Though goats have a reputation for eating just about anything—from roses to weeds—they actually need a variety of foods in order to thrive. Understanding and meeting your goats’ nutritional needs will help to ensure you keep a healthy herd.
First and foremost, goats need access to clean, fresh water at all times. They are quite efficient at using water and tend to tolerate heat stress better than other livestock; however, even a ten percent loss in body water can prove fatal for a goat.
The energy needs of goats will depend on their life stage and activity level. The best way to assess if energy needs are being met is by using body condition scoring (1-5, with 1 being extremely thin and 5 being extremely obese) and adjusting the diet accordingly.
The most natural way to feed goats is on a pasture with a wide variety of plants, trees, shrubs, and grasses. Goats prefer browsing over grazing, eating things like leaves, woody-stemmed plants, weeds, and brush; however, they will also eat grass if choices are limited. With limited space or during the winter months, providing roughage in the from of hay is necessary. Some goats may need a concentrated goat feed to meet energy needs as well.
When choosing hay for your goats, don’t necessarily go for lower-quality. Though many consider less desirable hay to be suitable for goats, it’s better if forage is clean and free from mold or dust.
While pasture or hay is typically sufficient to cover the protein and energy needs of most goats, lactating, growing, or ill goats may need supplemental legumes (alfalfa, clover, etc.) or protein supplements. In addition, feeding adequate or slightly greater amounts of protein than required appears to aid in controlling internal parasites in goats.
Mineral/ Vitamin Needs
Like other livestock, goats require salt and will readily eat it free choice. Our Pure Unrefined Sea Salt will meet not only sodium and chloride requirements, but many of your goat’s mineral needs as well. To ensure all mineral and vitamin (as well as salt) needs are being met, another option is our Sea Salt and Organic Kelp Mix for goats.
Other Supplements for Goats
Like horses and other forms of livestock, older goats can suffer from arthritis and joint pain. Supplementing with our Su-Per® Glucosamine Powder and/or Su-Per® MSM Powder—both natural anti-inflammatories— can offer relief. Adding our Omni-Wormguard Plus for Goats will also help to keep your goat parasite-free.
Foods to Avoid
Yes, goats can eat a wide variety of things, but they can’t eat everything! Goats tend to avoid plants which are toxic to them, but the following are very dangerous and should never be accessible to your goats: rhododendron plants (fatal), azaleas, buckthorn, daffodils, foxglove, rhubarb, poppies, juniper, and tomato plants.