does, kids, bucks, and wethers. Legume hay, made from alfalfa or peanut is something people may add to your female goats in their milk. Locating where you can purchase hay can be slightly problematic to new livestock owners. There are some who are also not yet able to differentiate hay from straw. Hay is grass or legume that was chopped early in growth to be sun dried. Straw is a version of leaves that have been dried and stems of grasses that people produce for grain, wheat, and barley. While hay is bright green, hay is a golden yellow. In most cases, you will have directly received it from a farmer in your area, most often you will also have the greatest discount through them. Regardless of where you purchase hay, the price varies depending where you live, how wondrous or bad the weather has been, and the time of year it is. If you, for some reason, cannot find any plain hay where you live, lay pellets are readily available in many areas. Other hay substitutes are haylage and silage, which is hay, or another type of plant that nature will ferment to a certain degree.
Although roughage is a paramount aspect of a goat’s diet, you can’t count on it alone to provide all the vitamins, minerals and energy that they need.
Concentrate ration is also called Grain ration, which, of course, is concentrated energy to give your goats. There is a necessity of bulk in the diet of a ruminant, but a concentrate ration should not exceed one pound for every quart of standard feed. Bran is the most common type of grain. Grain can vary in weight depending on the quality, often determined by weather season.
Weeds are attractive looking plants that are highly enjoyable to goats. There is a broad range of weeds goats typically eat thistle, plantain, chicory, daisies, yarrow, and dandelions. Goat owners will typically avoid poison ivy and nettle because they are not as safe for them to freely eat. The same goes for oak leaves, rhubarb, milkweed, and hemlock.
That was Chapter 4: What Do Goat's Eat? from our Homestead Handbook: Raising Goats