Factors to consider in goat transition diets

In order to maximum yields from your goat herd it is beneficial to think about having a tailored ration to complement and meet your goat's nutritional demands.

Delve into our article which explores the most important facts to consider when creating diets. It is also important not to neglect the main macronutrients of carbohydrates and proteins as they all contribute different amounts of energy and therefore will allow a balance to be achieved.

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High quality nutrition for lactating female goats

Roughage such as pasture, browse, or well-cured hay, is required all year for dairy goats. Hay should be used to supplement winter browse and pastures. A daily ration of legume hay, like as alfalfa, is required for milking, breeding and developing stock. Milkers should be fed a conventional dairy grain ration, while males and females should be provided a balanced grain ration. Milk is given to babies until they are two to three months old, but by two weeks of age, they should be eating pasture grass or hay, and by four weeks, they should be eating grain. Salt and clean, fresh water are required for all dairy goats. Mineral supplements are highly recommended.

Whilst being milked, grain can be fed to the does as high quality nutrition is important for lactating females. A lactating female needs high quality hay or pasture to sustain her lactation. She also requires 16-18% protein grain, fed twice daily for a total daily consumption of roughly 21-23% of her body weight. A 90 kg female requires approximately 2.5 kg of concentrate in addition to high-quality hay. If you milk twice a day, the concentrate ration can be divided between milking’s.

Drying off should be done gradually over seven to ten days by reducing the concentrate part of her diet and feeding her lower-quality grass hay or pasture. If drying off doesn’t start to occur then reduce the hay and water for several. Milk production is halted as a result of the pressure from a full udder, and the milk in her udder gradually resorbs.

Formulating a ration

When formulating a ration three key nutritional areas should be focused on – energy, protein and health, as well as how rapidly energy and protein sources are broken down and where subsequent nutrients are utilised. All these factors influence feed efficiency and goat performance.

  • Energy
    1. Rapidly fermentable carbohydrates (RFC) - this includes starch, sugar and fibre fermented in the rumen plus silage fermentation products (lactic acid).
    2. Total fermentable carbohydrate (TFC) - total starch, sugar and fibre fermented in the rumen.
    3. Digestible undegradable starch (DUS) - this is starch not degraded in the rumen, but digested in the small intestine (bypass starch).
  • Protein
    1. Rapidly fermentable protein (RFP) - crude protein fermented in the rumen.
    2. Total fermentable protein (TFP) – total crude protein fermented in the rumen.
    3. True digestible protein (DTP) – the combination of microbial protein and protein that is not degraded in the rumen. It is used by the goat for maintenance and production.
  • Health
    1. Acidosis index (AI) – the risk of acidosis from starch, sugar, fibre and fermentation acids.
    2. Rumination index (RI) – indicates the rumination potential from fibre content and forage particle size.

Take note of the size of particles

The size of the particles in the goat's diet is important because of the speed with which they pass through the digestive tract; this has an impact on the efficiency with which the entire diet is digested.

When significant amounts of grains are fed but not used in the rumen, hindgut acidosis can develop. This happens most frequently when maize silage is fed, particularly new maize, which might cause microbial fermentation of carbohydrates in the hindgut.

Forages form the basis of the goat’s diet and any smallholder relies heavily on quality hay being fed as this will account for a least 40% of the total feed fed.

Top tips from our Specialist Fred Power

"Firstly goats will milk for two to four years in a commercial herd. To avoid goats from getting overly fat, don't feed them more energy than they need, and aim for a protein content of 17% or higher."

"The amount of food a goat can eat varies by breed and age, but my rations rarely reach 2.85 kg of dry matter. To stimulate milk production, the feed must be well-balanced in terms of protein, carbohydrates, and carbs. Many considerations must be taken into account, as requirements differ during pregnancy, transition, and early to mid-late nursing."

"Lastly the amount of starch that must be consumed in a diet can range from 10% to 20%. Grains like wheat, barley, and oats will provide this. Goats require fibre, which comes mostly from sugar beet pulp and soya hulls."