Goat Care for Beginners: How to Care for Goats
Goats are ruminants, or mammals that digest roughage by chewing, partially digesting, regurgitating and then chewing it some more. When you hear people say that goats or cows are chewing "cud", they are actually chewing the partially-digested roughage that was previously swallowed.
Roughage for Goats
Because goats are ruminants, the majority of feed goats consume should be roughage. This includes "browse" such as shrubs and woody plants, and also forage, such as hay and pasture.
Roughage is not always enough to satisfy the nutritional needs of goats. Supplement your goats' forage diet with pelletized or coarse grain goat feed. Work with your veterinarian to develop a feeding plan for your goats to ensure they are getting the proper amount of nutrition.
There are several types of browse that are poisonous to goats. Care should be taken to eliminate access to enclosures that contain these plants:
Poisonous Plants to Goats
- Wild cherry
- Members of the laurel family
- Many others. Contact your county agricultural extension agency for a complete list of poisonous plants in your area.
When considering the quality of roughage for goats, a distinction should be made between "poor quality" roughage for cattle and "poor quality" roughage for goats. Goats are not able to digest the cell wall of plants because feed stays in the digestive tract for a shorter amount of time. Therefore, plants with thicker cell walls, such as straw, provide almost no nutritional value for goats but may be sufficient for cattle. Goats will eat various plants that are not palatable to cattle, such as leaves from trees and shrubs, and goats are known to eat almost anything regardless of its nutritional value.
Hay can be fed as a source of digestible fiber. To avoid waste, install a wall mounted hay rack in your goats' barn stall.
Livestock Supplements for Goats
Especially when roughage quality is poor, goats should be supplemented with quality supplements formulated specially for goats. This will ensure that goats' nutritional requirements are met. Generally, milk goats are fed more supplements than meat goats. It is easy to overfeed a goat which leads to obesity and a lowered rate of productivity. Commercial feeds specifically formulated for goats such as DuMor goat formula are recommended to help prevent obesity. Refer to livestock feed labels for specific goat feeding suggestions or visit your local Tractor Supply Co. store to get advice from an expert team member.
Minerals for Goats
Goats require several specific minerals for basic body function and optimum production. Goats should have access to trace mineral salt containing selenium at all times. A complete mineral supplement formulated especially for goats is also recommended during certain seasons when browse and forage may be sparse and during peak production levels. In addition, other minerals may be naturally deficient in your area, so it is a good idea to consult your local agricultural extension agency for specific mineral feeding suggestions. Goats are susceptible to Grass Tetany, although not to the same degree as cattle. Grass Tetany is caused by a deficiency in magnesium and occurs most frequently when goats are grazing lush pasture in the spring but can also occur in fall and winter. Offer a mineral supplement with higher levels of magnesium prior to exposing goats to lush pasture land.