Animals can only be as active, strong, and productive as the nutrients being fed to them. Goats are ruminant animals, meaning their stomach processes feed using bacteria and fermentation techniques. Therefore, their stomachs are highly sensitive to diet changes, as any new product may throw off the delicate balance in the rumen which may lead to bloating or diarrhea. It is very important to stick to a healthy diet and provide the necessary nutrients for the animal's life stage and production period. Below is how we feed our animals based on their gender, age, and production.
Does are fed free choice alfalfa hay as well as a small amount of alfalfa pellets mixed with black oil sunflower seeds once per day.
Alfalfa is a legume plant and is high in protein compared to grass hays. In Arizona, there are generally three cuttings of alfalfa (sometimes more). First Cut contains the alfalfa blossoms and many leaves. Our goats go crazy for First Cut and it is usually very high in protein in our region (19-21%). On the down side, First Cut can have so many leaves it appears to "blow away" at the slightest breeze and the does go through a bale in a very short amount of time. It is also the most expensive Cut of Alfalfa on the market.
Second Cut contains half leaf, half stem and is usually slightly lower in protein depending on the soil it is grown in. Third Cut is primarily stem and is used as cow hay here in Arizona. It is low protein and very "twiggy", and for a picky goat it is not the best option. We feed both First and Second Cut Alfalfa (our local Second Cut is never below 18% and we have been very happy with the results on our herd).
Alfalfa Pellets options are vast and numerous at local feed stores. Beware! Not all alfalfa pellets are created equal. On the back of each bag of pellets will be a listing of the nutritional values. We do not purchase pellets that are below 14% protein for our does, no matter their age or production status.
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds have approximately 44% fat and 17% protein, and also provide crucial Vitamin E in a goat's diet. Vitamin E must be present in the digestive system in order for Selenium to be absorbed into the body. We will talk more about minerals farther down on the page.
Does in Milk:
Animals cannot maintain peak productivity and a healthy weight while in milk unless they are fed concentrated feed rations to replace the protein and fat they lose in their milk supply. There are many milking goat grain mixtures available on the market. We recommend using a grain that supplies at least 16% protein and 3% fat. These numbers can vary depending on the doe.
We allow our does to eat as much grain as they would like during a ten minute period while we milk them. They do not receive any additional grain for two reasons: first, by providing grain ONLY on the milk stand our does have excellent stand manners and do not waste their time causing trouble. Secondly, too much grain can cause a doe to become fat in a short amount of time. Excess fat can cause many hormone imbalances as well as reproductive problems.
Both bucks and does are fed free choice alfalfa hay as well as alfalfa pellets mixed with black oil sunflower seeds once a day. We switch the young bucks to a normal buck diet once they are six months old, and they stay on that diet the rest of their life.
There are many controversies over what is "right" when it comes to feeding bucks. Bucks are prone to Urinary Calculi (calcium and phosphorus stones that become trapped in the penis and can kill your buck). Nutritionists have proven that a 2:1 ratio of calcium and phosphorus keeps bucks free from Urinary Calculi and therefore recommend monitoring these levels in your feed.
We feed a half/half mixture of alfalfa hay and bermuda grass to our bucks, as well as Alfalfa Timothy Horse Pellets mixed with black oil sunflower seeds once a day. While we have used this mixture, our bucks have been free and clear of any urinary problems.
Goats must be offered free choice minerals at all times, no matter their age or gender. Mineral blocks do not allow animals to ingest the required concentrations of minerals per day, and therefore we offer lose minerals to our goats (although, we still provide certain mineral blocks as a form of a treat for our goats to lick when they are bored). Our goats are free fed Sweetlix Magnum Milk Lose Minerals, Icelandic Kelp, Loose Livestock Salt, and ZinPro.
**As of 2020, Swettlix has changed its ingredients to include chelated minerals. This means that the copper and selenium is more readily available for digestion. At the same time, they have lowered the salt concentration. We now offer a plain, basic livestock salt in addition to our loose minerals to prevent our goats from "overeating" their minerals and suffering from copper or selenium toxicity while still having the ability to consume as much salt as they need in their diet.
The most common mineral deficiency in goats is Copper and Selenium. They must ingest these minerals in order to maintain healthy hormone levels in their body. Signs of Copper or Selenium deficiencies include dull/rough coats, "fishtails", reproductive problems such as does that do not "take" during breeding season or bucks that do not seem to fertilize does consistently, and White Muscle Disease. Other minerals provide necessary help to body functions and the ones we feel are the most important to mention are listed below:
-Iron: component of hemoglobin, required for oxygen transport as well as a component of certain enzymes.
-Copper: forms red blood cells, hair pigmentation, connective tissue, enzymes, and immune system function. Goats that are copper deficient are more susceptible to disease!
-Cobalt: Component of Vitamin B12, and is utilized for growth.
-Zinc: used for immune system function as well as skin growth. Zinc is especially important for male reproductive systems
-Manganese: important for bone formation, reproduction, and enzyme functions.
-Selenium: functions with Vitamin E as an antioxidant. Also affects reproduction and healthy metabolism levels
-Iodine: regulates energy and reproductive function
-Magnesium: regulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism and helps with milk production
-Salt: acts as an electrolyte and maintains healthy cellular function. It also increases water consumption, which is a NECESSITY in the Arizona summer heat.