Nourishing Your Herd: A Comprehensive Guide to Feeding Goats Properly
Feeding goats is a critical aspect of goat management, influencing their health, growth, and overall well-being. To ensure optimal nutrition, goat owners must employ a strategic approach, considering various feeding methods and essential terms. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore key concepts such as full feed, long fiber, pelleted feed, textured feed, free-choice feeding, creep feeding, supplements, and limiters to empower goat owners with the knowledge needed for successful feeding practices.
Unless you are a trained nutritionist for goats, you mustn’t mix your feeds. Their digestive system and feed requirements are very complicated and if one mineral were to be off balance it can bind or stop the bioavailability of another.
And remember, what works for your neighbor or in a different part of your state or a different area of the continent does not mean that it is best for you or your goats. Your goat’s needs and nutrient requirements are most likely different and you also can’t assume that they know what they are doing either.
Always keep great records when raising goats! You will never regret it!
Let’s talk about what the different terms mean that will probably come up as you raise goats.
1. Full Feed:
- Full feed refers to a feed that contains all of the proper levels of protein, energy, minerals, and vitamins. It will have been formulated by a nutritionist and will take into account the area that the animal is living in and what the animal is being raised for. It will come in bags or bulk bags.
- Cottonseed hulls, wheat, barley, or any individual seed is not considered a full feed.
- Configured by a nutritionist for optimal health and growth of the animal.
- Make sure that it is labeled for goats.
- Never mix supplements and full feed. It will only cause problems for the goat. They will most likely get too much of one mineral to the point of toxicity.
2. Long Fiber:
- Long fiber includes forages such as hay or pasture, providing goats with essential roughage. Long fiber is essential for maintaining digestive health and preventing issues like bloat.
- Supports proper rumen function.
- Enhances chewing activity, promoting saliva production.
- Ensure access to quality, dust-free forages to prevent respiratory issues.
- Should always be allowed free choice.
- And should always be given with or alongside sacked feed. Sacked feed and grain should never be given as a sole feed for goats.
- Full feed does not have adequate amounts of long fiber.
3. Pelleted Feed:
- Pelleted feed is a concentrated form of nutrition, where ingredients are compressed into small pellets. This type of feed offers a convenient way to deliver specific nutrients.
- Reduces feed wastage.
- Ensures consistent nutrient intake.
- Uniform in size.
- Introduce pelleted feed gradually to allow goats to adjust to the new texture and for the goat’s rumen to adjust to this new food source. Read more about Goat Bloat here. 3/16th of an inch pellets is a good size for goats.
4. Textured Feed:
- Textured feed is usually horse feed and has a molasses base. It most likely has corn in it.
- Gives some quick energy through the molasses.
- Store textured feed in a cool, dry place to maintain freshness. It can mold more easily, which can be detrimental if a goat were to get listeriosis or any other rumen issue from it.
- Goats might tend to pick out what they like and leave the rest, which would result in an unbalanced diet.
5. Free-Choice Feeding:
- Free-choice feeding involves providing goats with continuous access to feed, allowing them to eat at their own pace. This is commonly applied to forages and mineral supplements.
- Encourages natural feeding behavior.
- Supports nutrient intake based on individual needs.
- Do not leave out pelleted feed, textured feed, or full feed as free choice.
- Hay, grass, browse, minerals, and water should be allowed 24/7.
6. Creep Feeding:
- Creep feeding can have different meanings in different areas.
- Creep feeding can mean a feeding strategy designed to provide supplemental nutrition to young, growing goats. It involves restricting access to a specific area where only kids can access the feed. Or…
- Creep feeding can mean feeding sacked feed, either free choice OR with restricted access.
- Creep-feeding young kids can support the nutritional needs of growing kids if done correctly. And minimizes competition from adult goats.
- If you decide to do this, introduce creep feeding when kids are about two to three weeks old. This lessens the demand on the lactating doe. It is best to not offer free choice to the kid. Let them eat for ten minutes and then pick up what is left. This will stop any overeating and limit sickness and bloat.
- Never feed pelleted or textured feed or sacked grain-free choice. It will cause problems including ruminal acidosis, bloat, urinary calculi, and other life-threatening diseases.
- Don’t ever offer sacked grain and then not offer sacked grain. If you decide to do it, do it properly and on a schedule, and if you decide not to, stick with it. Off and on again will always upset a goat’s digestive system.
- Supplements are additional nutrients provided to goats to address specific deficiencies or enhance overall health. These can include minerals, vitamins, and protein supplements.
- Addresses nutritional gaps in the diet.
- Supports reproductive health and milk production.
- Choose supplements based on the specific needs of the herd and the regional deficiencies in the available forages.
- Limiters are substances added to feeds to control intake, preventing overconsumption. Examples include salt or bitter compounds.
- There aren’t any advantages with goats and this should be avoided.
- Goats have a high metabolism and need to get the proper and higher amounts of nutrition than sheep and cows.
9. Protein Tubs
- Hi Pro Feed Sheep and Goat Block offers a 20% protein-free choice to a goat. It has very little minerals in it which makes it ideal for a goat because it is soft for them to lick. Goats have very soft tongues and will not be able to chew or lick enough off of a very hard block. Minerals are what make a block hard.
- Feeding a protein block separately from free-choice loose minerals gives all goats the ability to get enough protein.
- Do not feed any other product that is labeled for sheep and goats. Sheep cannot have copper and goats need copper.
- Do not get a tub or block that has minerals and protein mixed. The minerals make the blocks too hard for the goats to lick or chew and they will only use them as a launching pad and will poop on them and make them unusable.
Implementing proper feeding practices is fundamental to ensuring the health and productivity of your goat herd. Whether employing full feed, incorporating long fiber, utilizing pelleted or textured feed, adopting free-choice feeding, incorporating creep feeding, providing supplements, or using limiters, a thoughtful and informed approach is crucial. By understanding these key terms and considering the unique needs of your herd, you can develop a tailored feeding program that supports the vitality and well-being of your goats. Regular monitoring, adjusting to seasonal changes, and consulting with a veterinarian contribute to a holistic and effective feeding strategy.
STOP! Read more about goats here: Raising Goats Resource Page