Goats are pure herbivores and like varied food. Living wild in nature, the animals go on long journeys of discovery. They usually travel long distances in search of food in order to selectively find tasty fodder.
Goats are ruminants and have a complex digestive system, which is why they are dependent on fiber-rich food. In the summer, the animals like to forage for themselves fresh greens, herbs and shrubs. In the barren and cold winter months, they mainly eat available roughage.
Learn more about feeding goats in our guide!
What is the basic diet for goats?
If the goats live in a free-range system, the animals look for their own food in a pasture. The pasture should be sufficiently large, lush, and have a variety of vegetation. This includes a wide range of nutrient-rich plant species, including grass, clover, herbs, leaves from young trees and shrubs. The biodiversity of the pasture is important for the subsequent quality of the milk produced by the dairy goats and the meat obtained.
Bark and brushwood are also very popular with the goats and promote their health due to the minerals and trace elements they contain.
In order for the rumen of ruminants to function without disturbances, a high proportion of roughage in the daily feed ration is crucial. In spring and summer, the vegetation on the pasture is usually sufficient for this. However, you can feed additional hay or straw, as it is tasty and good for ruminants.
Always make sure the feed is clean and not spoiled. With hayracks for goats you always present the roughage to your animals in a practical and hygienic way.
How do goats eat?
Generally, goats do not graze, but pluck and chew raw and fibrous food with their mobile upper lip and lower incisors. The animals prefer longer and somewhat woody plant parts. In contrast to them, sheep eat mainly the juicy and shorter green fodder, which is why you can easily keep goats and sheep together on the pasture. There is no competition in the search for food.
Should goats be fed concentrates?
Goats have been finding various grains in the wild for many centuries and like to eat them, but only occasionally and in small amounts. Therefore, you should also offer concentrated feed only selectively and cautiously.
The addition of concentrates should depend on the needs, pregnancy and milk production of the animal. If the goats do not give milk and are not highly pregnant, it is best to do without the particularly nutrient-rich feed completely. On the other hand, you should feed highly pregnant and lactating dams, as they develop increased nutrient requirements.
If the goat’s energy and nutrient requirements increase in the last third of pregnancy, you must adjust the feed ration to the animal’s performance. The best way to do this is to slowly change the feed over a two-week period and give concentrates in addition to the basic feed. The ruminant stomach of the goat must slowly get used to the new feed.
Concentrated feed includes legumes and grains such as barley, oats and corn. Adding two to three handfuls per day is usually quite sufficient. If you feed too much, the goats can get diarrhea and quickly become fat. If you feed the concentrate in several portions and only after the roughage, the milk quality remains good and has the necessary fat content.
However, when feeding concentrates in goat husbandry, there are different opinions on the type and amount.
How much do goats eat?
According to the North Rhine-Westphalia Chamber of Agriculture, goats can eat two to three kilograms of dry matter per day, depending on the feed. The proportion of concentrated feed should not exceed forty percent, so that the feed is still fair for ruminants. The crude fiber content should be at least 18 percent.
What fruits and vegetables can goats eat?
Fruits and vegetables belong to the juice feed, which is characterized by the fact that it has a relatively high water content. When the supply of food is particularly abundant, the animals select and specifically choose the tasty juice feed.
As a popular supplement, juice feeds can be added on a limited basis. These include:
- Fodder beets
Especially in late summer and early fall, there is plenty of fallen fruit in the meadows. Instead of letting it rot, it is a good idea to give it to goat farmers, who can feed the fruit to their goats in moderation.
Ideally, fruits and vegetables should not come from sprayed plants, but should be free of harmful chemicals.
Goats are skilled climbers
Goats are very skilled and can stand on their hind feet to reach fruit from trees and vegetables from tall perennials. However, many other tall growing plants are not safe from them either, so you need to be careful about this when keeping goats near kitchen gardens. Otherwise, the voracious goats can quickly destroy the entire crop or break ornamental plants.
How do I properly supply goats with minerals and trace elements?
Like us humans, goats also have a certain requirement for minerals and trace elements. In order to meet this requirement sufficiently, mineral and salt licks are a good solution for the animals. You can place these near the feeding places in the stable and on the pasture with lick holders.
In addition, there are special admixtures for the feed, in which minerals are contained. Such products are especially suitable for the pregnancy and suckling period of goats.
However, the goats may not like the taste of the mixtures and blocks. If the offered product is not accepted by the animals, it is essential to replace it. Otherwise, there is a risk of deficiency symptoms and serious diseases.
Lickstones and feed bowls must not get dirty, otherwise the goats will consistently avoid the offered product. Therefore, you should never place lickstones and feed bowls on the ground, but always elevated.
What do goats eat in winter?
In the local latitudes, winters are characterized by sometimes deep sub-zero temperatures and sparse vegetation. If the goats do not find enough food on a pasture covered with snow, you have to feed your animals additionally. It is advisable to give roughage such as hay, supplemented with freshly cut twigs, silage and beets. Depending on their needs, you can also use concentrated feed in the form of grain and oilseed meal.
What should goats not eat?
Goats can be very frugal in times of need. However, when there is an abundant supply, they show themselves to be very snacky and picky. They also like to try new plants. Thus, the goats may go after the flower bed or even nibble on the freshly washed clothes on the clothesline.
If the animals are kept in a new field or unfamiliar meadow, it is imperative to analyze the food supply in advance. Some plant species are toxic to goats and can be life threatening. These include, for example, azaleas and rhododendrons, where even a small leaf will cause symptoms of poisoning. But the leaves of cabbage, potatoes and tomatoes can also be poisonous to the animals. Therefore, it is important that you remove poisonous plants from the pasture before the goats go there for food.
Goats should not eat the following (list not exhaustive):
Leaves of rhododendrons or azaleas.
Flour or pasta
Peels of potatoes
Leaves of tomato and potato plants
Citrus fruits like oranges or lemons
Peels of bananas
How much water do goats need?
In addition to a balanced diet, you must ensure that your animals are always supplied with sufficient fresh water of impeccable quality.
The daily water requirement of a goat depends, among other things, on:
Water content of the feed
performance stage (pregnancy, milking)
The water requirements of an adult goat can range from three to well over ten liters.
Keep your goats hydrated with automatic valve or bowl waterers.
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