Most producers do not have winter forages for grazing and so they depend mostly on legume, grass, or mixed grass/legume hays. Such hays are typically cheaper in terms of protein (CP) and energy (TDN) content than commonly available grains, grain byproducts, and oilseed meals. Females of breeding age can ‘make it’ on all-forage diets, either pastures or hays, provided the protein and energy contents of the hay is adequate for individual goat needs (maintenance, gestation, lactation, and, as necessary, growth).
For most owners, hays are the basic feedstuff used during the winter months when pastures are not adequate to support the nutrient needs of their goats. In non-grazing situations, the daily feed intake (DFI) of gestating or lactating does can be composed of one or more hays or some combination of hay and concentrate to provide the required dietary levels of protein (CP) and energy (TDN). If the available hay(s) contain sufficient percentage of CP (%CP) and percentage of TDN (%TDN) and are fed ad lib, there will be no need to offer supplements (other than perhaps a mineral mix) to these classes of does. Contrarily, if the available forages are inadequate in CP and/or TDN, it usually is cost-beneficial to provide supplements to achieve desired DFI .
We thought a practical explanation of the basics of goat nutrition could be useful for producers to make informed decisions about economical feeding practices and make more astute feedstuff purchases.
Meat goat production in the cold climates of the northern U.S. and Canada requires careful management if one is to attain maximum profitability. Under these challenging conditions, meeting the dietary requirements for all stages of goat production (growth, gestation, lactation, dry) is the key to success.
Meat goat dietary requirements are fairly well known to researchers and extension specialists, but much less so to producers of goats. This article will educate the reader of certain basic principles of nutritional physiology as a prelude to making practical feeding recommendations, as well as herd management tactics that may give the producer an edge when raising meat goats in cold climates.