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The national standards for dietary requirements and ration formulation are published by the National Research Council (NRC). They are updated infrequently. The guidelines published in 1981contained two major problems:
1) The increase in nutrition required during pregnancy was based on a single kid being born, instead of twins, which is the average..
2) The amount of intake predicted for a pregnant goat amounted to more than she was physically capable of eating.
(Van Saun, Feeding for two... the goat and her rumen)
The guidelines were revised and published in January of 2007, and were combined with guidelines for sheep alpaca, camels, llamas and other small ruminants: Nutrient Requirements of Small Ruminants: Sheep, Goats, Cervids, and New World Camelids (2007). ( http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11654&page=R4). These standards correct the errors in the 1981 standards, incorporate new research findings, and change the emphasis from Crude Protein and TDN, to Metabolizable Protein and Metabolizable Energy.
The research that forms the basis of the new NRC standards was published in 2004 in The Small Ruminant Research Journal, Vol. 53, Number 3, Elsevier Science. Those standards are incorporated into Langston University's LINC Nutrient Requirement and Ration Balancer Calculators. There are two versions of the calculators:
Farm version: http://www.luresext.edu/goats/research/nutritionmodule1.htm
Professional version: http://www.luresext.edu/goats/research/nutreqgoats.html
Some parts of the calculators may be confusing at first. There are sample problems to work through, in Langston's Meat Goat Certification and Training Module at: http://www2.luresext.edu/goats/training/nutr. Those instructions are currently being revised. (March 2007).
A good manager's goal is to maximize goat health, milk and kid production, while controlling costs. Nutrition is the key factor in good management.
Formulating a diet depends on nutrient requirements, which are based on the breed, six and age of the animal, how far they travel to find food, and whether the animal is pregnant or lactating.
Creating a ration to meet those needs is dependent on the feedstuffs available in the area, the price of those feedstuffs, and what the goats wil eat.
Forages are the foundation of the goat's diet. Grain merely supplements the nutrients in hay to provide a more complete ration for animals with extra nutritiona needs such as when they are mailking, pregnant or nursing, or when they are under stress or in cold conditions, or if they are youngstock who are still growing and are pregnant.
A goat's diet (ration *) consists of:
-Hay should be fed in a rack placed above the goat’s shoulder height, with a trough below to catch waste. (Mauchen. What About Hay?)
-Goats waste a lot of forage when it is cut and put into feeders. The temptation is to pelletize the hay in order to limit waste and cut expense, but goats need long-stemmed forage fiber in order to keep their rumen functioning well. Do not feed pelleted hay. (Mauchen, What About Hay?)
-The shortest fiber length you can safely feed your goats is greater than one inch in length. (Van Saun, Feeding For Two....)
-Do not feed silage or haylage. It is cut too short, and is moldy. Goats are very susceptible to listeriosis and can die from eating moldy silage. (Van Saun, Feeding For Two....)
-In confinement systems, hay is a substitute for the forage or browse that makes up the diet of the goat in it’s natural habitat.
-High quality hay should be the basis of the confinement nutrition program, with grain serving only to supplement the nutrition in the hay.
-Buying excellent quality hay saves money by decreasing the amount of concentrate needed.
-Alfalfa has a lot of stems that goats won’t eat. Goats also don’t want to feed the leaves that fall of the floor. To avoid this waste, simply wrap the bales and make baleage. The goats love it, and because the stems are soft, everything gets eaten.
-Hay should be tested so you know exactly what nutrition you are getting for your money. Look closely at metabolizable protein and energy (2007 NRC standards) instead of crude protein (1981 NRC standards). It doesn’t matter how much crude protein there is if it cannot be utilized by the animal.
-Goats do very well on baleage as long as it is not allowed to mold. Individually wrapped bales work better than tunnels, as you can open a bale and feed it out relatively quickly to a milking herd. On a tunnel, you have to eat the face off the front quickly to avoid molding, especially in warm weather.
(3) grass/legume combination
Plastic wrapped round bales (baleage), stored outdoors OR unwrapped round bales (hay), stored indoors
These bales work great spring, summer and fall, but round bales that are stored outdoors freeze in winter, making it very difficult to peel off layers by hand, if you are transporting hay into the barn with a wheelbarrow or wagon. They work ok if you're moving the whole bale into the barn with a skidsteer or tractor mounted with bale spears.
Check the wrapped bales often for mouse holes and tears and seal them with bale wrap tape to prevent mold. Cover open bales with tarps, weighted down with bricks on the edges, to prevent wind and rain damage.
Plastic wrapped square bales (baleage), stored outdoors OR unwrapped square bales, stored indoors
These bales flake off by hand fairly well in winter.
Producers Tip: Check the wrapped bales often for mouse holes and seal them with bale tape to prevent mold. Keep a tarp over open bales to prevent rain and wind damage. (Interview with Marisa Flores, Red River Farm 2005)
Plastic tubes, or silos filled with chopped hay (haylage)
Most authorities caution against feeding haylage or silage to goats. Why?
1) The short fiber length doesn't make as good a rumen mat, and that mat is necessary for processing grain.
2) There is almost always mold in silos. (Van Saun, Feeding For Two....)
3) If a hay tube or bag gets even a small hole in it, the moisture can run the entire length of tube, causing spoilage and mold growth throughout, especially on the bottom and outside edges of the pack. This problem is even worse if the bag is located on sloped ground, as the water travels further into the pack before it is absorbed, causing larger areas of spoilage. Goats can get listeriosis easily from eating moldy feed.
If you can't have your hay tested, use the following chart to help you determine hay quality and nutritional value.
1Standard assigned by Hay Market Task Force of AFGC
2 Relative feed value (RFV) calculated from (DDM x DMI) divided by 1.29. Reference RFV of 100 = 41%ADF and 53%NDF.
3 CP=crude protein, ADF=acid detergent fiber, and NDF=neutral detergent fiber
4 Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN%) = 88.9 – (0.779 x ADF%)
5 Dry matter intake (DMI, %BW) = 120 + forage NDF (% of DM)
Cut early, for high quality hay on the first cutting. Then cut every 28-30 days the rest of the season. This will give you a variety of feed levels, while decreasing stress to the plants. Allow one cutting to go to early flower stage to ensure that the stand survives.
Many producers cut alfalfa every 21 days to get very low fiber dairy rations. This reduces waste, increases intake and increases nutritional value of the forage, but it also decreases yield. If this 21 day cut pattern is repeated throughout the season, the alfalfa will be severely stressed and the stand will die out by the next year. This means you will spend money, time and energy replanting every year.
For an excellent article on forage sampling see http://www.age.psu.edu/extension/Factsheets/i/I104.pdf
Most goat milk producers do not use round bale feeders that were made for cows, because there is no way to prevent the goats from pulling their head out of the feeder and dropping the hay, or from jumping up into the feeder and contaminating it. Once the hay, or even the choicest alfalfa leaf, falls on the ground, a goat won't touch it if they have any other option. This waste is an expensive loss of protein and fiber, and it increases the amount of producer clean up time in the barn since the expensive, high protein hay, becomes bedding.
Where producers have a lot of hay land, and they already own a round baler and cow-type round bale feeders, they may simply accept the loss and budget for it, but this is not a popular option, as most producers have no room in their budget for such waste.
1) Many low tech milk producers peel hay off the round bales by hand and transport it from the hay storage area to the feeding area with a garden wagon or deep wheelbarrow. In the winter, they may use a sled with a box on it to transport the hay. They put the hay in the same goat-proof feeders that are used for small bales. See those goat proof feeders at::
Feed bunk, concrete walkwayThe downside of hand peeling and carrying hay is the amount of manual labor required, especially in the winter. Also, since the wrapped baleage freezes, it is difficult (or impossible) to peel off the layers.
Feed bunk, industrial shelving, slanted headstalls
Feed bunk, wood, pallet headstalls
Feed bunk, wood, slatted headstalls
2) Producers with skid steers or tractors outfitted with bale spears, can move large bales into the feeding area and place them into a goat-proof feeder that is made to hold that type of bale. Critical factors to consider are the ceiling height and door width of the barn where you are feeding. Many commercial goat dairies are housed in older barns with very low ceilings, making it difficult to use machinery in the building. (Warning: Watch those light bulbs!)
See the Sample Farms section of Building and Planning N-Z for diagrams of barns, and types of feeders used for whole round bales.
Producers often have every inch of barn and shed space filled with goats, and do not have adequate indoor storage space for large round bales. Many people who store their hay outdoors wrap the bales in plastic to preserve protein and prevent mold growth. It is important that the bales are covered with a thick layer (up to 8 layers) of plastic to keep them dry, as goats cannot tolerate any mold and get Listeriosis very easily. You must have large tarps and bricks available so the open bale can be covered in case of rain or snow.
Arrangement of bales stored outdoors
If a producer will be hauling the hay with a wheelbarrow or hand-pulled wagon, it is helpful to line the hay right up near the barn doors of each building where goats are housed, leaving a wagon or wheelbarrow width between bales plus two or three feet for ease of movement. Remember that you will be hauling the hay through the snow, so get the bales as close as possible to the doors.
If you are using a skidsteer or tractor to move bales, make sure you place them where you can get to them when the snow is deep, and leave enough room between bale rows to allow maneuvering with the machinery.
The wrapped hay can be used right away as fresh hay, or it can be left to ferment as baleage (fermented long strand hay). Goats do very well on baleage and love it, but farmers must be careful to also feed dry hay first, then baleage and grain. The goat has very little storage capacity in its body, unlike a cow, so the food moves through the system more quickly. A good rumen mat of dry, long fiber hay is essential to slowing down the particles, buying time for nutrient absorption. Since baleage is fermented, it is more quickly digested than dry hay. The rumen mat is essential for keeping it in the body long enough to digest it fully.
When dairy goats need supplement:
if they are lactating or pregnant
if they are a yearling and are still growing while pregnant or lactating
if they are giving a lot of milk
if they travel long distances to forage for food. (Hart)
Grains: whole, cut in halves or quartered, but no smaller.
Trace minerals and vitamins
-Don't overfeed grain:
This upsets the pH of the rumen.
The normal pH of the rumen on a forage based diet is 7.0-7.4.
When the pH falls to 6.8 or less, it means certain death for the essential fiber-digesting bacteria in the rumen.
That leads to acidosis and death of the goat if the process is not interrupted. (Machen)
-You can add dried brewers yeast or probiotics to diets of goats if they are on high grain diets to prevent problems. (Langston, Training, Nutrition section p. 27)
-Grain should never exceed 50 % of the diet. (Hart)
-The maximum amount of grain you can feed without making the animal sick is 4 pounds of grain per doe per day. (Hart)
-If you increase grain in the diet, do it slowly. Add 0.2 lb every 3-4 days. (Hart)
-If goats are not eating all their grain, reduce the amount and offer a better quality forage. (Coffey, DG, 17)
-Beware of "fines" (grain that has fallen apart and looks like a crumbly dust in the bottom of the feed cup.):
-Goats will not eat anything that falls apart. Feed losses due to fines can be significant.
-Pellets that disintegrate with handling, and grains that are ground, get left in the feed cup.
-Do not use a TMR. Use a gravity box to preserve the grain. (Thompson)
-Find a feed mill with a low chute system, as the grains are less likely to disintegrate as they pass through them..
-For goat feeds, use whole grains, or cut them in halves or quarters, but do not grind them. (Van Saun, Feeding For Two...)
-Avoid pelleted feeds:
If there isn’t a sufficiently dense rumen mat to catch and hold them, they pass out of the rumen before they are fully digested, thereby wasting your feed and money..
If you must feed them, do so in small amounts and make sure that there is good rumen mat to hold them in the rumen as long as possible.
Rumen mats are made stronger by feeding an abundance of long forage fibers ( greater than 1 inch), on a regular basis. (Thompson) (Van Saun)
When you buy hay, or cut it yourself, you need to have the hay tested. If it is different from what you have been feeding previously, you need to adjust the ration. This table shows how to adjust supplement for different quality forages.
For every change in forage, there is a corresponding change in supplement. How do we change the supplement?
There are two options:
(1) increase or decrease the amount of supplement you are feeding to change the amount of crude protein the goat is receiving, or
(2) adjust the composition of the supplement to get the new amount of crude protein. (Machen)
The following examples show how farmers use the two options:
Option 1: Keep the ration the same, but manipulate the amount of supplement fed:
This is a 14% dairy goat ration, making about 3 tons of feed:
Before the change in the diet, the farmer fed 1 lb. of supplement per feeding at milking time, morning and evening. In addition to this ration, the producer fed a good quality 20:10 loose dairy mineral mix and buffer (sodium bicarbonate) in separate bins, in all of the pens, free choice at all times. She also fed a 22% CP alfalfa hay in the morning and 13% alfalfa baleage in the evening.
When the farmer was unable to get more 22% alfalfa, she bought14.7% grass/legume hay and 13% baleage. She had a whole feed room full of ration, so she simply increased the amount of supplement to 1 ¼ lb. per feeding.
Option 2: Change the ration components, while feeding the same amount of feed.
The following table demonstrates how you can manipulate the ratio of feed components to achieve different levels of crude protein in the supplement, if you want to make a new batch of feed..
Feeds and Nutrition of Dairy Goats ( Dr. Irene Brown-Crowder of Langston University, Langston, Oklahoma.)
New Producer Tip: Once you decide how much you need to feed each goat, experiment with different scoops until you find something that holds exactly that amount of feed you need. Most of the big scoops sold for feed are made for cow and horse feed, and are too large for the amount you feed to your goats. They are also heavy and hard on the wrists. Many stores have inexpensive scoops in their pet or cookware departments. Fill them with feed, dump it on a scale and see how close you can come to the right size for the amount you feed. This will speed up feeding time because you won't be worried about estimating how much to give, and each goat will get the same amount.
Note: PPM = the weight of a paperclip in a ½ ton (1000 lb.) of feed.100 PPM = 1.5 oz. in a 1000 lb. of feed
-Do not use horse mineral block or horse feed. There is too much molasses and the minerals are not right for goats.
-Do not use mineral blocks labeled “goat and sheep.” If there is the right amount of copper for the sheep, it is inadequate for the goat.
-The amount of mineral in soil is directly related to soil characteristics.:
Young, alkaline soil is high in minerals.
Old, acidic, sandy soils, are low in minerals.
-As plants mature, their mineral content declines.
-Read mineral bag labels carefully. Look at the endings of the ingredient list . The highest (most bioavailable) mineral compounds have names ending in –sulfate (such as magnesium sulfate). A compound ending in –carbonate (such as calcium carbonate) has an intermediate level of bioavailability. The least bioavailable compounds end in –oxide (such as ferrous oxide). Try to find mineral mixes where the majority of the ingredients end in –sulfate. They cost more, but are a better buy in the long run. If a mineral is not bioavailable, it is flushed out of the goat with the feces and urine and is not used at all, so it is a total waste of money and time.
-High levels of sulfur or molybdenum interfere with copper absorption. Even if the label says there is enough copper in the mix, if there is too much sulfur or molybdenum, the goat won’t receive the copper.
-Blood analysis of mineral status is unreliable.
-Calcium to phosphorus ration should be 2 to 1.
-Do not give more than 0.38 – 4 % phosphorus or you will increase chances of urinary calculi.
-Goats should have 0.7 PPM (parts per million) of selenium per day
-Loose mineral or block minerals must have at least 90 PPM trace mineral salt in order to meet the minimum requirements for selenium.
-Pregnant does should have 1.5 to 2 mg of selenium per day
-Feed selenium in your grain ration and loose mineral mix instead of giving BoSe shots at birthing. Much of the Selenium from BoSe injections passes through the goat and gets excreted before it gets absorbed. Do not count on it to supply adequate selenium.
(Van Saun, Vitamin and Mineral Supplements)
Producer’s tip: 2 lb of organic selenium added to 3 tons of feed increases the feed bill only $3.40. (2006 prices)
Map of selenium in U.S. http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/toxicagents/selenium/map1.html
1) Look at the tag on the mineral bag. It should tell you what rate to feed.
(Example: on a mineral bag it says to feed 0.5 to 1 lb/month/100 lb body weight.
2) Take the weight of the goat and divide by 100.
(Ex: If you are feeding a 200 pound buck, divide 100 into 200 and get 2. You need 2 times the listed rate.
3) Take that number and multiply by the rate.
(Ex: The rate varies from 0.5 -1 lb/month. Figure the lower rate first. Take 2 x 0.5 lb/month=1 lb/month.
Now figure the higher rate: 2 x 1 lb/month/100 lb.. = 2 lb. Now you know you feed 1-2 lb. per month for that buck.
4) To get the amount per day, divide by 30 days in a month.
(Ex: Do the lower rate first. 1 lb divided by 30= 0.03 lb/day, Now the higher rate. 2 lb divided by 30=0.067 lb. day.
We need 0.03-0.067 lb. per day. )
5) How do we feed 0.03 or 0/067 lbs? Change it to ounces and you can weigh it.
(Ex: Figure the lower rate first. There are 16 oz. in a pound, so take 0.03 lb. x 16 oz/lb.=0.48 oz. Rounded to the nearest ounce, that is ½ ounce. Now the higher rate. Take 0.067 lb. x 16 oz./lb. =1.072 oz.. Rounded to the nearest oz, that is 1 oz. We feed ½-1 oz. per day for a 200 pound buck.)
6) Divide by two if you feed twice a day.
(Ex: Divide 1/2 oz. by 2= ¼ oz. Divide 1 oz. by 2= 1/2 oz per feeding,.
Our answer: we feed 1/4 to 1/2 oz. per feeding, twice a day, for a 200 lb. goat.
Vitamins are involved in many parts of feed digestion. If a vitamin is critical to some function, and there isn't enough of it, then it slows or stops the process, often with ill effects for the goat.
There are two types of vitamins: Fat soluble ( A, D, E, and K) and water soluble (B vitamins and C). Rumen bacteria make plenty of the water soluble vitamins if the goat is fed appropriately. But if too much molasses or grain is fed, or too much Albon (a coccidostat) is fed, then sometimes you will see a Thiamine (B1) deficiency, which, if bad enough, causes polioencephalomalacia.
The body can't make fat soluble vitamins, so they have to be given in the feed. The recommended level of vitamins in feed is:
Vitamin A 5,000 IU/ lb.
Vitamin D 2,000 IU/lb.
Vitamin E 20 IU/lb
Article on B vitamins: B Vitamins and Ruminants, Dairy Goat Journal, Vol. 85 No. 4, July/August 2007 at page 30-32.
Buffer keeps the rumen pH correct.
Goats should have ½ to 1 ounce per goat per day to increase butterfat. (Van Saun, Feeding For Lactation)
Offer this free choice. They do not like it mixed into their feed, and won’t eat with it in there.
Dairy goats need a minimum of ¾-1 gallon of water to drink every day. (Van Saun)
In order to prevent goats from defecating into short tanks, either raise tanks on a cement platform, or use a tank with higher sides, and then put a cement blocks in the bottom of the tank to limit the depth to the recommended 12 to 14 inches, so that if a goat falls in, it can get its footing to get back out. You also can place ramps in front of a deep trough to enable small goats to reach the water. (Shurley)
Producer's tip: See how to build an inexpensive water unit using a Hudson Valve and a Plasson Coupler: Watering Unit.
Body Condition Scoring
Body condition scoring on a regular basis will ensure that each goat is doing well. You can adjust the feed of those that are over or under weight. See Body condition scoring on the Medical A-D page.
MUN (Milk Urea Nitrogen)- a test for correct nutrient balance
MUN (milk urea nitrogen) should be 8-16 ml/dl for a goat. 8-10 is too low and indicates inadequate protein intake. Over 16 is too high and indicates either overfeeding of protein or the nutrition balance is off. You can also test the blood for this. BUN (blood urea nitrogen) 10-12 ml/dl. At 19-20 ml/dl you will see reproductive failure due to a decreased conception rate. (Van Saun)
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