Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats

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Curious about the effect of a diet change I have made!

Due to info on the forum about the effects of giving grain to pregnant and dry does, and males we started cutting back on the grain. We were giving them quite a lot! Spoiling them! We also decided we didn't like their hay as much as we thought, so we changed it too. We eventually reached a point to where we are basically giving them NO grain. Not even the two who have one kid each nursing. Or the kids!

Well the result has been very interesting! Everyone looks way better! Even the moms and kids looked better and better as we weaned them away from the grain. Now, I guess what I want to know is, is it ok even for the moms and the kids to not have the grain if they look better without it? We aren't milking either doe and they have one kid each since Marley's buckling has been placed in another pen. I think her doeling, Leigh is about 5 months now and Butter's doeling Penny is about 3 months. 

I know it may seem bad to some of you to not be giving these 4 grain, but seriously, you have to understand that this was not our intention initially. We started out with the intention of cutting back to an appropriate amount. But at the time I was concerned about how all of them looked (does were to thin and kids were not as big as I would have liked) and as we began to cut back they improved. We just kinda accidentally got to where we just were not giving them any more and they look REALLY good now.

They are eating hay (it is a grass hay from TSC and is a nice green color) and some days they get to get out and browse. As far as the browse goes, they probably have hundreds of varieties of things to eat. Everything here is still green except some of the oak leaves are brown and falling etc. But there favorite thing is green. I don't know for sure what it is but I am going to try to find out. It looks like something that I saw pics of online that is suppose to be real good for them. I believe it was called locust. In fact if I remember correctly, it stays green all winter here.

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I was actually thinking about the hay feeder idea last night.  The way my milk stand and barn are set up, I could easily take the grain pan off the stanchion and put the stand in front of a hay rack attached to the fencing.  I'm not sure if that would keep the girls occupied well enough or not, but I'd be game to try it.  I'm not crazy about switching to a pellet, as I've got a great source of alfalfa that will probably never go GMO on me right here in my area.

I wonder about the calcium/phosphorous balance when just feeding a mixed hay and alfalfa?

Rachel Whetzel said:

It's pellets. Comes in 50# bags here! :) Although I bet you could build a stanchion with a hay feeder modification on it!

I think it sounds worth a try and am interested in the results. I am jealous about your alfalfa.

I went to a local feed store yesterday and looked at their alfalfa while I was there. I can not tell you how awful it looked. It was sooo stemmy and brown. Very unappetizing looking and 16.50 a bale! I couldn't believe it and when I asked when they might get some more the guy told me when they sale that. I was shocked.

He said that they had learned something when they purchased that. I inquired as to what and he said that they bought it at the wrong time of year and had gotton 300 bales. Well it looked like they still had most of it and I swear it looked as if it were 2 years old! I said they should just sale it for about half price and try to unload it and buy some more. He said "They won't do that". He just shook his head. I could tell he felt about the same way as I did.

Yes, alfalfa is very hard to bale properly.  I've had the same frustration buying it from feed stores.  It's very common to find it over cured, stemmy with powdery leaves.  It's also common to find it moldy.  Some people try hard to keep the leaf whole, and end up baling it still too wet and it molds.  Some try to prevent molding and end up with over cured hay.  It takes a real combination of knowledge and good weather cooperation to bale alfalfa.  If I didn't have the blessing of this guy making my hay, I'd probably end up with chafhaye or alfalfa pellets.  Even though this guy is good at what he does, he could have an off year, and I'd be stuck too.

Wow, you know a lot about it this. Very interesting. We can't raise it down here so I only know what it should look like, how good it is and how expensive it is, and that is about all I know about the stuff. But I do understand what you are saying. Thanks!

I wonder why it is so difficult to properly harvest alfalfa now.  My grandfather grew it in eastern Washington and had three cuttings per year.  He carefully watched the weather and never lost a crop to rain (causing it to mold). In fact, his alfalfa was usually pre-sold; now I'm thinking because his buyers knew it would be good.  Perhaps the big farms are not giving it the attention a farmer with a section or less does.  It is so sad that most of our farming is big agri now.  One thing for certain, with what you have said, if I purchase any alfalfa hay, I will be super critical of it before I take it home. I would not have considered it be moldy (or that anyone would sell it if it were!) so I truly appreciate the heads up on it.

Yes, I'm not saying that they would sell it that way on purpose, it's just that it's harder to get it right than most other hays, and you can't tell if it's moldy without opening a bale to check.  There's a fine line between it being tender enough to bale without crushing the leaf portion into a powder and too moist to be baled.

I wouldn't be shy about asking anyone you're buying hay from to let you see what it looks like inside if you're at all in doubt.  They should understand that of course, you want to be sure it's good.

I'm sure you're right about your grandfather's alfalfa.  Anyone who finds a good source of hay seems to know they've got a VERY good thing!

I'm pretty blessed that my FIL has alfalfa fields AND hay fields, and that he cares enough to make great hay with both of them, even though his cows wouldn't care if he didn't!

Margaret, how much grain were you feeding each goat initially before you took them off?

Trish, I am sorry but I really couldn't say because I just used a certain number of scoops of both goat chow (noble goat at times) and alfalfa pellets for each pen and varied it depending  on how many goats I had in there at the time so it really varied a good bit. Sorry!

Ok thanks Margaret...  

I deeply admire folks who get their does to stand for milking w/no grain.  Hurricane Penny would probably give me two black eyes! 


I seem to remember that herd in Alaska- Fair Skies is it?  saying on their website that they somehow taught their does to just chew cud while being milked instead of eating.  Wish someone would tell me how.  Penny got fat while milking last year, probably partly because she eats really fast and becomes very violent when she runs out so...basically I give her what she wants.  I had considered trying to feed them only alfalfa/hay pellets on the stand instead of grain-- there is no local source of organic grain and I go to great lengths not to feed GMOs


On the hay pellet topic- I am a big fan of the timothy pellets made by Standlee (sold at TSC).  Goats love them, they are bright green.  I am supplementing everyone on these because the only grass hay w/o alfalfa that I can ever get is often yellow coastal. They eat it, but I wonder what the nutritional content is like, esp for the pregnant girls?  So, I give them a scoop of the timothy pellets (you can't get nice timothy hay down here unless it either is mixed with alfalfa, or is priced equivalent to its weight in gold) at turn-in for the night.


The other big bonus for the pellets for me, is that they don't waste anything.  I give the bucks a big scoop of timothy pellets at lockup & often don't have to keep hay in their rack overnight and nothing goes to waste. 

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