Proverbs 27:27 And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Feeding our Goats

I have lightly brushed over this topic before somewhere but thought I would do a post on it so it would be easy to access in the labeled area.

Adult goats are very healthy animals if a few things are sure to be done for them.  Clean water available to them 24/7.  Plenty of good grass, hay or browse available to them 24/7.  If they need grain, a good grain mix for goats.  An effective worming program, and supplementation in the minerals that are deficient in your area.  Yup, that is pretty much it and you should have healthy goats.  The odd things and scary things you read about, rarely pop up, if those basic needs are met.
When feeding a goat, one needs to realize you are not really feeding the goat, you are feeding the bacteria in their rumen.  The balance in their rumen is easy to maintain if you keep a routine and feed the same measured amounts of things every day.  I measure my goats grains they get for each meal.  Goats usually end up with bloat and "over eaters" disease(enterotoxemea) from that balance in their rumen getting out of wack.  How this usually happens is....You have a routine and are feeding the goat a balanced diet day after day, you decided to give them a treat of a large amount of stuff from your garden or they get out and into your garden!.  The goat does not have the bacteria in large enough quantity to break down the new food, the bacteria population that was eating the normal daily diet routinely, dies off, as it has nothing to eat and the die off causes huge amounts of gasses = bloat.  Or the goat dies from "over eaters disease".  Letting them get into chicken feed or dog food or even getting loose and into the feed room could really spell disaster quick. 
So I do a few things here on the farm to try to not have those type things happen.  I am all about routine (twice a day feedings, morning and evenings) and measuring.  Measuring helps with a few areas.  First, you can know exactly how much a goat is eating and if they are looking to heavy or to thin you can adjust exactly the amount your goat is eating.  Second, if you feed your goats in a huge mass, it does take less time, but you won’t usually notice if one of your goats is eating less and less or totally off feed and was just picking.  One of the first signs of troubles in goats is a goat not eating their feed.  As goats love to eat!  So if they go off their feed, usually there is a problem.  It could be anything from a sick goat, to me putting something new in the milk room!  They like things the same all the time.  Goats feel it is their personal job to disrupt an orderly barn and our routine!

Anyways, like I always say, I am not an expert. This is just what we do here on our farm and works for us.   
Anything you try, do it at your own risk.
One day, years ago, I started to wonder what exactly was in all our feeds and started to read all feed labels, of all the major brands.  I was using Purina at the time.  It was supposedly nutritionally balanced and all.  I was pleased with it but it was expensive and I like to try to feed as naturally as possible as we drink the milk.  I didn't like that the pellets were made from floor sweepings on most of the labels I read.  So switched all my goats over onto "all grain".  As I knew it was all grain and nothing else.  I used it for years.  But by the second year my sleek shinny goats started to have ruff coats and my black goats started having a redish ting to their coat on the flanks.  Also many of them got bald tail tips or something called fish tail.   Then all my older does started having weaker contractions while kidding and I did some research and found out we were copper deficient in our area and although I loved using the "all grain" it didn't have any of the extra supplements in it like the goat chow did.  Just having the loose minerals out, all the time, for them wasn't enough. They needed it in their feed.  As soon as I saw what was happening I started to copper bolus my goats regularly.  That helped but eventually I had to put them back on Purina. After doing that, with in about four months, everything went back to normal. Healthy, shinny, sleek goats again.   So....I am only sharing this as it might help someone to know what might be going on in their herd.  My herd is doing so well now (Praise God!)  I hate to monkey with what and how I feed.  I would rather have them on the "all grain"  But know what happened last time.  I might try it at some point as now I am copper bolusing them so that might compensate for the lack of copper in the "all grain".  We shall see.

I have in the past mixed my own grain mix.  Researching what kinds to put in it, buying every kind of grain in bulk and mixing it in certain amounts together by the shovel full, then adding in my own molasses and minerals.  That became to much on me so I then paid to have a mix done at a grain place.  It also got to be a lot as I had to buy so many bags at one time and had only a small storage area.  And in the summer months the molasses would go bad easily in the summer heat in some of the bags as I had to buy so many. I have tried using suggested horse feeds, grain mixes, all grain and goat feeds.  Whew, I have about played with every way I thought was the best way to feed a goat.  And many of them worked and were great.  But now I have gotten lazy.  I have fewer goats and what we are doing right now is working great for us....and for our situation, for sake of time, space available for storage, and money…….I have come to the place that Purina Goat Chow(though expensive) is as simple and as good as it gets for here. So that is what we feed.  

This all being said, this is how we feed our goats on our farm.

Here on the farm I go easy on the grain for all bucks.  If you over grain bucks it throws off the PH in their urine and they will get something called urinary calci.  Basically stones that they can’t pass.  Females don’t usually get it as they have larger plumbing all the way thru.   It is incredibly painful and I have never heard of a goat recovering from this in my area.  So I go easy on the grain for our bucks.  My Nigerian Dwarfs get literally a very small handful twice a day.   Basically whatever it takes to maintain good body condition.  Sweet feed is not the right feed for them.  If you try to feed sweet feed they usually eat all the grain part and leave the pellets.  I have had many people in my area loose bucks, from urinary calci, feeding sweet feed.  I don't know the science behind why this happens but all of the cases I have personally been told of was by feeding sweet feed.  I have used “All Grain” in the past for full sized buck goats, but as I said, my goats became copper deficient very quickly using it.  Mine really need the extra copper that is in a proper goat feed.  I don’t promote any of these feeds but you could use something like Purina Goat chow.  Noble goat or Dumor makes a goat feed.  All of these are high in copper and balanced for goats like it should be.  The Noble Goat many people don’t like to use because it has a coccidiant in it (a medicine for coccidia prevention) but is supposed to already have ammonium chloride in it for bucks.(to prevent the urinary calci)  Some people don’t want their goats on medicated feed permanently.  But most Nigerian breeders I know use a feed like that for their bucks(only) from the time they start to eat grain till the day they die.  Its a personal choice on that decision..  If you are going to feed any other feed one way to try to prevent urinary calci is to buy Ammonium chloride and sprinkle it on their feed.  It is supposed to change the Ph and break down the stones.  Keep them small enough to pass or keep them from forming.  I have it and use it a few times a week.  It is very much like salt and I have a shaker out in the barn full and put a few swishes on the bucks feed.  Praise God I have never had a buck get this in 14 years of doing goats.  I pray we never do.

For full grown does…like I said.  I used “all grain” in the past and had my whole heard become copper deficient very quickly.  So started back to Purina Goat chow.  Using that, things got better but I still have to copper bolus regularly. 

Anyways, with my does… for the Nigerian dwarfs, they only get a handful each daily of half Purina goat chow and half alfalfa pellets mixed in together.  They get this ration if they are bred or not.  I have heard you don’t need to give them anything (depending on body condition) unless you are milking them.  But I feel sorry for them as all the other goats get grained.  So give them that small amount.  Pygmys and Nigerians are notorious for having babies to big to deliver, at times, and it is said to be from graining them while pregnant.  It makes the babies grow to large.  So a handful is all I dare give them.  Two weeks before kidding I start to raise that amount a bit to get their bodies ready to start to eat enough for milking production. 

My full sized goats I have to give a cup of grain(Purina Goat Chow) in the morning and one at night when dry or bred in order to keep them in good body condition.  They also get a small amount of alfalfa pellets.  Again, I start to raise that up as they get close to kidding time.  Once they kid I keep raising the amount of grain slowly till I have them in good production and good body condition.  I also make sure my milkers get at least a cup, day and evening of alfalfa pellets.
I rotate pasture with my worming program and our goats always have Bermuda hay before them day and night.  I have found if a goat is feeling a little off in their tummy, they will stop eating grass and grain but will keep nibbling on hay or resort to eating hay till things straighten out.  So I always keep hay before them even if they have plenty of grass. 

I also keep several small mineral pans screwed to the wall.  In one I keep a good loose mineral mix specifically for goats.(so it has the right amount of selenium and copper in it)  Sometimes they don’t touch it for weeks and some times I have to fill it daily for days.  It has to be loose so they can consume it if they need it.  They only have teeth on the bottom so can't break off the amount they need and licking the amount they need would take to long and they might give up.  So by a good loose mineral mix specifically for goats.  I also keep regular baking soda (yup, arm in hammer) out there in one.  This is always available.  As they again, know when their tummy is off and often can stave off trouble by consuming this all on their own.  The other thing I leave out is not a necessity and is expensive.  And that is kelp.  I have it out and available all the time.  I also give my goats human vitamin C.  The regular orange flavored kind from Wal-mart, I give a few times a week.  I just read last year some really great articles about vitamin C and how it really helps goats stay healthy.  I hardly give any treats so they look forward to seeing me come up to them with the bottle in my hand. 

I guess that pretty much covers how we have fed our goats in the past and now.  Now, I usually try to keep only the amount of goats on our property that we need so our feed bill is as low as possible.  But doing the "great goat experiment" now has put me over for a while, till I get goats sorted out the way I want them.  Also the whole purpose of my experiment is to get my goats to produce needing as little grain as possible.  So hopefully our feed bill will keep going down over time having more efficient goats. 

Happy goat researching and feeding!

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