Goats – food and water
Nutritional information for goats.
Goats must have access to adequate and appropriate water for their age, stage of production and weather conditions.
Automatic waterers are the preferred and most efficient method of providing water to goats in paddocks or yards. If this is not possible then adequately sized containers must be provided to ensure adequate quantity and quality is available for the number, age, production level, bodyweight and type of stock, dry matter content of the feed provided and the weather conditions (air temperature, available shelter and humidity).
In general goats require 4-5 litres of water per day and up to 10 litres per day when lactating. Water availability is particularly important for recently weaned kids and lactating does.
Water supply must be clean as goats will refuse to drink dirty or contaminated water. Automatic water floats must be protected to ensure goats do not damage them.
Goats must have access to adequate and appropriate feed for their age, stage of production and weather conditions.
Goats must not be fed animal meal or fish meal. This is to prevent the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) disease agent.
Quantity and quality of feed should be based on:
- Bodyweight and/or fat/body condition score
- Extra demands based on growth, pregnancy, lactation and exercise
- Prevailing/predicted weather conditions.
Regular assessment should be made of the needs of the goats in relation to the quantity and quality of feed. This can be done by weighing goats and using a condition scoring system regularly.
Goats are considered browsing animals and if possible, will obtain 40% of their food from browsing or foraging on a variety of food sources. Goats prefer longer species of grass than sheep and will avoid clovers.
Dairy goats require supplementary feeding to meet their additional nutrition needs while producing milk. Suitable supplementary feeds include crushed oats, barley or goat mixes. Good nutrition is especially vital for young goats, growing goats and does during pregnancy and lactation. The goat’s age, size, breed and stage of production will depict its individual dietary requirements.
It is common for goats that are kept in schools to be confined to a small space with minimal natural forage. In this case supplementary feeding is essential and providing the goats with a variety of fodder types is preferable if optimum health and digestion is to be achieved.
When providing supplementary feeds, the rule is to introduce new food types slowly and carefully, do not feed excessive grains, feed plenty of high quality roughage and feed small amounts at frequent intervals.
Regularity of feed
Hay or pasture should be freely available to dairy animals with concentrates fed at milking times and once per day for all other animals. Kids should have free access to does and if hand raised should be fed at the following frequencies:
- 3-4 days old: 5 times per day
- 3 days-3 weeks old: 3-5 times per day
- 3-6 weeks old: twice a day
Regular monitoring should be carried out to help identify shy feeders and allow for their management before they drop condition.
Hand raising kids
In cases where a doe dies or is ill, kids may need to be hand raised. This procedure takes time and effort and kids must be closely monitored to ensure nutritional needs are met and constant weight gain is occurring.
Newborn kids require colostrum in the first 24 hours. If goat colostrum is not available, sheep or cow colostrum can be used as a replacement but care must be taken as reactions can occur. A veterinarian can give specialised advice on a feeding schedule for kids.
When hand-raising kids, a high level of hygiene must be maintained. Bottles should be sterilised after every feeding. Milk replacer should be introduced slowly, mixing 50% milk with 50% electrolyte replacer such as Vytrate to minimise the risk of scouring. The concentration of milk can be slowly increased unless scouring occurs.
Australia has an inclusive ban on the feeding to all ruminants of all meals, including meat and bone meal (MBM), derived from all vertebrates, including fish and birds. The current ban was established by statutory laws in each of Australia’s jurisdictions and enforced by official inspections and audits, which also take into account quality assurance schemes that operate within Australia’s ruminant livestock industries. This acts as a fail-safe control measure to rule out the possibility that feeding will amplify the BSE agent in the unlikely event that it is introduced to Australia.