If you want to find out more about goat feed and what your animals like to eat, check our article on that. The amount of food that your goats receive should depend on how they live, their breed and if they are dairy goats or not. Many breeders have a certain plan that they respect and works best for them, but here are some general ideas to take into account.
When you are feeding goats that you use for producing milk, you should have about 14% to 16% protein grain in their mix. Be sure that the grain doesn’t have dust in it and that it has enough molasses.
However, the biggest part of a goat’s diet is made of hay, so make sure that your goats have plenty of it. Usually, you can let them have as much hay as they can eat. A goat that is older can eat 4 pounds of hay per day or even more.
That is why you need to make sure that the feeders are always clean and they still have some edible hay in them. Also check how the hay looks from time to time, as goats can put their feet in it and this will cause worms to appear if things get too dirty. As most goats are picky eaters, they will only consume the best parts.
That means that they will avoid the stems and try to eat the leaves only. So when you check the feeders, also check to see if the hay that’s left has any leaves on it or if it’s just the stem that’s there. And if you have newborns and you raise them on goat milk, they enjoy eating stems so you could give them what’s left in the feeder.
Kids and pregnant does
Each goat should have its feeding plan, but there are some basic rules that you can follow in certain situations. When your does are in the last two months of their pregnancy you should put them on a program that gradually increases how much grain they eat.
If you start with one pound of grain per day, you might reach two pounds per pregnant goat by the end of its pregnancy period. It is important to watch each goat separately though. Small ones that will deliver many kids should receive more grain and food in general. That should apply to those goats that are mature and give a lot of milk, too.
Most herders use a basic ratio to calculate how much grain to give to their milking goats – they give one pound of grain for every 3 pounds of milk produced. The basic rules apply here too, and that’s why you should give more to thin goats and less to fat ones.
When growing kids, you can give them one pound of grain and all the hay that they can eat. But bucks can get bigger faster so the amount of food they receive should vary. It all depends on their size, health, and how much exercise the buck does. They can eat all the grass hay they can have and anywhere from 1 to 4 pounds of grain depending on the previously mentioned aspects. If they exercise a lot and you want them big and strong, give them more.
As already mentioned, a goat needs hay at all times and that will be the main food that it will consume, in terms of weight. Although the ratios may change a bit, grass hay makes up to 50% of a goat’s diet. It should always be available because it provides roughage which is needed to balance the content of the rumen. The rumen is the first part of the goat’s stomach.
If you are new to goats you should know that hay and straw are different. Hay is the grass that is cut and left to dry and is good for the goats. On the other side, straw is what remains after the collection of grain is performed – it’s the stalks that have no nutritional value. That is why straw should be used for bedding only.
Although goats can live on hay only, they do best when they also have fresh pasture available, so you need to let them eat outside. Pasture makes up to 25% of their diet. Goats in the wild are grazers and they eat many things including weeds, tree branches or brambles. But you need to keep track of their eating habits.
Goats can’t find pasture during winter, so when you let them graze again in the spring it’s best if you let them eat for one hour max. They need some time to get adjusted to the new spring diet.
When feeding grain to your goats, make sure you don’t give them more than 20% of their food in grain. They need the protein from it because they can’t find it that easily in captivity, but if the protein is too much, they will have problems. Keep in mind that does that are pregnant, milking does and some bucks that are hormonally more active need more grain and protein.
How much of everything?
Most adult goats will eat between 2 and 4 pounds of hay or any type of roughage they get in a day. Of course, if other types of food are not available, they will eat more than that. Milker goats, however, need more hay, sometimes 7 pounds per day.
If you also feed your goats fruits or vegetables, they will eat 6 pounds of them per day. They also need to get enough water, and the ratio for dry food versus water is 1:4. Goats need so much water so their digestive system keeps running. Salt is a good way to encourage them to drink more, so make sure they have a block of salt to lick on.
When the seasons change, the availability of certain foods changes too. Thus, your goats won’t have pasture available and that is why you need to slowly introduce them to their new diet. During these times you can use concentrate feed and when you do that, start with feeding them about 9 ounces of it per day and slowly build up to 2 pounds.