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Goat Nutrition Management

 
Emil Spoerri
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many schools of thought go into making different goats make milk on different diets. Some goats are heavily fed concentrates and industrial bi products. Many are fed very little concentrates and lives off of otherwise "unusable" stony brush land or established forests or swamps and such and such. Then there are those that are bred for a productive farm's pastures and crop field waste.

Though, alfalfa isn't the only green source of protein. Some goats do need very nutrient rich food to produce well, though some goats make by on less but make more... why is this. Because some goats have bigger rumens than others. These large big stomached goats are more durable in cold weather and will make more milk, on less. Than a bad shallow barrel goat.

Being a large stomach, it can digest more nutrients out of courser feed, which in turn keeps them even warmer in the winter and thus they need less fur and can put more effort into milk production.

I think actually the best herbal hay crop for goats is chicory. Huge yielder, has the high minerals they need, but don't forget that all sorts of weeds are good for them and will keep them from being mineral deficient. Don't forget plantain, various kinds of perennial sunflowers, good green 2 or 3 cutting meadow hay...

It may be possible to get weedy hay from a farm, hopefully the land you get your hay from has either been grazed or is fertilized with manure. Still, good weedy hay is the BEST winter feed for goats IMO.

But it seems man has been and especially recently our dairy goats have been going the confinement type feeding operation. Actually and fortunately in america the breeds of dairy goats we have are not those goats suited to a life of confinement on high concentrate diet, they are mostly suited to a cultivated land diet or goats suited to "non-arable" scrub land.

Seems like Toggenburg, Oberhaslis and Nubians are all brush type, Saanens are more agricultural type, most of the others are either brush type or intermediate though alpines can be either or in between I think.

The important thing is to make sure you have a goat with a huge stomach and barrel.  Unfortunately the goats in this country often have been confinement raised on formula diets and there are a lot of not so great goats out there. Look for strong, tall, large, huge barrel goats if you want goats to thrive on a less nutritious diet and a more herbal and shrub diet.
 
                            
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I have used a weedy grass hay in the past, my goats didn't like it very well. It was harvested too late in the growing season and didn't have much protein value left in it. I didn't know better at the time, was impressed by all of the little seed heads in it, thought that would be a real treat for the girls. It resulted in the worst goat disaster I'd ever had. Multiple still births and or kids who died right after birth as well as the loss of one doe. In less than two weeks, I lost more than 15 head (all kids, but the doe). It was tragic and heartbreaking. I sent a body to WADDL for necropsy, worked with the county extension officer and local vet. It was simply a case of too low of protein. I'm sure that weedy hay is okay, I just always associate it with the late harvested hay I purchased..... that was a hard lesson emotionally and quite a few lives lost as well as not only potential income.

I have dwarf goats, they are tough and hardy, I treat them well and they are used to that. In return for that, I am usually rewarding with triplets, rarely twins or quads. By treating them well, I mean providing optimal food quality and variety for them to thrive and excel where I live.

Here's a link to an article I found on forages which gives some protein breakdowns:
http://www.goatworld.com/articles/nutrition/managingforages.shtml

Another on a plant called tagasaste (don't know if it's available here in the US) which is planted as browse in Australia/NZ:

http://www.goatworld.com/articles/nutrition/managingforages.shtml

http://www.winrock.org/fnrm/factnet/factpub/FACTSH/chamacyt.htm

also, here is a link to Fodder Assessment for goats:
http://informedfarmers.com/fodder-assessment-for-goats/

BUT... what I'm still looking for are plants which would make good hay for storage, as well as fodder plants (a variety) that I can plant in a forested area.
 
                    
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brush is not necessarily less nutritious. Blackberry brambles are very high in protein, can't remember, as high or higher than stinging nettle. .  I know some people whose goats did very well as long as they were on brush, then that was all eaten and they were on pasture.  The did not do so well on that.  I have Saanens  and they love brush.  If we did not have so much brush I might be looking for milksheep, but we are ideally suited for goats.  so that is what we are keeping.
my mother used to harvest  raspberry plants for the goats, they grew thick and prolific on logged hillsides and she cut them with a sickle. She would harvest several  bushels at a time, I as a little girl tagging along. 
I am considering planting honeysuckle along our fences. It seems to be the all time favorit of the goats, goat candy,  and they have eaten it all, and we were overrun along the wood's edges.  Since they are so wild about it, I tasted it  and it is actually very bitter.  Honeysuckle is called "goat leaf" in German, and now I know why.

I agree on the weedy hay,  rather, that it seems to be impossible to get some that was not hayed way too late, when it is nothing but straw.  Our goats also love poplar leaves. in summer we cut a poplar once in a while that needs to be cut anyway, as we are slowly clearing, and  let the goats eat it, and they do not leave a leaf.
 
Melba Corbett
Posts: 164
Location: North Carolina
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I've been doing the dairy goat thing for over 35 years and I'm still learning something new every year.  We planted chicory last year, and they love it, and we love the beverage made from the roots.  We did "Forage Feast" chicory.  We did have to put it in an area we can take them off of so they don't overgraze it and kill it.  We have lots of white and other clovers in our mixed pasture, with plantain, vetch, yarrow, wild strawberry, lespedeza, timothy and some fescue and a few other grasses and weeds.  I don't like the fescue.  It seeds out in warm weather and gets coarse, and then they don't like it.  We are growing the endophyte free variety, which still has some endophyte mold, but is better than the old variety.  It is deep rooted and gets into my garden.....uuuhhh!   

We feed a timothy mixed hay with legumes in it from a farmer who says the horse people don't like it because it has briers in it sometimes.  He really knows how to make quality hay and it is deep green and well dried.  Goats love it, so he saves all of it for us.  We also buy and feed alfalfa hay.  I'd like to discontinue the alfalfa if we can grow something else to replace it.  Checking into mulberry, high in protein, about equal to alfalfa (leaves), and the berries are high in protein too.  I did some research and found that mulberry leaf tea has about twice the calcium as milk, so it would be very good for milking does.  I've also dried kudzu leaves for them and they like it better than anything they've ever had.  Lespedeza is another favorite and cleavers are easy to dry for hay.  They like all of them.  They also like a change in forage from time to time and get excited when they get to go into an area they haven't been on for a while, much like horses do.  (or cows)

I'm wanting to rotate pastures, and we have six large paddocks so far.  Still working on the time frame to make it work for various forage crops.  Plan to plant some millet this year and will put some up for hay, cutting it with the scythe.  We are striving for the mixed pasture "salad" Joel Salatin recommends.  Much better for the animals to have a large variety of plants. 

They go into the woods too, but we had mountain laurel we didn't know we had, and they initially all got poisoned.   Luckily none died, but we spent a sleepless night or two drenching goats with various remedies.  It was a massive effort to dig out the mountain laurel and get rid of it.   Our Nubian goats love the tulip poplar (yellow poplar) tree leaves, the elm, black gum, sourwood and mulberry when they can find it.  If they get too much lush pasture, they head for the wild roses and eat their fill and it helps.  It apparently is a medicine plant for them and they know when they need it.  Always, always, fill them up on dry hay before turning them out on lush pastures in the spring.  Let them get used to it gradually and after a heavy rain, keep them in the barn, feeding hay.  They can get bloat and even die from it after eating too much lush or wet pasture.   

We also feed a grain ration consisting of a base feed of 2 part whole or crimpled oats, 1 part steamed barley, 2 parts black oil seed sunflower seed.  To each goat we also give 4 level Tbsp. dried molasses, 1 heaping tsp. organic kelp, 4 level tbsp. cracked corn (winter only), 1 tsp. flax seed, pinch ground whole cloves, (the cloves help kill parasite ova) 1/2 tsp. Eco Pure coral calcum with copper sulfate added at a rate of 29 mgs. per tsp. of calcium.  We stopped feeding the name brand goat chow when we found out a major preservative in it and also in horse feed caused birth defects.  We had a baby born with a crooked ear.  Much research later, we opted to go the more difficult route and mix our own feed rations.  At one point we also had some color loss in the coats of a couple of our goats and began to use the copper sulfate.  Since then, we've had super healthy animals with babies who hit the ground running, so to speak.  Very strong and vigorous at birth.  All of the goats, adult and babies, have beautiful, shiny coats, are heavy, and look like they just stepped out of the show ring.  Most of our does birth triplets, due to the good nutrition program they are on.  I would prefer they only had twins. 

We don't bottle feed babies unless we have triplet or more births (frequent) and a doe just doesn't want to nurse more than two of them, or one is slow on the draw and gets to the teat last and the doe thinks they've all fed and walks away.  Then we put the extras on a bottle or put one of the does on the milking stand and let the extra babies nurse.  We do handle all of them a lot, and they are all very docile and easy to handle, even our mature bucks.  We have a six year old buck who comes over to my husband when he sits down, and lies beside him and puts his head in his lap to be petted.  He also comes when we call his name, no matter where in the woods he is.  We use him to pull logs out of the woods on the mountain ridge we can't get to with any equipment.  Most of our goats know their names.  Not all of them come when individually called, but most do. 

We've wormed with garlic, two cloves, twice a day for three days , and also wormwood and black walnut hull.  Sometimes we use Ivermectin, and in rare cases Cydectin.  I prefer the organic route and the herbal wormers but sometimes we get rabbits in the pasture and they carry tapeworm and that is hard to get rid of.  In an extreme case years ago I had a doe not responding to any wormer.  I shut her up and fasted her for 24 hours on water only and gave her the garlic cloves for three days.  Second day you just give them a little old hay and no grain.  This is from the book, Herbal Handbook for Barn and Stable..  She actually passed tapeworm, which I carefully raked up and burned.  We haven't had much of a parasite problem in recent years because we manage them so well.  We check eyelids for signs of beginning anemia.  In spring when the pastures are wetter and warmer, more parasite eggs hatch so we do a more aggressive parasite program then, and worm about once every month or two.  We do a two week follow up when we worm them.  My husband experimented with putting 12 drops of GSE (grapefruit seed extract) in their feed ration per serving, twice daily, (they get about a quart of grain per feeding for a mature milking doe, and nearly all our does are gallon a day or more producers.)  The lighter producers or dry does only get about a pint of grain per feeding, twice a day.  Eventually I'd like to get them off grain and maybe just give a bit of sunflower seeds and some way to get the calcium into them, or maybe just feed enough forage crops high in calcium to more than meet their needs.  The GSE enabled us to go 6 months without worming as it apparently killed the larval stage parasites before they hatched.   
 
                    
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red cloud,
thanks for posting.  I have some chicoree growing here. we are talking about the blue flowers that grow along the highway, right?  I use the leaves right now for salad. the blue flowers are bitter and good for constipation. so maybe they would be good for worming too.  What I am wondering, how do you plant it and where? From what I know it is a plant that indicates compacted soil, like the plantains, too.  where do you get seed and how do you go about planting it?
I have some wormwood plants,  I want to plant some tobacco, too.  Do you have trouble with them taking garlic?
Could you post your recipe for feed? I take it you are not mixing that every day?  I really want to get into growing natural wormers.
One more question. How do you get them to go to the paddock you want them to be in? My goats are ALWAYS underfoot when I am out doing something, but if I want them to follow  me nobody wants to come, even if I am carrying a feed bucket, and it is a procedure to get them where I want them to go to, since nothing is close or handy here on our bumpy farm.   
 
Melba Corbett
Posts: 164
Location: North Carolina
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Elfriede B wrote:
red cloud,
thanks for posting.  I have some chicoree growing here. we are talking about the blue flowers that grow along the highway, right?  I use the leaves right now for salad. the blue flowers are bitter and good for constipation. so maybe they would be good for worming too.  What I am wondering, how do you plant it and where? From what I know it is a plant that indicates compacted soil, like the plantains, too.  where do you get seed and how do you go about planting it?
I have some wormwood plants,  I want to plant some tobacco, too.   Do you have trouble with them taking garlic?
Could you post your recipe for feed? I take it you are not mixing that every day?  I really want to get into growing natural wormers. /


Our goats always follow us everywhere (annoying sometimes), because we are always giving them treats and spoiling them.  Thus they are looking for that.  They get locked into the barn every night at the same time, to protect from predators, so they are used to that for security and just head for the barn at the right time.  They are definitely creatures of habit.
Some of them eat garlic out of hand, but they know the difference between our organic garlicl and the store bought kind and they only want the organic.  The rest of them, I just chop it into their grain ration, which is sweetened with dried molasses and they gobble it up.  Have to cut it fine or they will pick it out.  Sometimes I give them a small handful of wormwood weekly, really helps keep down worms.  My husband mixes the feed each feeding, but keeps a big bowl of the grain pre-mixed and just adds the supplements.  We have bags of open barley and oats, and other ingredients out, in our feed room which is at the house for now.  Each goat gets a can (their name on it so we can figure it out at the barn), so the heavy milkers get a little extra grain.  They all get the same amount of coral calcium, molasses, copper sulfate, flax seed and cloves.  The exact formula is in my original post.

The chicory we grow was from a company that sells pasture seed and we planted it in spring and threw some old hay over it for mulch.  It was not raked in or anything.  I planted just before we were expected to get rain for a couple of days.  Also threw in some vetch seed, buckwheat, ryegrass,  and sunflower.  Most of it came up.  We have pure red clay soil, and it is on a slope, after all this is in the mountains.  We are on the east coast, US,  so get a good bit of rain here, but not consistent in the summer, and sometimes drought in summer.  It is a variety that has more forage leaf growth on it but still makes a good root.  Very deep rooted and if you don't let them overgraze it (take them off when it gets below 4 inches), it should last about 7 years in a planting.  

Pasture rotation is the best parasite control, and they like black walnut, which helps worm them, and several other plants are also good for that.  Maybe not a total worm control but it definitely helps.  Sericea lespedeza is another plant that seems to knock down worm load, according to some studies that were done in Africa. 
 
                    
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That is what I thought, too.  I can not go to the mailbox without a procession of goats following me,  but if I want to take them to the pasture I wan  them to be in, they seem to read my mind and think, hey, lets give her a rough time and walk in the opposite direction.  They all come to the barn in the evening, sheep and goats, and we keep them locked up, to many coyotes howling.  But darn them, it is a procedure to get them to the lower pasture. They rather eat everything down to the nub where I do not want them than to go to a goat paradise.
do you order your ingredients? I have never seen dry molasses anywhere,  and the cloves and flaxseed, that must get expensive.
I am not  surprised they like the organic garlic better.
 
Melba Corbett
Posts: 164
Location: North Carolina
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Elfriede B wrote:
That is what I thought, too.  I can not go to the mailbox without a procession of goats following me,  but if I want to take them to the pasture I wan  them to be in, they seem to read my mind and think, hey, lets give her a rough time and walk in the opposite direction.  They all come to the barn in the evening, sheep and goats, and we keep them locked up, to many coyotes howling.  But darn them, it is a procedure to get them to the lower pasture. They rather eat everything down to the nub where I do not want them than to go to a goat paradise.
do you order your ingredients? I have never seen dry molasses anywhere,  and the cloves and flaxseed, that must get expensive.
I am not  surprised they like the organic garlic better.


Yes, we buy ingredients now.  The dried molasses is available in feed stores here in the eastern US.  Don't know where you are.  The flaxseed gets expensive, but they only get a tiny bit, so not much at a time.  The most expensive is the alfalfa hay, esp. when they waste it and it ends up on the floor trampled on. 
 
                    
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what is a tiny amount of flax supposed to accomplish? 
We get good alfalfa hay from a local farmer.  The feedmill down the road has a hay grinder and we take a load of bales down there and have it ground. They add  anything that you want to the mix.  There has not been a bit of waste since we have been doing that. I had to put bedding down.  I feed them a bit of loose hay to make sure their digestion is not upset. So far they have been doing just fine. It costs a dollar to grind one bale, and I save about half of the hay, so i come out ahead.
 
Melba Corbett
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Location: North Carolina
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Elfriede B wrote:
what is a tiny amount of flax supposed to accomplish? 
We get good alfalfa hay from a local farmer.   The feedmill down the road has a hay grinder and we take a load of bales down there and have it ground. They add  anything that you want to the mix.  There has not been a bit of waste since we have been doing that. I had to put bedding down.  I feed them a bit of loose hay to make sure their digestion is not upset. So far they have been doing just fine. It costs a dollar to grind one bale, and I save about half of the hay, so i come out ahead.


The tiny bit of flax seed gives them Omega oils they need.  Horse people give it to race horses, because it makes their coats shine and it makes them healthier. 

Sounds like a great idea to get the alfalfa ground, as it costs so much when they waste it. 
 
Melba Corbett
Posts: 164
Location: North Carolina
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Goats, above all ruminants, do not do well with a lot of feed concentrates as it can stop the microbes from working in their rumen. They need the best forage crops they can get, keeping in mind that alfalfa alone is too rich, so should be mixed with a grass or a mixed legume/grass hay. Since it is getting so hard to find GMO free alfalfa anymore, I'm changing the feed program for my goats. They are getting a good mixed legume/grass hay from a local farmer who knows what he is doing. The man really knows how to make good, green hay and puts lots of trace minerals and lime on his pastures. I put boron/selenium/DE/ag lime on my pastures, but not much at any one time. This keeps the legumes like vetch and clover very active and the earthworms love it too, so keeps them active and near the surface so they aerate pastures and produce worm castings which is the best fertilizer of all. The hay is only as healthy as the soil it grew in and minerals are the key to all health, plant and animal. My goats get all the hay they can clean up, but I don't give them so much at one time they pull half of it into the barn floor, wasting it. (This is one reason I got cows, they clean up the barn floor waste the goats won't eat).

The goats get a little bit of grain ration, and I feed the mix of half oilseed sunflower seed, half oats (all of which I could grow myself if I only had the time and energy, but don't). The type of grain changes according to what I can get that is safe, and GMO free. I feed barley also in the mix when I can get it. Into that is mixed 1 tsp. organic coral calcium with a tiny bit of copper sulphate pre-mixed in, (but Golden Blend Mineral already has it, we just had a deficiency for a while), 2 tbsp. dried molasses (or bagasse), 1 tbsp. kelp approximately, a pinch of flax seed (for omega oils), and if they are on wet pastures in warm weather when I suspect worm eggs are hatching, they get 10 drops GSE, or grapefruit seed extract into their grain ration 2 times a day which will kill parasite larvae and prevent it from hatching. A few clove buds will pinch hit for that as it does the same. This is what I feed does in milk, about 1 1/2 pints per feeding, twice a day and my very heavy milkers slightly more, but not much. My dry yearlings, who are not bred yet, or young bucks, just pasture out with a little hay if it rains, and now and again a taste of grain, but all of them get Golden Blend Goat Mineral free choice in a mineral feeder and also baking soda free choice in a mineral feeder. You can also feed kelp this way, but they will go through a lot of kelp and it can get very expensive. Too much grain for goats or cows tends to shut down the microbes in the rumen and make E. Coli grow, throwing off their digestive system. It can cause enterotoxemia. Best to make sure the feed is stored in a place the livestock cannot, under any circumstances, get into, even if someone leaves a door unlocked or unfastened. Accidents happen too often and then you have sick or dying animals.

When the pastures are wet, I usually don't let them out and just keep them shut in the barn feeding hay. They can get bloated on wet pastures if they don't have a stomach full of dry hay first. I had a goat die once from bloat and it isn't a pleasant sight. She was beloved and it was very traumatic, and kidded right in the middle of it too. Saved the kids, but not her. It ruptured a gut before I knew what was happening.

A goat's natural food by choice, would be brambles, honeysuckle, and tree leaves and it has been said by many old farmers who know what they are doing, that a goat can never be truly healthy unless they can get those things. Wild roses and honeysuckle are especially good if you have an animal not feeling well, or off feed, or with diarrhea. Sometimes that alone can clear them up. With diarrhea, definitely find out what is causing it. Was it too much grain ration, something poisonous they ate, a change in feed too fast, parasites, E. Coli, bad water, or what? Treat the cause, not just the symptoms. A lot of farmers let their livestock drink creek water and while this might have worked well in the past, almost all surface water in the U.S. and some other countries, is contaminated now with giardia and other protozoa. The livestock can do better with it than people can, but it would usually be better to give them good well water in a container you can keep clean.

I do pick a few mulberry or maple leaves, and dry other tasty treats for them for winter time when there are no green leaves for them to snack on. They relish this with their regular hay.

If I see an animal with sides caved in right in front of the hipbones, that means the rumen is not functioning well. It usually means they have parasites, so I then check eyelids to see if they look anemic and if they do, they get wormed immediately. I prefer an herbal parasite cleanse, given 2 x a day for 3 days, then follow up in two weeks, or once in a while Ivomec or Cydectin. I don't like the chemical wormers, they are hard on their liver. I can usually go 6 months between worming in colder months and about 2 or more in warm weather. BUT, I also do a good pasture rotation and have cows and sometimes a pony rotating behind or in front of them, which keeps down parasites also. When they get good nutrition, and mine do, they rarely have any problems and have kids which hit the ground running and are very healthy.

The picture is of one of my Nubian does, unfortunately, I didn't get a whole shot of her head and everything, but the camera broke and I'm glad I got that one. She is a a 4th generation doe born on this farm. She has a soft udder which milks out quickly, and deflates like a balloon, totally empty when it is done. She is the epitome of what dairy farmers breed for. I have had several of her full sisters, but none quite as "milky" as her. I am breeding for worm resistance and getting there, with some very fine specimens.

I only keep the very best each generation and breed to the very best buck I can locate. I'm a small farmer and only have 4 milking does this year, as I'm getting older and can't work like I used to, but I love those goats!
Midnight udder 005.JPG
[Thumbnail for Midnight udder 005.JPG]
 
Doug Mac
Posts: 79
Location: Humboldt County, California [9b]
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I walk my kids all over our place. If they don't want to come, I wait till they see me and start to run. They always chase me. The older goats will follow me anywhere for cheerios. Once they got out and were in the neighbors yard, right next to his house. I stood at the fence line and shook the bag (generic cheerios). They came right home and followed me back into their paddock. These are small groups 3 to 12 animals that interact with me all the time. This may not apply to large groups or wilder goats.
 
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