for people who love the littlest dairy goats
We have two doelings, 3 months and 12 days old. In all my reading I'm seeing that offering grain is something that many do, and even say that we must do. I have a friend who raises/breeds larger dairy goats (LaMancha and Nubian) and keeps Nigerians (for show, she has a petting zoo), and she insists that grain is the way to go. I have another friend who used to raise/breed Nubians and fed only alfalfa, only offering grain when her does were in milk. The woman I acquired my two girls from says that she only offers alfalfa and minerals to all of her goats, and grain when her does are in milk.
I'm confused. I realize that there are as many ways to raise goats as there are owners, but I would like to do what is best for THIS breed (versus what is best for goats in general), and I'd like to raise them to be as productive as I can, which I believe in the long run will save me money, space, etc. (because I won't have to get more goats to meet our dairy needs).
Can you all share what you do and why? I am determined to understand the needs of Nigerian Dwarf goats so that I can make sure to provide all they need. Right now, I am offering them alfalfa (not sure if it's first or second cutting), water, Purina Goat Minerals, and of course, goat milk for the baby.
Thanks in advance!
I feed my young goats (both weaned and nursing) free choice grass hay and minerals, a small amount (a large handful) of alfalfa (either baled or chaffhaye) and between 1/2 and 1 cup per day (divided into 2 feedings) of Purina Goat Chow with a little bit of black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) mixed in. As they approach 5 or 6 months, I wean them off of the feed and the alfalfa. After that they get just grass hay, minerals and maybe some BOSS, especially in the winter when there's no browse or pasture. During our short summer season they do get pasture and browse. It has seemed to work well for us so far. I think it's probably quite similar to the way many goat folk on this site feed.
Welcome to the site, and congratulations on your new little goaties. Best wishes. :)
Thank you Patty! And thank you for sharing what you do. As I learn what to do, I'm sure it will get easier, but at this point my head is spinning! Your method sounds very simple and straightforward.
So glad I found this site. :)
Welcome to the group, Kristi! I love your question! I wish everyone realized that the exact feeding program on each farm needs to be individualized to the needs of the goats on that farm. Patty already gave you a great short answer.
The long answer is in my book, Raising Goats Naturally. It's not just a matter of grain or no grain but also what supplements your goats may or may not need, such as additional copper and selenium above and beyond what it provided in a multi-mineral mix and their grain. If you have sulfur or iron in your well water, they'll need more copper than what most supplements provide.
It's not even just a matter of picking up a bag of goat grain at your local feed store, as they all vary in their nutrient analysis -- and all claim to be complete! Copper is a big example. Commercial goat grain can vary from 5 to 80 ppm copper, but your goats really need at least 35 ppm copper, according to a professor of animal nutrition who has actually studied goat performance on a variety of different copper formulations.
If you're not into buying books, Raising Goats Naturally is available at most libraries, and if it's not at your local library, they should be able to get it for you through inter-library loan.
I only feed grain to my Does that come to the milking stand, Doe's three week from their due date I start feeding the grain, and bucks in rut. The rest get lots of alfalfa hay and pasture, during the winter I give leaves that I have saved from the fall. I also give them orchard grass hay.
Every one has to do what they think is right for their goats. If I get a doe in the is really thin I will grain her, my babies get a little grain when I feed the mothers their grain, once the doe are on the milking stand the kids don't get any more grain,
Have fun with you new little goats, I love mine and love just watching them play, I also show and have a small grade A dairy and just really enjoy them all.
Shadow Hills Ranch
Thank you very much for your answer, Deborah. I did see your book and it's in my Wish List along with another on using herbs for livestock. Raising my livestock naturally is really where my heart is, so it looks like I'm in the right place. I do hope I am able to learn all I need to provide a balanced feeding program for my animals, especially the ones that provide food for our family.
Hi Pam! Thanks for sharing your methods with me. You are the third person that has told me that they feed this way, so I'm seeing that it's much more common than I originally thought. I heartily agree with you that we all must do what we feel is right for our animals, and I'm not sure if you meant to, but you make a great point about watching the weight of your goats and adjust accordingly. I'm feeling so much more comfortable with raising these sweet little creatures than I was yesterday. Thanks for being part of that reassurance. :)
Thanks for your reply, I will give you a very important thing to remember about these little goats. Look at them each day, really look and make sure they are well. No sores no cuts, are they feeling well ( normal) are they happy, are they thin, are they bright eyes and bushy tail so to speak, you can stop problems before they get bad, just by knowing what is normal and what is not with each goat. I hear so many people say I did not know there was a problem until it was to late.
Know your animals and take good care of them and they will live a long and happy life and give you hours of enjoyment, as well as wonderful milk etc.
It sound to me like you are on your way for many happy times. Luck goat you have.
Shadow Hills Ranch
Thanks so much for the advice, Pam. I have heard this and plan to do this very thing. Is there a head-to-toe inspection that we ought to be doing weekly or monthly that you know of?
I am striving to do the best I can nutritionally, etc., for these babies---they are after all providing an important part of our diet and I feel I should do the same for them. We are also really enjoying them. They are so much fun to watch and interact with.
Thanks again, Pam!
You are getting so much great advice on this thread! I'm sure Pam will have more to add, but I'd just say that it's really important to get your hands on them every day. When my does jump up on the milk stand, I run my hand down their spine every time. Only takes a couple seconds, but it's super important to keep track of their body condition.
Other than that, I would just say to get to know them as good as possible. A few years ago, someone looked at her kids eyelids and saw that they were bright red. She freaked and immediately started treating them for pinkeye. The problem with her diagnosis is that the kids did not have pinkeye. With "pinkeye" in goats, the eyeball actually turns whitish-blue. Their eyelids SHOULD be red inside. That means they're not anemic. She just hadn't looked at them since she got them. Another person put her ear up to her goat's stomach one day and heard all sorts of noises and was worried that the goat was sick. Nope. That's normal too. If you do NOT hear a sound at least a couple times a minute, that means you have a sick goat.
Thanks Deborah! What am I looking for when I run my hand down their spine? Weight? I'll definitely have to take a look inside the eyelids, I could totally see myself doing what that lady did, ha ha. I would imagine there's a lot going on in a goat's gut since they have 4 stomachs.
Incidentally, one thing I find really comical is watching a goat's cud come up into their cheeks. It's like the cheeks are empty, then all at once they are full and the goat is chewing. So cute and funny.
Here is a great PDF on body condition scoring:
Works the same for kids as adults. Much easier to understand when you actually have your hands on a goat than just looking at the pictures. But the pictures are a really good start.
Thank you Deborah. When I went out to see the girls this morning I ran my had along their spine and legs, just to get them used to me doing it. I'll check out the fact sheet so I can learn what I'm looking for! LOL
I grain my milking girls and take care of them first. But every morning I bring my 7 yearling girls, one by one into the milking room and give them a very small amount of grain, probably not more than 1/4 cup. They have learned to come by their name and in the same order to go on the milk stand and it gives me a place to have hands on - hopefully I would see any problem right away. I pet them, feel their bodies and check feet. Only takes an extra 1/2 hour of my time. I did this with my first goats and never had a problem with kicking on the milk stand so have always continued this practice. They also have to have a few raisons for a treat before they leave the milk room.