Goats are ruminants.
Ruminants have four functional stomach compartments. In adult goats, the rumen is the largest part of the stomach, and does most of the breaking down of the roughage that they eat. Goats have the ability to graze over rough terrain, thereby utilizing forage almost inaccessible to other species. They are agile and sure-footed and are “browsers.” Often goats prefer brushy species and weeds rather than the more typical pasture or range grasses. High-quality forage is very important because nutrient content and the tendency of goats to refuse course stems. Intake of forages accounts for over 75% of the differences observed in animal performance between various forages. Digestible fiber is especially important in dairy goat diets. Too much grain in relation to forage does not foster good ruminant action and is a costly feeding practice.
Grain consumption should be reduced or removed near the time the dairy goat is turned dry. At the time of drying-off, substitute fair to good quality hay.
During the last 3-4 weeks of gestation, nutrition becomes more important to the doe. She should receive a better quality grass hay and about the same type of ration she will receive after kidding.
The doe should be managed during the dry period so that she is in good condition at the time of kidding. She should not be allowed to become fat.
Water is the most important nutrient for any animal, and dairy goats are no exception. Fresh clean water is essential.
Provide hay and grain at one to two weeks of age. Make sure of good quality hay. Wean from milk when grain intake reaches ¼-pound daily and kids are readily consuming hay. Feed hay and concentrate mix twice daily and only what the kid will clean up. Be careful not to overfeed. After four to six months of age, the kids may be fed a ration similar to that of the milking herd.
Hay and grain rations for the milking herd should consist of mostly legume with 14 to 16 percent protein in grain and high phosphorus mixes or mostly grass with 16 to 18 percent protein in grain and a 2:1 Ca:P mix. To determine the amount of grain to feed, consider level of milk production, amount and quality of forages consumed, appetite and state of fleshing. Thin, high-producing does should have access to all the hay they can eat plus grain to the limit of their appetite. Does in mid-lactation that are in good flesh should have all the hay they will eat plus 1 pound of grain for each 3 pounds milk produced. Late lactation does may not need more than 1 pound of grain for each 5 pounds of milk. Be sure all grain rations add a vitamin premix that will provide 1000 units of vitamin A, 500 units of vitamin D and 3 units of vitamin E per pound of grain. Feed a grain ration formulated for a milk-producing ruminant (dairy cows). Rolled or cracked grain is more palatable than ground grain. Some commercial cow feeds may contain byproduct ingredients unpalatable to goats.
For more information on goat nutrition contact the Barren County Cooperative extension Service
In the Short Rows
Livestock producers are reminded to pay attention to the body condition score of your animals. If condition starts to fall below acceptable levels, merely feeding more hay usually will not solve the problem. Producers may need to supplement.