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Goat Nutrition

Updated on October 4, 2014

First and foremost I am not a veterinarian. I have not had any medical training. How I take care of my goats comes from many hours of research and trial and error. I am sharing what I have learned and what has worked for me and my goats.

What A Healthy Goat Looks Like

It is pretty easy to spot a healthy, happy goat. Their eyes are bright and clear, their coat is shiny and soft and they are energetic. But there are more subtle things to look for. I have been raising goats for about 9 years now and have learned that goats can be very complicated animals. I thought raising goats was easy and simple like many people I talk with. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Trial and Error

It took me a few years to learn the basics about goat care. In fact I am still learning and changing how I care for my babies.

1. Vaccinations

2. Worming medicines

3. Nutritional Feed

4. Good quality hay

5. Minerals

6. Grazing area with a good variety of greens

7. Proper shelter

8. Treats

2. Worming Medicine

This has been a major trial and error area for me. My first real experience with worms was when I bought my main buck Rambo. I bought him right after he was weaned and brought him home. He was very healthy at first, but soon showed signs of not feeling well. I spoke to the vet and brought her a stool sample. He had barberpole worms. Doing research I found out this is one of the worst worms a goat can get. They attach to the intestinal wall and cause anemia. The eggs can lay dormant in the ground for a long time. The medicine I used for him was Cydectin. It is a strong worm medicine and it took several treatments but we got him well again. I bleached the ground where we had him penned to kill any eggs and larvae that might exist.

Symptoms of a worm infestation is diarrhea, poor coat condition and pale gums.

I tried putting my goats on a worming schedule and was worming every 3 months. But was still having problems. I learned that after a while the medication can lose its effectiveness. I did a lot of research and am now only treating when I see signs of trouble in a goat. All goats have worms, they just need to build up a resistance and be kept healthy enough that the worms don't bring them down. It has worked much better for my herd. I have not had much worm problems any more. If I see signs in one of my goats, I immediately treat them then retreat them in 4 weeks.

I will give pregnant does a dose of Cydectin several weeks before their due date to prevent the baby from being born with a worm infestation,

I alternate with 2 different medicines, Cydectin and Ivomec 1%. Both are given orally. There are many other medicines but these are the 2 that seem to work best for my goats.

1. Vaccinations

There is one vaccine that I give my goats and that is CDT to protect against clostridium perfringens types C and D and tetanus (CDT). This vaccine prevents tetanus and enterotoxemia that's caused by two different bacteria.

Clostridial diseases are fatal diseases that can come on suddenly, often causing death before any clinical signs are seen. Clostridia (bacteria) are normally found in the soil and feces. They are also present in the digestive tract and tissues of healthy animals. For these reasons, vaccination is the best way to prevent disease outbreak.

I vaccinate once a year, except babies and pregnant does. I vaccinate a pregnant doe several weeks before her delivery date. This passes the immunity onto the baby.I then keep the does on the same yearly schedule as the rest of the herd.

When the baby is 4 weeks old I vaccinate them, then again in two weeks. They then go on the same yearly schedule as the herd.

4. Good Quality Hay

All hay is not the same. You have different mixtures. Different quality. I have gotten hay that was moldy, and hay that was so old it had no nutritional value left. Finding a good hay seller is crucial. I have someone now that has the best hay I have ever used. They goats eat it like candy. I have found that a mixed grass hay has worked best for my goats. Some people get hay with alfalfa mixed in. That is also good for goats. I get alfalfa cubes and mix them in the grain.

3. Nutritional Feed

My goats get grain on a regular basis. During the spring, summer and fall when there is a lot of greens for them to eat I give them grain once or twice a week. During the winter when there is not much greens I give them grain every day.

I have tried many different grains over the years. I have used regular goat grain, medicated goat grain, hay stretcher and sweet feed. I have settled on mixing medicated goat grain with sweet feed. I use the medicated goat feed to help prevent Coccidiosis.

There are many things you can add to the grain mixture that your goats will enjoy. I mix in sunflower seeds, different cereal, bread, crackers, etc.

6. Grazing Area

I learned very quickly that goats don't eat just grass. In fact grass is on the bottom of their browsing list when other greens are available. Sticker bushes are high on the yummy list. Hedges are very popular also. I will buy seed packets at the end of the season when they are very inexpensive and toss them out in the fields in spring. I will put out different vegetable, herb, flower and grass seeds to replenish the pasture after winter. I will also get some grass seed and put it out when it snows and it soaks into the ground as the snow melts and grows very well in the spring. Variety is the key for a healthy goat pasture.

5. Minerals

I use several different types of minerals for my goats. I keep a feeder in the barn so it will stay dry. I put a mixture of loose goat minerals mixed with baking soda. The baking soda is to help prevent bloat.

I also get a protein pail from Tractor Supply that is mixed with molasses. They eat both the loose minerals and protein pail really well. And I noticed a difference in the herd once I started making these things available.

8. Treats

When I first got goats I already had miniature donkeys. So naturally i would give the goats small pieces of the donkey "cookies" purchased at the feed store. The goats loved them, but after I stopped raising the donkeys I started looking for treats that were a little less expensive. I found my answer at the dollar store.

For $1 a bag or box you can get quite a variety of good treats for your goats. My goats have their favorites of course. Iced animal crackers, ginger snaps and honey grahams are the types I buy the most. I recently bought some regular graham crackers and they like those also. My grandson loves giving the goats treats and will also help himself to a treat out of their cookie jar.

I also give them crackers and peppermint sticks. I break them into small pieces. I buy those after Christmas when you get them at great prices.

7. Proper Shelter

Good shelter is a must for goats. When I purchased my first 2 goats I was told by their owner that goats do not need shelter since they are in the same family as deer. I could not imagine an animal not wanting shelter in cold or wet weather. And when it rains you can look outside and see all the goats peeking out of the barn.

I have several different types of shelters and they all work well. The main shelter is actually a small carport with 3 sides attached. I have 3 wooden shelters that we built and an assortment of dog houses picked up at yard sales. The small babies especially love to sleep in the dog houses. When they get bigger they like to play king of the mountain on top of the houses.

In the winter to help keep everyone warm I put pine shavings on the barn floor and in the dog houses.

The Picture Of Health

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Spend Time With Your Herd

My best tool to keeping my goats healthy is observation. I spend at least one hour per day out with the herd just sitting and watching them. I handle them every day, check their bottoms to make sure there is no loose stools. Every Sunday each goat is brought out and put on the milking stand while we check them over and each is given a dose of red cell once a week. They look forward to this because they get cookies after each weekly check. Rewards do wonders for goat cooperation.


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