In this comprehensive guide to goat feed, we cover the types of food and nutrients that you should (and should not) feed your goats to keep them healthy, and to increase weight and milk production.
We also cover feeding baby goats, bottle feeding goats, and feeding nursing goats.
Goat Feeding Schedule
Goats need attention to their nutrition in order to thrive. Goats are able to digest foods like grass and weeds but cannot survive on browsing only.
Whether you are raising goats for milk or meat, you have to have some knowledge on how goats are to be fed. A balanced diet with all the nutrients improves immunity, growth and production. Meat and milk goats are likely to lose condition if given inadequate feeds due to their body mass and high production yields.
Never drastically change your goat’s diet. Changing a diet drastically can lead to digestive upsets. When changing to a new diet, start feeding the goat small amounts of the new diet. This method works without disturbing the bacteria in the rumen. Feeding a balanced ratio reduces the risk of lower yields while also improving the goat’s health.
Hay should always be available to your goats. Hay should form the basis of at least 40% of your goat’s feed. Milking goats should be fed 4kgs of hay per day. Adult goats can feed 2 to 4 pounds of hay per day. You may feed them free choice or feed them hay twice in a day. Alfalfa hay contains more protein, vitamins and minerals than any other grass hay. I recommend feeding your goats alfalfa hay.
Feeding kitchen scraps. Goats can eat 3kg per day of carrots, cabbages, and other kitchen scraps. You can purchase fresh vegetables for the goats from the market if you can. But kitchen scraps do well. Be careful not to feed them poisonous fruits for they may affect their health or even cause death.
Grains are a source of protein and vitamins. Grains may be fed as supplements. Overfeeding grains may fatten or even kill the goat. Quality grains to feed goats are oats, wheat, barley etc. It is best to contact your local livestock nutritionist to formulate a goat pellet feed for your goats.
Loose minerals should be provided free choice. Do not feed mineral combinations in blocks, but feed individual minerals. You can purchase magnesium block, phosphorus block etc.
Clean water. Fresh clean water should be available 24/7.
How Often Should I Feed My Goats?
When feeding the goats, it is advisable to divide the total ration of a day in two feeds. When introducing new feeds, start it gradually then build up to the required amounts.
What do Goats Eat? What Grain Do You Feed Goats?
The decision to feed goats grains should be based on the nutritional requirements of the goats. There are different types of grains that you may feed the goats to supplement their feeds:
- Whole grains- whole grains improve growth rate and feed efficiency. The whole grains may be corn, wheat or barley etc.
- Pelleted grains- processed grains that are turned to pellets.
- Rolled grains- they are whole grains that have been rolled.
- Textured grains- they are whole grains that have been mixed with other grains to improve and add nutrients.
Grains are a great source of proteins and carbons. These grains include: oats, corn, barley, wheat etc.
How much grain to feed a goat?
Grains provide enough nutrition for goats. Most grains provide up to 18% protein nutrient. Feeding too much grain is not good because it may affect the goat’s health. You may feed a kid ½ cup of grain in a day. Adult goats may be given about 1 cup per day. Milkers, fiber goats and pregnant does may be given 2 cups in a day.
How much grain should I feed my meat goat?
Meat goats should be fed a cup of grain each day. Meat goats don’t require grains as much because most of their nutrients will be found on pasture. However, breeding bucks may need more grains because of the energy used causes hormonal proportions.
What to Feed Goats to Gain Weight?
Having the right nutrition and a balanced diet is the most natural way of fattening goats. With proper feeds and supplements, then the goats are bound to keep on gaining weight while increasing their health.
Goat fattening can be easily managed. Here are some tips to follow:
- The cheapest and most convenient way of adding weight to goats is by providing pasture. Goats get all their nutrients when free grazing. Have adequate pasture where your goats will feed themselves full. If your location has no grazing land, then feed your goats grains.
- Grains like oats or corn have high protein and energy levels that increase the weight of the goats. Proteins aid in building muscles and digestion therefore allowing nutrients to be absorbed in the body.
- Meat goats should never be fed more than 2 cups in one feeding.
- Provide vitamin and mineral supplements. You can feed them a free choice mineral block.
- Clean water is also important. Ensure your goats have fresh and clean water available.
What to Feed Goats to Increase Milk Production?
There are many factors that may cause a decrease in milk production by your goats. You might want to check the feeds that you give your milk goats if you notice a decrease in yield. Producing milk takes a lot of nutrients from the does and thus they need adequate nutrients to meet production needs.
You should feed your does the following feeds to increase their milk production:
- Feed Alfalfa hay. Quality alfalfa hay provides 15-20 percent on proteins. Alfalfa hay is also high in calcium which is an essential mineral for milking does.
- Include fiber in the diet. Cottonseeds and sunflower are good, natural sources of fiber for goats. Fiber encourages goats to chew, thus stimulating rumination. Milk fat content decreases if goats don’t chew.
- Add grains to your goat’s diet. Feed your goats about 3 pounds of grain daily. The grain meal may be oats, corn, barley etc.
What to Feed Goats in Winter?
Forage is the main source of nutrients in winter when goats don’t have access to pasture. Forage can be either grass hay or legume hay. Plenty of good forage also keeps the animals warm during winter. Quality alfalfa or grass hay may be fed to the goats during winter. Feed them two to four pounds of hay per day. Feeding fiber allows the goat’s to chew throughout the night helping them generate heat in the body and keep warm. Provide warm water for the animals.
Baby Goat Feeding
Before the goat is born, you should have already decided how to feed the kid. You may nurse the baby or leave it to the nursing doe.
There are advantages that come with the two methods. Leaving your nursing doe to raise the baby will save you a lot of resources and time while raising the baby goat by yourself will lead to a greater bonding with the kid. If you can, it is advisable to let the nursing doe care for the kid because the milk has enough nutrients that the baby goat requires.
Baby Goat Feeding Schedule
For the first eight weeks, the baby goat will feed on milk from its mother. The milk provides the baby goat with the entire nutrient it needs. Now after eight weeks you may transition from milk to solid foods:
- At one week from weaning introduce some grains to jumpstart the rumen development.
- At one month from weaning, offer hay, some grain, clean water and pasture time while decreasing the amount of milk given to the goat.
- Start offering loose minerals that the young goat may lick.
- Gradually introduce the young goat to adult feeds but in small amounts.
How Often Should You Bottle Feed a Goat?
Baby goats should be bottle-fed at least 3-4 times in a day for 30 days from birth. Then three times from week two through to week twelve.
What to Feed Baby Goats When Weaning?
Proper nutrition is key in the weaning process. It ensures easy transition from milk to solid foods for your goat. Feed a milk formulator that has 23 percent milk protein and 26 percent fat. It supports health when not feeding from the nursing does.
Water is essential in the weaning period. Water aids in digestion of dry food.
Feed a 16 to 18 percent protein feed pellets. It helps in the development of the rumen. The earlier they begin the better. In addition to protein pellets, free feed quality hay or pastures. It aids in meeting the energy requirements of the young goat.
Bottle Feeding Goats
Bottle feeding is an alternative of raising young goats. Bottle feeding allows you to properly feed the young goat the right and required amount of milk the animal deserves. It also helps you bond with the goats. Goats are lovable animals and can make good pets if socialized from an early age.
How Long Do You Bottle Feed a Baby Goat?
You can bottle feed your from day one through to three months. From day one to day 30 you can bottle feed the kid three to four times in a day. From week two through twelve, you bottle feed the kid three times in a day while introducing adult food.
Goat Bottle Feeding Schedule
The bottle feeding schedule of a young goat is as follows:
- At day one you should feed colostrum equivalent to10% of the body weight
- Feed 4-6 oz of milk when the kid is two to ten years old
- Bottle feed the eleven day old kid 7-12 oz of milk until he is 21 days old
- From 21 days old until weaning you can bottle feed 12-16 oz of milk per day.
Feeding Pregnant Goats
Feeding during the gestation period should consist of medium quality hay, free choice mineral and good quality pasture.
In the last weeks of gestation, the goat needs nutrition so you should increase the nutrients intake. Feed the doe legume hay, pasture and free choice mineral. Add 15 percent protein pellet- grains to the diet.
In general the feeding schedule of a pregnant doe should consist of medium quality hay, good pasture, minerals and water.
Feeding Nursing Goats
Nursing goats require high nutrients because of the high milk production. A lactating goat can get all the nutrients it requires in available pasture. So if you have enough pasture, your lactating goat will be well sorted out. Inadequate nutrition leads to reduced kid weaning weight and a reduction in milk production.
What Do You Feed a Nursing Goat?
Pasture is all a nursing goat requires to sustain the high nutrient requirement needs. If pasture is unavailable, then you have to come up with a feeding strategy for your lactating doe. Feeding grains is important at this stage. Grains will offer the protein requirements the goat requires.
Add the number of pounds of grains you feed your lactating doe depending on the kids she is nursing and the milk production. Grain feeding should be equal to milk production. Provide and free feed quality hay. Always have fresh and clean water available.
Can Goats Eat…?
In this section we cover all of the “can goats eat X?” questions that we’ve come across:
What vegetables can goats eat?
Vegetables are great nutritious feeds for goats. You can feed them kitchen scraps like tomatoes etc or get them fresh vegetables from the grocery store. Below I will discuss why goats can or cannot eat the following plants:
Can goats eat poison ivy?
Goats can eat poison ivy. Goats love the weed because it is leafy. They don’t eat the roots of the weed, but as they consume the leaves, the poison ivy bush dries up.
Can goats eat carrots?
Carrots are healthy treats for goats. Carrots are rich in fibers and vitamins. Some goats like carrot and others don’t. So don’t be alarmed if you find your goat avoiding carrots.
Can goats eat grapes?
Yes goats can eat grapes. They love grapes. Feed them as treats but not as a diet. Plenty of these fruits may cause goats to become overweight and develop urinary calculi quite easily.
Can goats eat watermelon?
Goats like watermelon. They can eat the vines, flesh, seeds and even rinds. Watermelon is rich in Vitamin A and C. It is also rich in potassium and fiber. Always feed watermelon as a treat and when fresh.
Can goats eat pumpkin?
Goats can eat pumpkin. Pumpkins are rich in Vitamins A and E as well as fiber. Pumpkin seeds can act as a dewormer. The seeds are coated in a chemical ‘cucurbitacin’ that causes paralysis in worms.
Can goats eat bread?
Bread can be fed to goats only as treats. Too much of starch and yeast may cause tummy upset. Feed them bread only in small amounts. You can feed them 1-2 slices.
Can goats eat banana peels?
Banana peels provide proteins and other nutrients to goats. They love banana peels. Feed them banana peels as supplements and not as a diet. Too much protein is not healthy for goats.
Can goats eat oranges?
Goats like oranges. Citrus fruits like grapes and oranges are safe for goats.
Can goats eat cucumbers?
Cucumbers are rich in Vitamins A and C so it’s safe to say that goats eat cucumbers. They should be a s supplements only.
Can goats eat tomatoes?
Goats can eat tomatoes. But make sure you give them small amounts of tomatoes. Don’t let them eat the stems and leaves of the tomato tree as they are toxic. Gastrointestinal issues in goats can be caused from consumption of too many tomatoes.
Can goats eat corn?
Goats can eat corn. It is a grain and a source of protein and carbohydrate. Feed goats 2-3 cups of corn daily as supplements. Too much corn may cause the goat to be overweight.
Can goats eat Christmas trees?
Christmas tree (pine) is rich in Vitamin C and acts as a natural wormer for intestinal worms.
Can goats eat potatoes?
Potatoes contain toxics that goats cannot handle or digest. You might find goats feeding potatoes, but essentially it is not healthy. So avoid feeding your goats potatoes.
Can goats eat chocolate?
Can goats eat lettuce?
Goats can eat lettuce. It is rich in vitamins and fibers. This improves the production of milk.
Can goats eat asparagus?
Goats can eat asparagus but in low volumes. Goats have a high tolerance for toxins, so a little bit of asparagus as a supplement won’t hurt.
Can goats eat alfalfa?
Alfalfa hay is rich in proteins and is a good source of proteins for meat, milk and fiber goats. You can feed your goats 4kgs of hay in a day.
Can goats eat corn husks?
Yes goats can eat corn husks. You may feed them husks as a treat.
Can goats eat watermelon rind?
Goats can eat watermelon rinds. Watermelon is rich in Vitamin A and C. It is also rich in potassium and fiber.
Can goats eat acorns?
Goats can consume acorns. The problem occurs when they feed on too much acorn at a single time. Limit the amount of acorns your goat’s feed at a particular time to avoid goat health complications.
Can goats eat broccoli?
Goats like broccoli. You can feed goats broccoli as a diet or a supplement. They are a great source of vitamins for the herd.
Can goats eat dog food?
It is NOT safe for you to let your goat feed on dog food. Some dog foods have meat products which are not healthy for goats.
Can goats eat onions?
It is NOT safe to feed your goat onions. Onions may cause your goat to suffer from clinical anemia.
Can goats eat timothy hay?
Goats feed on timothy hay. It is a good grass-based hay that you can feed your goats with. You may free feed your herd quality timothy hay. After feeding your goats with their diet, you may leave some timothy hay so they can eat for boredom and filling their bellies.
Can goats eat peanuts?
Peanuts including the shells are safe for your goats. Regulate the amount of peanuts you may feed your goats. Too much peanut may cause stomach upsets. Feed peanuts as treats and not as a diet.
Can goats eat spinach?
Spinach is not a healthy alternative to feed goats. It is high in iron which depletes selenium and copper absorption.
Can goats eat pine needles?
Goats can eat pine needles. Their feeding habits are close to that of a deer so they quite enjoy pine needles. You may want to avoid feeding your milk goat pine needles because they give milk a bitter taste.
Can goats eat maple leaves?
Regular maple leaves are good for goats. Feed small amounts ONLY. The wilted red maple leaves are toxic and should NEVER be fed to goats.
Can goats eat cracked corn?
Goats can be fed little amounts of cracked corn. It has a certain amount of calcium that when consumed in plenty can cause urinary calculi. You may feed older goats cracked corn because they find it hard grinding whole corn.
Can goats eat poison oak?
Goats eat poison oak. They can eat poisonous plants which may be harmful for humans. For this, they make fantastic brush control.
Can goats eat cantaloupe?
Goats can eat cantaloupe. It is a good source of fiber. Fiber stimulates chewing which therefore helps the goat in productivity and keeping the goat warm during harsh climate.
Can goats eat moldy hay?
NEVER feed your goats moldy hay. Wet and moldy hay causes stomach upsets, loss of appetite, lethargy, neurological issues, abortions and death.
Can goats eat bamboo?
Bamboo is a healthy crop and can be fed to goats. You can mix bamboo with hay or grains. Goats absolutely love bamboo.
Can goats eat pine trees?
Pine is rich in Vitamin C and acts as a natural wormer for intestinal worms.
Can goats eat cauliflower?
Cauliflower contains glucosinolates which may be toxic to goats if fed large amounts of cauliflower. Feed only small amounts as snacks.
Can goats eat cans?
Goats are known to eat almost anything that fits down their throat, but cans don’t fit into their diet. So no, goats don’t eat cans!
What Not to Feed Goats
Goats are herbivorous and so they should not be fed meat or dairy products. Feeding goats supplements that contain meat or dairy products may cause the goat to suffer from Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)
Poisonous plants. Plants like Yew, rhododendron and azalea are harmful to your goats. Make sure to clear this from your bush as they may lead to death if your goat consumes them. Here is a complete list of poisonous plants that can affect your goats.
You should also avoid the following foodstuffs for they harm your goat’s health:
- Any nightshade vegetable
- Wild cherries
- Rhubarb leaves
- Plants with oxalates such as kales
- And more…
Feeding Goats Video