Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats

for people who love the littlest dairy goats

Hello. I am new to the goat world and will be getting my first 2 (Nigerian
Dwarfs) next month. I don't want to give them store bought grain and plan to mix
my own. Just wondered what others are feeding theirs. I have a friend who just
uses oats and sunflower seeds. Also wanted to know opinions as to the importance
of grain. With grassfed beef and such being popular as the natural way to feed
cows, is there any validity to avoiding grain as much as possible? Is it mostly
used just to keep them happy on the milkstand or is it necessary for health and
production? So, I guess it's really two questions :)
TIA!
Theresa




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You can't have grass-fed goats like grass-fed cattle because goats are browsers, not grazers. After having goats for seven or eight years, it occurred to me one day that wild goats never lived on the plains or prairies. We don't have the nutrients they require, so if they happened to wander out here many years ago, they either continued their migration or stayed here and died from malnutrition.

 

There was a discussion on here a few months ago about not using grain. The woman's name is escaping me at the moment, but she is out west so her goats get a lot of browse. She does also feed alfalfa, but no grain. And she only does this with goats that were born on her farm. She hasn't transitioned goats that were accustomed to grain. Maybe she could pop in and comment, or maybe someone else could remember her name or the name of the discussion.

 

As far as mixing your own grain, I tried that several years ago, and it was frustrating. You really need a pre-mix mineral to add to it, and I haven't found any that are particularly good. There are a lot of nutrition discussions on here, but goat's nutritional needs are pretty complex, and they can vary from place to place, because everyone's property has different vegetation, water, pollution, etc. Copper, selenium, and zinc are especially important, and it's easy for goats to be deficient even when feeding a commercial feed and free choice minerals.

Thanks Deborah, your comments on why goats need grain are especially helpful!

So, Deborah,  are you saying that goats need the grain?  I always thought it was only for does in milk and very cold nights.  I also heard you should not give it to bucks as it causes urinary calculi.  Have I been misinformed?

 



Deborah Niemann-Boehle said:

You can't have grass-fed goats like grass-fed cattle because goats are browsers, not grazers. After having goats for seven or eight years, it occurred to me one day that wild goats never lived on the plains or prairies. We don't have the nutrients they require, so if they happened to wander out here many years ago, they either continued their migration or stayed here and died from malnutrition.

 

There was a discussion on here a few months ago about not using grain. The woman's name is escaping me at the moment, but she is out west so her goats get a lot of browse. She does also feed alfalfa, but no grain. And she only does this with goats that were born on her farm. She hasn't transitioned goats that were accustomed to grain. Maybe she could pop in and comment, or maybe someone else could remember her name or the name of the discussion.

 

As far as mixing your own grain, I tried that several years ago, and it was frustrating. You really need a pre-mix mineral to add to it, and I haven't found any that are particularly good. There are a lot of nutrition discussions on here, but goat's nutritional needs are pretty complex, and they can vary from place to place, because everyone's property has different vegetation, water, pollution, etc. Copper, selenium, and zinc are especially important, and it's easy for goats to be deficient even when feeding a commercial feed and free choice minerals.

Nope, you got all that right. I was talking about does in milk. But in the wild, does would be pregnant and/or in milk all the time. Sorry, I'm on an editing deadline for my book, so I'm being more brief than usual. And apparently not as thorough. 

Kare at Chaverah Farm said:

So, Deborah,  are you saying that goats need the grain?  I always thought it was only for does in milk and very cold nights.  I also heard you should not give it to bucks as it causes urinary calculi.  Have I been misinformed?

 



Deborah Niemann-Boehle said:

You can't have grass-fed goats like grass-fed cattle because goats are browsers, not grazers. After having goats for seven or eight years, it occurred to me one day that wild goats never lived on the plains or prairies. We don't have the nutrients they require, so if they happened to wander out here many years ago, they either continued their migration or stayed here and died from malnutrition.

 

There was a discussion on here a few months ago about not using grain. The woman's name is escaping me at the moment, but she is out west so her goats get a lot of browse. She does also feed alfalfa, but no grain. And she only does this with goats that were born on her farm. She hasn't transitioned goats that were accustomed to grain. Maybe she could pop in and comment, or maybe someone else could remember her name or the name of the discussion.

 

As far as mixing your own grain, I tried that several years ago, and it was frustrating. You really need a pre-mix mineral to add to it, and I haven't found any that are particularly good. There are a lot of nutrition discussions on here, but goat's nutritional needs are pretty complex, and they can vary from place to place, because everyone's property has different vegetation, water, pollution, etc. Copper, selenium, and zinc are especially important, and it's easy for goats to be deficient even when feeding a commercial feed and free choice minerals.

Based on the things that Deb's mentioned here, I've been buying Purina Goat chow for the last two weeks of feeding to my pregnant doe, and then I'll be feeding her that during milking as well. It's easier for me to feed alfala in pellet form, so I feed a mix I've made myself of alfalfa/rye pellets and black oil sunflower seed to my non milking doeling. When not in the last stages of pregnancy, the alfalfa/rye/BOS will be what I feed until milking and in the last stages of pregnancy. Otherwise, my goats get free choice hay, pasture, mineral, baking soda and kelp. :P Whew!! lol OH. ALSO. I bolus with copper.

My grain mix is organic oats, organic barley and Black Oil Sunflower Seeds.  I also have alfalfa pellets.

Rachel, I have heard that giving grain in the last stages of pregnancy can cause the kids to be bigger and thus a difficult birth.  Not sure if that is true, but it might be worth looking into?

Kare, the way I've read it, is that grain during pregnancy can make for larger kids, but that you start giving grain the last couple weeks before they are due... I've only JUST started with the grain, and I'm giving less than a cup a day. It's actually mixed in with the BOS and alfalfa pellets.
Ok, good to know. =)
I hope Deb comments on that one, so I can get some clarification. My doe isn't showing a lot, so if she's got multiples, they aren't big yet.

Yep, you got it right Rachel. Just give grain the last week or two. And if you're going to err on one side or the other, starting the grain later is better than starting it too soon. Mostly you want them to have grain the last couple weeks if you know they're having triplets or quads. Boer breeders have a lot of trouble with toxemia, so ultrasounds are popular with them for that very reason -- so they can give grain to does carrying triplets and quads. I am hesitant to give first fresheners grain at the end of pregnancy unless they are really wide -- meaning they have more than one. FFs tend to have singles, which are bigger anyway, so I don't want to do anything to make them even bigger, which is harder for a FF to birth.

This is why pen breeding is a bad idea. You could wind up giving grain to a doe for a month or more before she actually kids, making for some big kids. I actually got incredibly lucky one time with a doe I thought was due at the end of January, so I started giving her grain in mid-January. She didn't kid until March! Luckily she had quads, but they were the biggest quads we'd ever had -- not at all tiny!

I'm sorry it's not more clear cut than this. I hope it helps!

Whew!! I did read it right. lol So much information, and variables... makes it hard sometimes to figure out how/where your own personal farm fits in.
I am beginning to feel like I need another degree...one in goat feeding!

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