First off, let me be clear that feed is typically the most expensive part of any farm animal operation.
And contrary to commonly held belief, goats won’t eat everything. And they will not thrive on poor quality pasture and forage. If you want good quality, healthy animals you must provide good quality feedstuffs.
Secondly, goats are not designed to live on grain and processed feeds alone. A forage based diet, one that includes pasture, hay and browse, is most suited to a goat’s digestive system.
Goats consuming heavy rations of grain and processed feeds have a higher incidence of diseases like urinary calculi, enterotoxaemia and acidosis. Heavy grain diets also tend to cost much more than forage based diets.
So why feed grain at all?
Because sometimes a forage based diet doesn’t provide all the nutrients your goats need to thrive. Poor quality or limited availability of pasture or browse can literally leave your goats starving for more. Or perhaps you have great pastures and browse. But the goats’ energy needs are just greater than the energy available in your forage. This can happen for a variety of reasons, like lactation, breeding or pregnancy.
So, what do I feed at Fainting Fox Farm?
For both cost and health reasons I prefer to feed my herd a mostly forage based diet.
During the summer months when most of my goats are in a maintenance phase (not growing, breeding, lactating, etc.) and we have thick, rich pasture; the majority of the herd eats only pasture. I provide good quality free choice minerals, like the Sweetlix 16:8 Meat Maker Goat Mineral and a feed supplement block or tub.
I have tried several different feed supplement blocks/tubs; including the Sweetlix Meat Maker Roughage Balancer Tub and the 18% Protein DuMor Goat Block. Despite great reviews, I have had better luck with the DuMor Block than the Sweetlix Tub. Your goats may be different. One of our local feed stores is now offering ADM products. I have heard great things about them and will be trying one of their available blocks/tubs this summer. I will let you know how that goes.
During the winter months or anytime I need to provide additional feed to the goats I offer free choice Coastal Bermuda hay, the Sweetlix 16:8 Meat Maker Goat Mineral and a feed supplement block or tub. I feed once a day with a complete feed mixed with whole corn. For a complete feed, I prefer a pellet feed with 16%-18% protein, something like Purina Noble Goat. I have heard good things about the ADM Goat Feed products but have not tried them yet.
In year’s past I would add alfalfa hay to my winter feeding regimen to offset the loss of pasture but over the last two years I have begun using a product called Chaffhaye and I have really liked it. Chaffhaye is a bagged alfalfa that is chopped and treated so that it goes through a fermentation process. Per the makers this fermentation process makes it
“…a super digestible forage, enriching it with yeast, enzymes and beneficial microflora that aid digestion as well as absorption of its nutrients by the animal.”
I don’t know exactly what makes it work but I do know that it has worked very well for my herd. It is easier to store and less dusty than traditional bales of alfalfa hay and it has allowed me to cut the grain I offer my goats in half.
Some breeders I have talked to feed almost exclusively Chaffhaye. In my area, it is not readily available so I still mix grain and Chaffhaye.
So how much do I feed?
Our feeding program is based on a general understanding of my goats needs and the feeds readily available in our area. I adjust the goats feed based on their dietary needs at the time and the availability of forage on our farm. I use the BCS or Body Condition Scoring System as guide and the TDN values to understand what feeds give me the most value.
In other words, it’s hard to provide an exact figure that will tell you how much you need to feed your goats.
On average, I would say that my goats get somewhere between 1-1.5lbs per day of a feed that has 14%-16% protein. I accomplish this through a mix of whole corn, pellet feed and Chaffhaye. Just to clarify, that is not 1-1.5lbs of grain a day. The Chaffhaye makes up more than 60% of their rations. They have free choice access to minerals, grass hay and pasture.
For more information on TDN requirements of goats I recommend checking out this article from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
If you would like information on using grain in your goat’s diet check out this article.
For more general information on meat goat nutrition visit this site.
And to learn more about Chaffhaye.