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This diagram shows the goat's ruminant stomach, as seen from the right side of the body.
( Note: This site also has diagrams of the rumen, and photographs of the papillae, and other photographs from the rumen.)
-All breeds, sexes and ages of goats require the same basic nutrients: protein, energy, minerals, vitamins and water.
-The diet must contain adequate protein, as no other nutrient can substitute for it.
-Energy needs may be derived from dietary carbohydrates (starches and/or fiber), or fats, or even from excessive protein.
-Goats require nutrients for maintenance, growth, gestation, lactation, and weight gain.
-Maintenance requirements are used to maintain body temperature, to support vital functions, and to enable the goat to move around.
-Maintenance requirements may range from 50 to 100% of total daily nutrient requirements, depending on whether the animal is also growing, lactating, pregnant, or gaining weight.
(Frank Pinkerton, Feeding Programs for Meat Goats)
-In the winter, goats need extra energy for keeping themselves warm. If you don't provide it, it will cut into the energy they need to produce milk and keep their bodies healthy. A general rule of thumb is to increase the amount fed by 1% for each degree of coldness below 32 degrees F. If there is a wind chill, subtract that from the outside temperature before figuring the increase.
See examples below, adapted from Barkley, Melanie, Basic Ration Balancing, at http://bedford.extension.psu.edu/agriculture/goat/Goat%20Ration%20Balancing.htm) :
The best way to tell whether your nutrition program is effective, is to body condition (BCS) score your animals on a regular basis.
See Body Condition Scoring on the Medical A-D page of this website.
See our form for tracking body condition scores, FAMACHA scores and weight.
Another way to monitor your feeding program is to run MUN tests on a regular basis. Some cheese plants will do these occasionally without charging you, if you request it.
-an innate ability to select the most nutritional plants, and the most nutritional parts of those plants
-the ability to grasp and tear, enabling them to eat a multitude of plants other animals cannot eat.
-a tolerance of bitter taste enabling them to eat plants other animals will not eat. (For example, tannin-producing plants which have natural deworming properties.)
-a preference for eating forage higher than their knee level. (above parasite level)
-the ability to store water in the rumen, allowing some goats to survive without water for up to 4 days.
-fat storage in the abdomen which allows some goats to survive without food for up to 4 days.
-Goats are "intermediate" feeders. Thus, they are not pure browsers (eating up) or pure grazers (eating down.). They both graze and browse for food. (Smith) (Hutchins) (Machen) (Van Saun)
-Goats are opportunistic grazers and eat many different types of plants, carefully selecting the highest attainable diet quality from its environment. It is this adaptability that allows the goat to thrive when other animals are dying from starvation. (Machen What About Hay?) (Texas Ag Extension)
-The ability to graze and browse gives goats a flexibility that allows them to survive in a competitive environment. The average annual self-selected goat diet composition is 43% Browse (leaves from woody plants), 45% grass, 12% forbes (weeds and wild flowers), with the preferred height of the grass being above the goat’s knee. The browse/grass/forbes ratios vary, depending upon the seasonal availability of the forages. (Machen What About Hay?) (Texas Ag Extension)
(Adapted from Texas Agricultural Extension) (Machen What About Hay?)
-Goats can consume 4-7% dry matter (DM) per 100 lbs. body weight (Harris and Springer)
-Goats require 12-14% protein in their diets, with the higher percentages going to high producing does or growing kids. (Coffey, DG, 17)
-Goats don’t like dusty feed, and they dislike feeds that fall apart ( also called "fines".)
-Goats get listeriosis very easily and may die from being fed modly feed. Silage and haylage that is held in silos should not be fed to goats, as all silos have mold in them. You can use baleage that is wrapped individually or bagged in tunnels, as long as you have sufficient numbers of animals to eat off the face of that feed every day. This is difficult as most goat herds are not large enough to eat that much in a day. Wrapped square or round bales are better than tunnels, because there is less surface area to mold. Open only what your animals can eat each day, and if you find mold, don’t feed it. (Van Saun, Feeding for Two.)
-Goats do not adapt as easily to high concentrate (grain) diets as cattle and sheep. They are more likely to get acidosis, founder, urinary calculi and enterotoxemia. (Van Saun, Feeding For Two: The Goat and Her Rumen)
-Older does may have sore teeth, which keep them from eating. You can “float” the teeth to enable them to eat again. (see Medical S-Z under "Teeth")
-Goats have trouble adjusting to a new diet. If you buy new goats, buy some feed from the previous owner and feed it at first, gradually reducing the amount of it, while increasing the amount of yourown feed, until they are eating your feed exclusively.
Goats can be fed in a grazing operations or in confinement. For information on grazing, go to Grazing For confinement feeding, go to Dietary Needs By Category.
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