Feeding Different Classes of Goats

The feeding suggestions that follow are oriented to commercial goat producers. Purebred, show, and companion animals are often fed more for larger frames and better body condition, but excessive body condition can be deleterious to the animal health.

Feeding bucks

Mature bucks can obtain most of their nutrients from pasture. However, yearling and 2 year old bucks have greater nutrient requirements since they are still growing. Bucks need to be in good body condition (BCS greater than 3) before the breeding season because feed intake may be relatively low during that time, with loss of body weight. Thus, body condition should be evaluated 3 months before the breeding season. Decisions can then be made on the supplemental nutrition needed for the buck to achieve the desired BCS.

Whenever bucks cannot meet nutritional needs from pasture, supplementation is necessary. Under most conditions, whole shelled corn or sweet feed at 0.25 to 0.5% of body weight will be adequate (0.5 to 1 lb of feed for a 200 lb buck). Feeding bucks high levels of grain (greater than 1.5% of body weight) for a long period of time makes them prone to urinary calculi. The levels of grain recommended above are safe for bucks. When pasture is scarce, bucks can be fed medium quality hay free-choice (all they can eat).

Using LINC, calculate the nutrient requirements for a 3 year old, 200 lb Boer-cross buck, gaining no weight, and on pasture (intensive management). The calculated requirements are 2.39 lbs of TDN, 0.26 lbs of crude protein, 5.05 grams calcium, and 4.09 grams phosphorus, with predicted dry matter intake of 3.55 lbs. However, it is important to note that the estimated dry matter intake is influenced by the dietary TDN and CP concentration inputs. Therefore, if the default values are used and a forage, which makes up all or most of the total diet other than a mineral supplement, has different levels, then the predicted dry matter intake may not be close to the actual amount. In the example above, default values were assumed. To determine if these nutrient requirements can be met by native range with a mineral supplement, click on “Select Feed Ingredients” at the bottom of the page. A page listing different feeds will appear. In the “Forages” section below “Concentrates,” click on “range, early summer,” and under “Minerals” choose a 12-12 mineral supplement. Go to the bottom and click on “Input These Feed Ingredients into the Ration.”

The ration window will appear that lists each ingredient chosen. Intake figures should be entered in the column labeled “Amount, lbs as fed.” The estimated intake for this buck is 3.55 lbs dry matter (lbs of diet not including the water content of the feedstuffs), whereas in this window the consumption amount is entered as the “as fed” form. Because feedstuffs vary in water content (compare the water content of fresh, green pasture to the same forage dried and harvested as hay), nutrient requirements and intake estimations are calculated on a “dry matter basis.” Dry matter basis means that all water has been removed. However, animals eat feed in an “as-fed” form. This calculator will determine the amount of dry matter intake for each ingredient from the as-fed figures entered. This relieves the producer from having to estimate dry matter, allowing the amount fed to the animal to be entered, with the program performing the needed dry matter calculations.

The mineral supplement bag predicts intake of 0.5 to 1 lb/month/hundred lbs of body weight. At that rate, the 200 lb buck will consume 2 lbs/month or 0.067 lbs/day (2 lbs ÷ 30 days), roughly 1 ounce. Some supplements estimate an intake such as 1 to 1.5 oz/day, but this can vary with the size of the goat. Enter 0.07 lbs for the mineral. Therefore, in this example it can be assumed that forage dry matter intake is 3.55 lbs. The value of 3.55 is entered into the “Amount, as-fed” column for range forage. Clicking in the “Amount, lbs DM” column will calculate the amount of DM and nutrients provided (Running total) compared with the Requirements. The amount of as-fed native range grass provided should be increased until the forage dry matter provided equals the 3.55 lbs previously calculated. This is done by trial and error method until a correct answer is found. In this case, the correct amount is 3.95 lbs of as-fed native range, which will provide 3.55 lbs of dry matter. Therefore, the estimated daily ration for this buck is 3.95 lbs of native range grass hay, or an equivalent amount of pasture, on a dry matter basis plus 0.07 lbs of mineral per day.

Comparing the Running total with the Requirements shows that this diet did not meet the requirement for TDN (2.12 lbs provided vs a requirement of 2.39; 89%). Crude protein, calcium, and phosphorus are supplied in excess of requirements. Because the equations used in these predictions include a small safety margin (i.e., requirements are most likely slightly greater than actual), if the deficiency is not marked the diet could be used as is with careful monitoring of performance measures, most notably BCS. In addition, one should consider that the diet actually consumed could be higher in quality than the ‘book’ composition values used. In this regard, when taking plant samples, plants are often cut at the ground level, such as for hay. Conversely, goats select certain plant parts (especially leaves) that have higher nutrient contents. Therefore, the composition analysis used in the calculations might not have matched what was actually eaten. For example, if a TDN concentration in consumed forage of 65% and a crude protein level of 12% are assumed, the predicted TDN intake is 95% of that necessary to satisfy the TDN requirement.

Accurate and abundant data on the nutrient content of plant parts consumed by goats are lacking. When hay is fed and animals are ‘forced’ to consume most of it, the hay analysis will closely match what is consumed. The same applies to supplemental feeds that are totally consumed. One way to more accurately determine the true composition of diets of grazing goats is to follow the animals for a couple of hours and hand pluck the portions of plants consumed and send the sample in for analysis. However, plant composition and plant parts selected vary over time, making it desirable to sample plants monthly or more frequently.

In the absence of feed nutrient analysis, it is important to try to match the description of feeds or pasture as closely as possible to that in the LINC feed tables. If actual analysis has been determined, it can be entered into LINC at the bottom of the feed library. Information required includes concentrations of TDN, crude protein, calcium, and phosphorus. Hopefully in the future, more applicable data will be available for herbage grazed by goats.

Feeding replacement bucks and does

Replacement bucks and does must gain sufficient weight from weaning to breeding to be adequately large and sexually mature. A Spanish doe weaned at 12 weeks of age would be expected to weigh 40 lbs and gain 5 lbs per month to achieve a minimum breeding size of 60 lbs at 7 months of age. A Boer doe weaned at 12 weeks of age would be expected to weigh 50 lbs and would need to gain 7.5 lbs per month to be 80 lbs at breeding. These are minimum weights, and it is advantageous for animals to be slightly heavier. Some purebred breeders wait to breed their doelings at 19 months of age because a doe with a bigger frame size is desired. Most commercial goat producers cannot afford the cost of an extra year of maintaining an animal with no production.

Does will generally gain sufficient weight if an adequate amount of a moderate quality forage is available. If doelings are not gaining adequate weight (as measured by a scale or through the heartgirth conversion program), they could be supplemented with whole shelled corn at 0.5 to 1% of body weight per day (¼ to ½ lb of corn per head per day for 50 lb doeling). Feeding excessive grain to does causes an overly fat condition. Fat may be deposited in the udder, leading to reduced formation of milk secretory tissue. The doe is also more likely to have pregnancy toxemia and birthing problems. If sufficient good quality pasture is not available, growing doelings will need good quality hay and a supplement such as whole shelled corn, sweet feed, or range cubes or pellets at 0.5 to 1.0% of body weight.

Bucklings must gain more weight than doelings to reach puberty. While there are no available recommendations for weight of meat goat bucklings at first breeding, these animals need to reach an adequate size to achieve puberty. Like doelings, body condition should be monitored and supplemented at 0.5 to 1% of body weight per day (¼ to ½ lb of corn per head per day for 50 lb buckling. Most bucks do not let a lack of body weight interfere with breeding, but some body reserves are necessary to maintain fertility and mating activity throughout the breeding season.

Feeding does throughout their life cycle

The four production periods of does are dry nonpregnant, pregnant, late gestation, and lactating. Does that are open (nonpregnant) or in the early stage of pregnancy (

Use the LINC to calculate the nutrient requirements for a 130 lb nonpregnant, mature Boer doe without change in body weight and with intensive pasture grazing. The requirements are 1.50 lbs of TDN, 0.18 lbs of crude protein, 4.03 grams of calcium, and 2.82 grams of phosphorus, with an estimated dry matter intake of 2.31 lbs (based on the composition of fall bermudagrass; 50% TDN and 9% CP). Feeds used are fall bermudagrass and a mineral supplement. A 130 lb doe is expected to consume the mineral at 0.1% of body weight per month = 1.3 lbs/30 days = 0.04 lbs of mineral per day. The estimated 2.27 (2.31-0.04=2.27) lbs dry matter intake of fall bermudagrass (3.25 lbs as-fed) provides 1.14 lbs of TDN (76% of requirement) and 0.20 lbs of crude protein (111% of requirement). In this example, it appears questionable as to whether or not body weight of the doe could be maintained with this forage (i.e., 50% TDN). The goat’s ability to select higher quality plant parts, as noted above, might enable them to maintain their body weight. In this regard, if they are able to select a diet with a TDN concentration of 60% rather than 50% then the amount of TDN supplied is (2.27 × 0.60 = 1.36 lbs) which is 91% of the required amount, somewhat close to her requirements. Again, it is important to monitor body condition.

Calculate the nutrient requirements for a Boer doeling weighing 70 lbs, gaining 5 lbs per month, and with intensive pasture grazing, using LINC. The requirements are: 1.3 lbs TDN, 0.25 lbs crude protein, 2.98 grams of calcium, and 2.08 grams of phosphorus with a dry matter intake estimate of 2.06 lbs. If we adjust estimated TDN and estimated protein for the forage (questions 7 and 8 in LINC) since the 50% TDN of fall Bermudagrass is different than the 60% assumed, and use 9% CP instead of the 12% assumed, predicted dry matter intake is 2.32 lbs. Using the same feeds, fall bermudagrass and mineral, with a mineral consumption of 0.02 lbs (1% of body weight /month, divided by 30) and using fall bermudagrass for the remainder of her intake (3.3 lbs as fed), both TDN (1.16 lbs intake, 89% of requirement) and crude protein (0.21 lbs intake, 84% of requirement) are inadequate. To achieve the desired growth rate, supplementation may be necessary. By trying sweet feed as a third feedstuff it is determined, through trial and error, that 0.75 lbs of sweet feed along with 2.0 lbs of fall pasture will provide most of the energy requirement but only 0.19 lbs of crude protein (76% of requirement), which is inadequate. By deleting the sweet feed and changing to a 16% dairy ration to supply the needed crude protein, it is finally determined that 0.75 lbs of a 16% crude protein dairy ration, 2.0 lbs pasture, and 0.02 lbs of mineral will provide 1.3 lbs of TDN (100% of requirement) and 0.25 lbs of protein (100% of requirement). The weight gain to achieve adequate breeding size should continue to be monitored with possible feeding adjustments made. The lesson here is that this doeling, because of the need for growth, has higher requirements than a mature doe and needs extra nutrition.

Flushing meat goats

Some people advocate “flushing” of meat goats prior to breeding. Flushing refers to the practice of providing extra nutrition to does approximately 2 weeks prior to breeding and for a variable portion of the breeding period (e.g., 1-2 weeks) to increase the number of ovulations and have a greater proportion of twins. This is widely advocated with sheep producers and Angora goat producers. Producers have extrapolated the practice to meat goats. However, several controlled studies with Spanish goats in reasonable body condition (BCS 2.5 - 3.5) have shown no response in kidding or conception rate of meat goats to flushing with extra protein, energy, or both. The practice may have utility for meat goats in poor body condition, but there does not appear to be justification for flushing does in acceptable body condition.

Winter feeding of does

Early to mid-winter is a time when does should be in early pregnancy. The goal of a wintering program is to economically provide the necessary nutrients to maintain a reasonable body condition, lose no weight, and keep them warm. In general, most wintering programs consist of both forage and supplement components. The forage component can consist of hay, stockpiled forage, or a cheap byproduct roughage feed. The supplement usually contains energy, protein, and often vitamins and minerals, although these may be provided separately as a mineral mix. Commonly utilized supplements include whole shelled corn (inexpensive source of energy), range cubes (inexpensive source of energy and protein), sweet feed, protein blocks, molasses blocks or tubs, and liquid feed.

Stockpiled forage is forage that is grown during the summer or fall upon which animals are not allowed to graze, reserving it for the winter months. In drier areas, the forage is well preserved, but in a more humid climate quality declines rapidly, making the practice less satisfactory. Stockpiled forage is a very inexpensive forage source since it does not have to be mechanically harvested (baling forage doubles the cost of forage); animals harvest stockpiled forage by grazing. Animals make much more efficient use of stockpiled forage when strip grazed (using temporary electric fence to limit animal access to an area containing a 1 to 3 day supply of forage) to minimize trampling. Fescue is used in many temperate states for stockpiling and retains its quality well into late winter even in humid areas. Most recommendations for stockpiling fescue include late summer fertilization, clipping, and deferred grazing. Warm season grasses such as native range and Bermudagrass can be stockpiled. The amount of deterioration is dependent on grass species and rain. If local cattlemen are using stockpiled forage it will probably work for certain classes of meat goats. Consult your state forage extension specialist for further information.

Calculate the requirements for wintering a 95 lb mature Kiko doe (use Spanish biotype) in early pregnancy gaining no weight and with intensive pasture grazing, using LINC. The requirements are 1.19 lbs TDN, 0.14 lbs protein, 3.13 grams of calcium, and 2.19 grams of phosphorus, with 1.86 lbs of dry matter intake estimated (based on default dietary TDN and CP levels). Feedstuffs that can be used include stockpiled (winter) bermudagrass and a 16% molasses lick. The estimated intake from the molasses lick label is 4 ounces or 0.25 lbs. Assume the remainder of dry matter intake is from the stockpiled bermuda pasture.

The molasses lick is not in the feed library so must be entered manually as a new feedstuff. Click on “Add/Delete Ingredient to Feed Library,” to bring up a table to be filled out. First, the feedstuff class is selected. This molasses lick is in the “concentrate” class. Then the name “16% molasses lick” is entered, and remaining values are entered. These values can be obtained from the feedstuff tag or label or by calling the manufacturer. If a value is unknown, leave it blank. For this example, enter dry matter of 85%, 16% crude protein, 75% TDN, 2.8% calcium, and 0.45 % phosphorus. Click on “Add Feed Ingredient to Library” and the Select Feed Ingredient page appears. If needed, click on refresh feed library and 16% molasses lick appears under “Your Feed Ingredient Library.” If you have a dry hay or feed, 85% dry matter is a good assumption.

To continue formulating the ration, select the 16% molasses lick and winter bermudagrass, then click on “Input these Feed Ingredients to the Ration.” Enter 0.25 lbs for the 16% molasses lick under the “Amount, as-fed” column and guess at 1.5 lbs of winter bermudagrass. Through trial and error a total of 2.0 lbs bermudagrass is selected to fulfill intake requirement. The table shows that this diet provides 0.91 lbs of TDN (76% of requirement), 0.12 lbs CP (86% of requirement), 4.74 grams of calcium, and 1.52 grams of phosphorus (deficient). The diet is quite deficient in energy. To provide additional energy, add whole shelled corn. The diet is then reformulated to contain 0.6 lbs whole shelled corn, 1.4 lbs winter bermudagrass, and 0.25 lbs of lick molasses. This provides 1.15 lbs TDN (97% of the energy requirement) and meets the CP needs. Phosphorus is slightly deficient (13%), but if the bermudagrass is better than average the requirement can be satisfied. Mineral supplements vary in their phosphorus levels as phosphorus is an expensive ingredient. If a mineral supplement with a high phosphorus level is selected for feeding, the requirement would be met but likely at a high monetary cost.

Feeding does in late gestation

Energy requirements increase dramatically in late pregnancy (Figure 4). Using LINC, calculate the nutrient requirements for a 130 lb mature Boer doe, 140 days pregnant (10 days from kidding), gaining no weight, other than that due to pregnancy, and carrying twins. Under question 3, after clicking on the box for greater than 95 days pregnant, a form drops down for pregnancy number (twins), breed (predicts birth weight, can enter yours if known), and days of pregnancy (140). The requirements are 2.45 lbs TDN, 0.45 lbs crude protein, 3.97 lbs intake, 6.03 grams calcium, and 4.22 grams phosphorus.

A ration can be balanced using bermudagrass hay and 20% range cubes to meet the requirements by feeding 1.5 lbs of range cubes and 3.0 lbs of bermudagrass hay. This illustrates the high level of nutrition that is needed, especially in the last 3 weeks of pregnancy. High quality hay as well as supplementation is usually required. The range cubes contain a mineral supplement so on additional mineral mixture is needed.

Doelings require more supplementation than mature does, as the doelings are still growing. The nutrient requirements for a 95 lb growing Boer doeling with a predicted intake of 3.37 lbs, gaining 1 lb per month in addition to pregnancy weight gain and 140 days pregnant with a single kid are 1.77 lbs TDN, 0.36 lbs CP, 5.23 grams calcium, and 3.66 grams of phosphorus. If the same ingredients are used as those for the mature doe, how much of each will be required? The doeling could be fed 3.8 lbs of bermudagrass hay alone to meet the nutrient requirements for pregnancy with a single kid. However, if the doeling is carrying twins and is 140 days pregnant, her requirements are 2.27 lbs TDN and 0.47 lbs CP. This doeling will require 1.0 lbs of range cubes and consume 3.3 lbs of hay. If an abundance of high quality pasture is not available, the doeling will need some type of supplementation. If the forage (or hay) of adequate quality is available, only 1 to 1.5% of body weight of whole shelled corn may be needed as an energy supplement. This is important in that feed intake may be reduced in the last 4 to 6 weeks of gestation by the growing kids that reduce available abdominal space.

Feeding the lactating doe

The lactating doe has very high nutrient requirements. Calculate the requirements for a 4 year old 110 lb Boer-cross doe nursing twins in week 4 of lactation. When lactating is selected under question #2 on LINC, a form drops down. Select litter size (twins), week of lactation (4), and age at kidding (4). The program then predicts production of 4.5 lbs of milk per day with 3.6% fat and 3.3% crude protein. Nutrient requirements are 2.8 lbs of TDN, 0.41 lbs of protein, 7.61 g of calcium, and 5.33 grams of phosphorus, with 4.14 lbs of dry matter intake predicted (based on default dietary TDN and CP concentrations). During lactation, the doe can consume nearly enough nutrients if an abundant supply of high quality pasture is available, such as in spring or early summer. However, does will likely lose some bodyweight due to the high demands of peak lactation (weeks 3 to 8 of lactation) and an inability to consume an adequate quantity of feed. Kidding should take place when there is an adequate supply of high quality pasture. If there is not adequate pasture, supplemental feed will be required. Inadequate nutrition will decrease body condition and reduce milk production and kid weaning weight.

If feeding bermudagrass hay and a 16% dairy ration, 2.6 lbs of hay and 2.0 lbs of the ration are required to fulfill requirements. However, the doe will still lose 2.0 lbs of bodyweight per month. When feeding high levels of grain such as the amount in this example, the animal should go through an adjustment period of two to three weeks during which time the grain portion of the diet is gradually increased to prevent digestion and other problems from occurring. Feeding a diary ration and hay to a doe during late gestation and the lactating period will cost approximately $30 per animal. Utilizing available pasture as a feed source is a much cheaper alternative.

Kids are usually weaned at about 12 weeks of age. Milk production of the doe begins to decrease after the 6th week of lactation and is quite low by the 12th week. Nutrient requirements decline as stage of lactation advances, enabling the doe to maintain body condition or even increase it on pasture alone. Kids may be creep fed while nursing to increase growth rate of the kids and reduce nutrient demands on the doe for milk production.

Creep feeding

Creep feeding is a method of providing feed for the kids only. This is accomplished by fencing around a feeder and using a creep gate that has holes about 5 inch wide by 1 ft high. These holes are small enough so that kids can enter the feeder, but adults are excluded because they are too big to go through the hole. Creep feeding will provide extra growth for the kids and train them to eat feed, facilitating weaning. A commercial creep feed with at least 16% crude protein that is medicated with a coccidiostat should be used. It requires about 6 lbs of feed to produce 1 lb of animal gain. The more rapid growth from creep feeding may be beneficial for producing show prospects.

An alternative to grain-based creep feeds that is used in the beef cattle industry is to creep graze calves, using a creep gate that allows calves access to ungrazed high quality pasture. This may have application for goats using high quality pastures (crabgrass or sudangrass that is planted for the kids). In rotational grazing of cattle, the calves are often allowed to creep graze the next pasture before cows so that they have relatively high nutrient intake. Those pastures often have less parasites and disease organisms because of the time since last grazing.

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