The growth and development of your goat largely depend on the quality and frequency of feed they get. As it is with every living thing, the more they eat, the bigger they become, and in the case of dairy goats, the more they are fed, the better their productivity. However, it is better to give goats the best feed they can have, instead of any type of feed available.
Their feed must be well planned and thought out to prevent an imbalance in nutrient supply. It may serve you better to employ the services of an animal nutritionist to formulate the best feeding formula for your goats depending on their needs, putting their age, stage of growth, and environment into consideration. They will need more of a certain type of feed at some particular times of the year than others.
Also, the quality and frequency of feeding aren’t the only things that can hamper the growth and well-being of your goats. It is important that you ensure the protection of your herd’s feed from contamination. The introduction of foreign materials may not be very detrimental to meat producers, especially adults. However, it can significantly impact the productivity of dairy goats and make kids develop conditions that warrant the notification of a veterinary doctor.
In this guide, you will get to know the best goat feed for your herd. You will also have the knowledge to decide when it is right to increase the supply of certain types of feed for your herd. Looking for a more comprehensive article on raising goats? We have that as well.
Types of Goat Feed
Diversity in the types of feed your goats eat helps to improve their sense of taste and gives them different nutrients in different proportions. However, the point of feeding your goats is not just supplying them with the feed, but feeding them the different types of goat feed in the proportion they need, when they need it, to help them convert the nutrients effectively into the meat and boost milk production.
Every feed a goat eats is classified under one of these three categories since they have common properties and use.d
Roughages are plant-sourced feed materials that provide carbs to your goats. They are majorly composed of complex carbs which may be difficult for humans to digest but for goats, due to their complex four-compartment stomach, they can easily digest the complex carbs.
Roughages are great sources of nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, and some vitamins and minerals, depending on the plant it is sourced from. They take more than 70% of a healthy goat’s diet and help it to develop the bacteria in its rumen, further aiding digestion.
Roughages are usually available to goats in pastures and ranges, where they can easily graze on them or browse the shrubs, or as hays in conditions and times when it is unwise for the herd to be outdoors.
Roughages are obtained from grasses such as barley, wheat, alfalfa, fruit tree leaves – mango, guava – and vegetables such as cabbage.
Grains are the next important goat feed type as they can take about 15 to 20 percent of goats’ diet. They are typically rich in diverse nutrients, such as carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals, even fats, due to the processing they can go through.
Grains are gotten from maize, oats, wheat, and pulses. In some cases, they can be processed in such a way that the grains are fortified with other feed materials, such as molasses, minerals, and proteins.
Their nutrients can be thoroughly digested to provide fortification and required nutrients to goats who may not feed well on roughages. However, caution is needed on this type of goat feed as it can cause obesity in goats, making them unhealthy and reducing their productivity.
Goat feed additives are feed materials that supply the less required but important nutrients. They help to improve the goats’ state of health even though they are usually supplied in little quantities. Sometimes, they can serve medicinal purposes, as they can be used in improving the immune system of young goats.
Generally, goat feed additives supply vitamins and minerals to your goats, and they are usually added to grain feeds when supplied in the goat feeders. In other cases, they can be served alone, allowing the goats the chance to eat any they feel they need.
Additives are important in helping goats increase the growth of their furs, in preparation for the winter season. They also aid in maintaining, or sometimes, increasing the meat and milk production capacity of goats.
What to Feed Your Goats?
Having known the different types of goat feeds there are and how important they are. As a goat keeper, you should know the feed materials that fall into each of the types of goat feed, and how you can supply them to your goats. Truly, goats are hardy and can eat most things. However, do most of the things they eat have any nutritional benefit to them?
The nutritional impact – positively – of what your goats eat should determine what you feed them. Goats can eat papers, but of what benefit is it? Does it mean you should feed them papers because they eat them?
Here are some feeds that fall under the categories and types of feed that you should feed your goats.
Pasture and Range
The primary source of goat feed is the pasture and ranges. Although goats will eat almost anything, they prefer to feed on grasses and browse on shrubs. The perfect place for giving them their nutritional needs and satisfying their eating habit is to let them loose in a pasture of grasses or range where there is a combination of grasses and legumes, cultivated for them.
A pasture is an expanse of land covered by naturally occurring vegetation. This type of feeding ground for goats is not intentionally manipulated for their nutritional needs, instead, they feed on what is available and leave.
On the other hand, a range is a cultivated land that contains grasses and legumes at a ratio for the purpose of feeding ruminants, in this case, goats. A range provides more nutrition for your goats because it is intentionally grown to meet the nutritional needs of your herd.
The pasture and range provide goats with carbohydrates, proteins, some minerals, and vitamins. Even though they should be the main feed source for your herd, they should be avoided for some time, especially if your goats begin to have more than enough nutrients.
Hay and Alfalfa
Hay is dried grass or legume that is used to feed herbivores and ruminants in cases when they cannot access pastures or ranges. It is a secondary source of feed for goats and supplies nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals to your goats.
Alfalfa is a leguminous plant that can be dried and used in haymaking. It is a chief source of protein that benefits both meat and milk producers as it aids in better production and higher quality. It is also rich in fiber, which improves the probiotics in the rumen of your goats.
Combining grasses – majorly rich in carbohydrates – and alfalfa – a leguminous plant abundant in proteins and fiber – in making hay helps to provide 80% of the needed nutrients to keep your goats healthy and productive.
Hay is an excellent alternative to having your goat’s outdoor grazing and browsing in your pasture and range, especially during winter.
While hay may be good for your goats, it might not be an efficient nutrient supplier due to its dryness, although including alfalfa improves that. However, Chaffhaye is another means of supplying nutrients to your herd. It is made of alfalfa and is more digestible than hay.
Chaffhaye is not made the same way hay is, it is harvested from the range and chopped when it is green. It is dried to about 50% moisture level and stored in an air-tight bag or container. This allows it to ferment, causing it to produce bacteria that help aid its digestion. When your goats eat chaffhaye, they absorb most of its nutrients, since its digestion has begun before ingestion.
Also, there is reduced feed wastage with chaffhaye compared to hays.
Grain feed is not a natural feed for goats. Goats will naturally feed on grasses, shrubs, weeds, instead of grains. However, once the domestication of goats has begun, and their access to pastures and ranges has been limited, there is a need to supply the nutrients in other forms, hence, the advent of grains.
It functions in providing nutrients to goats, especially when they are pregnant. It is also generally good for goats that do not go out to feed on pastures and ranges, especially during the winter, as it contains a combination of all essential nutrients.
Most grain feeds are formulated and the quantity a goat can eat is determined by its body weight. The consumption of grain feed should be watched as too much of it can cause adverse health conditions. Also, introduce grains to your herd gradually, to help their digestive system adapt easily.
The sweet feed can be said to be a type of grain feed that consists of whole grains and pelleted food, all mixed with molasses. It derives its name from the sweetness the molasses provides in the whole grain-pelleted food mix, making it desirable to goats.
They are a good way of introducing supplements, such as minerals and medications, to your goats as they have them sticking to the feed. You can add their pelleted wormers to grains and they will ingest it easily due to the presence of molasses. You can also use it to train your new dairy goats when it’s time to milk them. They are also good at helping goats hold still when you have to trim their hooves or do other health check-ups on them.
Snacks and Treats
Snacks and treats for goats are feeds that you give them once in a while, mainly because you want to spoil them. Some common treats for goats are fruits and vegetables, although not all fruits and vegetables are good for goats.
Snacks and treats should be given in small quantities and not often.
How to Feed your Goats
It might seem straightforward to feed an animal, but not goats. There are many misconceptions that may lead to lesser life quality for your goats if you follow them. To get the best out of your goats, you need to take note of the following feeding tips.
Don’t make drastic changes to goat feed
Goats have complex digestive tracts; you must have known that by now. However, they are hardy and can feed on so many things but those things can be harmful or downright useless to them.
When you wish to switch things up in the nutritional department for your goats, do so steadily. This allows their gut to adapt easily and prevent stomach and digestive issues.
Feed your goats in accordance with your system of rearing
Most smallholder goat keepers allow their goats to roam about and feed on weeds and other plants. However, if you do not have the luxury of pastures or ranges, stick to feeding options that are suitable for you.
It will be detrimental to start your goats on grasses and change to Chaffhaye the following week because you can’t keep up.
Encourage pasturing, foraging, and browsing as much as possible
If you happen to have pastures around you, endeavor to allow your goats to roam in them to have some naturally inviting grasses and legumes in their system. It helps to improve their digestive system due to the diversity of flora they will chew.
Don’t neglect supplements and additives
After all the grazing and browsing, you should not assume that they have all the nutrients they need. Give them feed supplements, at least twice daily. Sometimes, you can use some additives for the sake of introducing medication into their system or helping them get a feel of what is to come nutritionally.
Best Goat Feed for Kids
The pressure on does, from maturity till they cease production is enormous. Therefore, they need all the help they can get to help them remain healthy and get back to producing milk for their consumption or sale without negatively impacting the kids.
Manna Pro Milk Replacer for Goat kids is the perfect solution to preserving the essence of your does after kidding, it relieves the pressure of feeding the kids with milk – apart from colostrum – by supplying the nutritional needs of the kids.
It is rich in animal fat, whey protein, and minerals, and vitamins to help kid goats grow and develop faster and healthier.
- Less pressure on the doe after kidding
- Allows does resume commercial milk production faster
- Does not deprive kids of colostrum
- Contain a wide range of suitable nutrients
- May deprive kids of maternal contact.
Best Goat Feed for Minerals
Minerals are important in goats’ diets to aid in better growth and development. It is essential for the growth of fur that helps them deal with cold during winter and aids in reproduction. It also helps your goats to easily absorb digested nutrients, speeding up their growth and productivity.
Manna Pro Goat Mineral contains not only minerals but vitamins as well to aid the reproductive health of your herd and help them maintain their productivity. It is effective against the occurrence of urinary calculi – caused by blockage of the urinary tract. It is in loose form and can be given to your goats by free choice.
- Boosts growth and productivity of goats
- Helps to prevent urinary calculi
- Contains microbial blend to aid digestion
- Can be fed free choice
- Can be overfed to the goats
- It is perishable
It can be worrisome watching your goats being fearful of what is beneficial to them. Some sources of minerals, such as salt licks, can pose danger to your goats because of their sharp edges, which makes animals scared to put their tongue to it.
Compressed Himalayan Salt lick is an all-natural salt that provides salt minerals to your herd through round-edged cubes that can be hoisted in the air through the hole in its middle, giving your goats ample angle to lick the salts off the cube. It contains more sodium than other minerals and can be used for goats of all ages, even other ruminants.
- Supplies sodium and other minerals to ruminant animals
- Eliminates the fear of licking by employing round edges
- Easy to handle as it can be hung from a rope
- Favours sodium than other minerals
Best Goat Feed Supplements
In all honesty, it is difficult to completely satisfy the nutritional needs of your goats. You cannot determine the amount of protein and carbohydrates in the grasses and leaves they eat in the pasture, nor can you certify that they efficiently digest and absorb the nutrients they get from their feed. This makes supplemental feed necessary.
Manna Pro Goat Balancer Supplement is pelleted and provides nutrients such as protein, fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your goats. They are an excellent choice of goat feed for periods when your herd is unable to venture into the pasture as they will efficiently make up for the nutrient deficiency that may occur from feeding on hay.
It contains alfalfa, an easily digestible forage for ruminants.
- Easily digestible
- Promotes goats’ appetite
- Helps to improve productivity and maintain good health
- It cannot be used as the main source of nutrition
Some minerals are more important than others, and some are more abundant than others. The common minerals are not difficult to get from common mineral supplements. However, some trace minerals, such as copper, are deficient in goats’ diets.
UltraCruz is a supplement that helps to address the copper deficiency in goats, characterized by fading of coat, loss of facial hair, and balding of the tail tip; these are only the common deficiency symptoms. UltraCruz ensures that your goats get an adequate amount of copper and helps maintain the glimmer of the coat. It also ensures that there is no hair loss, helping your goats have the right tools to withstand the teeth-shattering cold of the winter.
It supplies this trace mineral by slowly releasing it into the system and is suitable for goats that are under 3 months old.
- Caters to the trace mineral needs of kids
- Ensures good coat growth
- Doesn’t supply other minerals
- Only suitable for kids less than 3 months old
Goats raised for meat production are usually made to consume more feed rich in certain nutrients than lactating goats. Bucks are usually castrated if they are not used for breeding, helping them convert more of the feed to meet. However, the castration may cause them to develop Urinary Calculi.
AniMed Powder Ammonium Chloride is one of the livestock feed supplements that is effective in helping prevent such. It can be mixed with loose minerals for your herd and when used for treatment, grains should be reduced and water increased.
- Helps prevent and treat urinary calculi
- Can be mixed with goat feed, especially grain
- Easy to handle
- Recommended dosage may be exceeded leading to possible complications
All the grasses and legumes from the range may not be enough to give them the needed energy for the day, especially when the herd is unable to get to the range during winter, or when you are restricting them on what they eat.
One of the best feed supplements for energy supply is the INC Black Oil Sunflower Seeds. They are originally meant to be eaten by birds or sown to grow sunflower plants. However, like grains, they can be beneficial to your herd at certain times.
- Suitable for goats of all ages
- Provides different forms of nutrient
- Effective in balancing nutrient deficiencies
- Attracts birds that may introduce diseases to the herd
It is difficult to meet the nutritional requirement of your goats when they are unable to go out to feed. Due to their inactivity and restriction of movement, you might worry about excessive energy and that might affect their intake of other nutrients, especially nutrients essential for coat development and health.
Wolf Creek Ranch Icelandic Kelp Meal is made to supply about 60 nutrients to your herd. All you need to do is mix it with their grains and they will have access to these nutrients.
- Provides needed nutrients for healthy coat development
- Promotes goats’ dental health
- Supports metabolic and immune function
- Exceeding the daily recommended daily dose per goat may cause health issues.
Beet pulp is a supplement that supplies energy and fiber to your goats. If you have goats in your herd that are underweight, beet pulp is the perfect supplement to add to their feed.
Standlee Hay Beet Pulp Shreds supplies ample amounts of energy, fiber, and calcium to pregnant and lactating does that are underweight. They are also good for kids that need to add some weight. Despite the goodness they do to underweight goats, care should be taken in administering it to wethers.
- They supply energy to goats when it’s lacking
- Perfect for underweight goats
- Good for pregnant and lactating does
- Might cause some digestive problems if given in excess to wethers
Best Goat Snack and Treat
Sometimes, you want to give your goats something extra, apart from their routine diet. Not because they need it, but because you want to pamper them. Treats are a good way to make your goats consume some more vitamins and minerals that they may be deficient in.
Manna Pro Goat Treats is a snack for goats that are made with anise and has a licorice flavor. It is easy for goats to eat and enjoy because it is pelleted and has the licorice flavor that goats can’t resist. It provides some nutrients, such as proteins, and some fats, vitamins, and minerals, too.
- Suitable for goats of all ages
- Supplies a considerable level of nutrients
- Easy to feed to goat and manage
- Maybe an unnecessary extra cost for feeding
Best Goat Feed Accessories
When your herd can’t be outdoors and you have to feed them grains, it is difficult to scoop their feed into their trough without messing your hand up. It is also not very convenient to maneuver your wrist in order to get enough grains into whatever container you are using.
For a better grain serving experience, use Shires Plastic Feed Scoop to get grains from their bags into your herd’s feeding troughs. It is strong and has a handle that is easy on your wrist. You can easily wash it after use and stack it to air dry.
- Makes grain and pelleted feed easy to distribute
- Has a strong handle
- Easy to clean
- May be contaminated easily
Frequently Asked Questions About Goat Feed
What is the Best Feed for Goats?
Goats are naturally ruminant animals, therefore, the best feed for them is plants – grasses, legumes, and shrubs. Although this feed can be supplemented with hays, chaffhayes, and grains, it remains the primary and most suitable source of nutrients for goats.
How Much Grain Should I Feed my Goat?
Grain is a secondary feed for goats. It shouldn’t take up a large chunk of your goats’ diet as it can bulk them up so much that they may be at the risk of death. Ideally, grains should take up about 20% or less in the total daily diet proportion of your goats.
Nutrition is an important part of living things, therefore, your goats should be given the best nutrition possible, to help them deal with the environmental and health challenges they may face. It is also important that you provide adequate feed in the right proportion to encourage better production.
For the does, reduce pressure on them by placing the kids on milk replacement feed, but do not deny them colostrum. For the buck, feed them adequately so they can maintain healthy hormone production.