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Goats and their unique nutritional requirements

Goats are inquisitive animals with bags of personality, which makes them enjoyable animals to farm. As well as providing entertainment and companionship they can also provide milk, meat and even fibre. Believe it or not, goat meat (otherwise known as chevron) and goat milk are actually the most consumed animal products in the world! Goats are fairly low maintenance animals to keep, however they do have some unique nutritional requirements that need to be taken into consideration.

Goats are classed as ruminant animals. This means that they are able to get nutritive value out of higher fibre plant matter, due to their complex digestive system consisting of four stomach compartments. Although goats are ruminants like cattle or sheep, they do have quite different feeding behaviours and are classed as browsers rather than grazers. Goats have an innate drive to seek out feeds other than the pasture that’s in front of them. They like to browse for feed in trees, shrubs, bushes and they also like to eat weeds. This explains why they seem to gravitate towards your favourite roses or destroy your vegetable patch – suffice to say, adequate fencing is a necessity when keeping goats! Goats like a varied diet and it’s worth exploring alternative forage mixes rather than typical ryegrass/clover pastures if keeping goats. It’s also a good idea to provide goats with some sort of concentrate feed option such as a pelleted goat feed, as this again increases the variety of the diet and also helps to prevent mineral and vitamin deficiencies. Goats seem particularly prone to iodine deficiency and in New Zealand our soils are already low in iodine in most areas, so it’s a good idea to supplement goats with a feed that contains iodine. 

GoatGoats are very susceptible to parasite affliction when grazing pasture. In their natural environment, goats would not be exposed to high levels of parasites as they are in higher density situations where goats are grazing pasture down to a lower residual (most parasites reside in the base of the sward) and for this reason they do not naturally have a good defence mechanism against parasites. It is important to have a parasite control programme in place if farming goats, which is best discussed with your vet. Nutrition does play a part in parasite control, however and as the base of pasture is the main source of parasites, taking pressure off the pasture, grazing at higher residuals, reducing the total amount of pasture in the diet and supplementing the diet with a compound feed can go a long way to help reduce parasite exposure from the diet and is worth considering.

For lactating goats, more attention needs to be paid to the diet in order to optimise milk production and animal health. Lactating is a demanding physiological state and feeding a pelleted feed to a doe can help to lift the total energy of the diet as well as delivering micro minerals, macro minerals and vitamins, which are vital for milk production. After kidding, peak dry matter intake takes longer to peak compared to peak milk production, so this is a risky period for a doe and can cause a loss of excessive body condition if not managed correctly – and feeding a high quality supplement along with feeding high quality forage can help to boost energy intake and minimise condition loss.

Reliance Goat Performance Pellets are a great option for feeding to goats – with a mineral and vitamin pack designed for goats and free from by-product type ingredients such as palm kernel or copra. Designed with the lactating goat in mind, they are the ideal product for supporting milk production but can also be fed to non-lactating and kid goats if required. For less productive goats, NRM Multi-Feed Nuts are another option to consider and are particularly useful to have on hand if you have other ruminants on your farm such as cattle or sheep. Pop into your local Farmlands store for more information on goat feed options and ask for a copy of the Farmlands Lifestyle Guide if you haven’t got one already.