for people who love the littlest dairy goats
I seem to always be going back and forth on what to feed our milkers. For several years, I have been feeding DuMor sweet feed, mixing in BOSS, sometimes alfalfa pellets. Our goats always have access to Sweetlix Meat Maker loose mineral, Thorvin kelp, and sodium bicarbonate, and we provide a good alfalfa/grass hay. If we feel a doe's (in milk) condition needs improvement, we add Calf Manna (high in protein) to their ration on the stand.
However, we've had some copper issues (we CB), and I've recently read that the molasses in sweet feed is high in iron, which can bind with copper. After talking with several others, I have begun feeding a 16% pelleted feed called Kalmbach Game Plan. I am mixing in BOSS, whole oats (good energy source), and alfalfa pellets. The jury is still out, but so far the girls seem to like it.
I also top dress their feed, esp. in the spring, with TruCare 4 (https://www.amazon.com/TruCare-Top-Dress-Trace-Mineral-Blend/dp/B01...). I came across it a couple of springs ago. Our goats were having a rough time coming out of our long Michigan winters. This seemed to help. Not sure if I should feed it year 'round, or just as needed. Anyone else have experience with this? How do you feed it?
Would love for some of you to share your feeding program, and the reasons for it.
There are rumors that everything in "high" in something. The iron level in sweet feed is nothing notable and definitely not high enough to cause a copper deficiency. The only molasses that has any iron in it is blackstrap molasses, and it's not even that much iron. Taking blackstrap molasses to overcome anemia is a bad option because of how much sugar you'd have to consume to get enough iron. I actually researched this long ago when I was anemic during pregnancy. You would have to consume 5+ Tablespoons to even get 100% RDA of iron from blackstrap molasses, which is much more concentrated than unsulfured molasses, which is what is used for sweetening. Blackstrap tastes terrible.
Ironically, I just looked up the ingredients for the Kalmbach Game Plan, and it contains molasses, so you probably didn't change things much. The other ingredients look very similar to Dumor, except they don't list how much zinc is in it.
I don't recommend making any changes to your goats' diet without a goal and without really looking at exactly what you are changing. What was the problem that you were trying to fix? As the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Oats are just carbs, which goats don't need any extra. If your goats need more energy, you should find out what was causing them to be lethargic. Really the goal of a commercial goat feed is just to increase protein for milk production and to serve as a carrier for the added vitamins and minerals. You don't need to add any grain to it. The goal should be to feed as little as possible because grain is not a normal part of a ruminant's diet.
Only milkers need the sunflower seeds. It increases butterfat.
Alfalfa pellets are exactly the same thing as hay, so if your hay isn't the best, adding alfalfa pellets is a good idea. Otherwise, you're just wasting your money because they're a lot more expensive than hay -- at least in most parts of the US. I only feed alfalfa pellets on the milk stand because I can't finish milking before my does finish their grain.
Your first paragraph sounded just about ideal. The challenge with changing the diet is that you have to wait at least a year or two to realize if it worked -- or not.
Thanks for the reply Deborah. You know, just when I think I've got something figured out, the next thing I know, I'm reading online, or talking to a breeder, and I feel influenced to change. We typically have very healthy and strong goats, and have but a few health issues. So, you are right, why change? Why fix something that isn't broke? I guess I'm just always looking to improve.
Do you personally feed a sweet feed, or pelleted to your does?
Do you use, or recommend, medicated feed with Rumensin for coccidia prevention?
I never have, and always try to prevent it by keeping bedding clean and hay off the ground, etc. However, I had an episode with a kid this spring and had to treat him for coccidia.
Also, are you familiar with the TruCare 4 trace minerals? I top dressed it on our goats' daily feed ration toward the end of winter and into spring. I felt like they all needed a little boost coming out of a brutal winter. Just wondering your thoughts on that, and if it seems like quality stuff, or just fluff. I didn't give any grain to our does over the winter last year, only an alfalfa/grass hay mix. I don't like to give a lot of grain when they don't need it (i.e. aren't in milk and aren't close to kidding), but perhaps just giving them a little grain would've been enough to keep their condition up over the winter??
I used to feed Purina Goat Chow then switched to Dumor Sweet Goat when I realized it had the same nutritional analysis and was a couple dollars cheaper. Then the local feed mill agreed to mix up feed for me that basically matched the nutritional contents -- and was several dollars cheaper. It doesn't have molasses in it though -- and I never noticed a difference in their copper needs when I switched.
I worked so hard to get goats that weren't dying and aborting, so once I had goats that were getting pregnant and staying pregnant, I didn't want to change anything. We recently got a new water treatment system though that seems to have removed all of the sulfur, which is kind of scary, but I'll just keep an eye on the goats and see how how their copper needs change. We really had no logical choice because the sulfur was destroying our plumbing.
Medicated feed should only be fed to goats that are at high risk of coccidiosis. That basically means kids at weaning. So, I give it baby bucks when I wean them. When that one bag is gone, I don't buy another one. Doelings that stay here are never weaned. I explain to buyers that kids may get coccidiosis when weaned and that they may want to use a medicated feed for about a month. Some do. Some don't. Not all kids get coccidiosis when weaned. But those are basically the only goats that have a problem. Long-term use of medicated feed has been linked to vitamin E deficiency.
There is no reason to feed it to adults -- and you should NEVER feed it to milkers because you'll be consuming the drugs in the milk. In 17 years I have only had one adult that needed to be treated for coccidiosis, and it was when she almost bled to death after giving birth to a 5#, 2 ounce kid all by her tiny little self! (She's one of my smallest does.)
I am familiar with TruCare. I have one doe that has mineral issues, and I tried to feed it to her, and she wouldn't touch it. :( If you think your goats may have a mineral deficiency, it is one of the options you can try.
Definitely watch the goats and let them tell you what they need. I used to be so scared of my bucks getting urinary calculi that they'd get really thin over the winter because our hay was terrible, and they weren't selling hay pellets in our area yet. Starting to feed them grain over the winter is how I learned about zinc deficiency, but we live and learn. I'm very happy now that hay pellets are available in my area, and I can feed those in winter for the boys, if needed. Many dry does will become obese if fed grain, but if your does are losing weight without it, then definitely let them have as much as they need to maintain close to an ideal body condition.
Speaking of bucks... I do give them very small amounts of grain each day, basically as a treat and to build a relationship with them (we don't typically have a reason to 'visit' them, especially this time of year!). You say if your boys need it, you provide hay pellets. Which kind do you offer? Our farm store has Alfalfa, Alfalfa Timothy, and Orchard Grass. In the past, when I feel our boys need a boost, I'd give them a little Alfalfa Timothy to try and stay away from straight Alfalfa. But I have read that Orchard Grass is a good type of hay to feed goats... perhaps that version of pellets would be best?
They have straight timothy pellets at our TSC, so I buy those. Orchard grass would also be good. Too much alfalfa will cause zinc deficiency in bucks because of the excess calcium. It's very easy to fix though. If they start blowing their coat in the middle of winter (losing large chunks of hair) and/or foaming at the mouth, you know it's too much. It usually self corrects if you just eliminate the alfalfa. Here is more on zinc deficiency: