How Much Does A Goat Eat, Goats are ruminants; they have four stomachs. Their stomachs act like big fermentation vats. When you feed a goat, you are actually feeding the bacteria in this fermentation vat. The bacteria, in turn, make the nutrition in the food available to the goat’s system. A goat’s rumination method of processing food requires plenty of roughage and fiber to work properly. Although the goat’s digestive system is similar to that of other ruminants, such as cattle and sheep, who are “grazers” and eat grass, goats are more related to deer, who are “browsers”. As browsers, goats are designed to eat, and prefer, brush and trees more than grass.
It is natural for them to nibble a little here, and nibble a little there. Though goats will eat grass, if you are considering getting goats to be lawnmowers, you are going to be sorely disappointed, because they will eat your trees and roses before they will work on the lawn. They really like bark and will strip the bark off trees. (especially pines, cedars and maples, to name a few). Goats could be used to help reclaim grasslands that have been overgrown with brush. Our land was overrun with brambles, wild roses, honeysuckle and 100s of small pine tree when we moved here; these are all gone now.
Never make big changes in the way you feed a goat all at once, or feed large quantities of a new food that the goat has never had before, if you do this, you can throw off the bacteria in the goat’s rumen, which can cause the goat to bloat, or the rumen to shut down. When changing a goat’s diet, do so slowly, to give the bacteria in the rumen time to adjust.
This is the way we feed our dairy goats here, at Fias Co Farm. We have 20 adult does and three bucks (does and bucks are always housed separately)
We breed in the fall to kid in the spring. Our spring kids are always big, strong and healthy enough to breed in the fall (when they are at least 80 pounds, usually in 7-8 months).
Milkers are fed in the milk stand when they are milked.
All the other feeding is done at “tie stanchions”. Our goats ARE NEVER tied except at feeding time, and this is only under strict supervision. Because we have a separate “feeding station” for each goat, we know exactly what each goat is eating (or not eating). In this manner, is is also quite easy to administer their Weekly Herbal Worm Formula or any other supplement each individual needs. We can easily know that each goat is getting the correct amount of food, wormer, supplement, etc. If we were to “mass feed” their would be no way of knowing who was getting what, the stronger would always get more than the weak, thus, the weak will not receive the food and supplements they need. Yes, it is less convenient to feed individually, but it is well worth the extra work.
We train the goats to stand at their own station. Each goat goes to the same place everyday. They each get “clipped” on a short lead and then are served their own “bowl” with the proper food. When they are done they wait patiently until everyone is done and then they are let go. No mob scene at feeding time, it’s great. We currently feed 21 goats at a time this way. It doesn’t take as much space as you would think and takes no time at all to do.
When the goats are busy eating, this gives us time to clean out the barn without getting “help”.
Some of our goats having a very orderly breakfast
Waiting patiently after breakfast, while the “slow eaters” finish up.
The goats have learned to wait as we sweep out the barn each morning.
Kitchen & Garden Scraps: Goats as composters?
Yes! I used to collect my kitchen scraps to add to my compost pile, but they always started to smell and get moldy before I’d remember to take them down to the garden. One day I looked at my compost collection and realized that most of it would make good additions to our goats diet. These were all the vegetable & fruit cuttings: onion ends, banana peels, tomato ends, broccoli peelings, orange peels, garlic skins, etc. The only thing in the collection that the goats couldn’t get was the egg shells. I now sort out the egg shells and give these back to the chicken to eat and feed the kitchen scraps to the goats. They love it and it is a good nutritional supplement to their diets. Because I give the scraps each day, there is never that much and so there is no worry about disrupting their stomach flora.
We do not usually give our goats food treats (they just like petting and attention as their treat), but if you wish to give your goats treats, a good choice is a few raisins or corn chips. Only give a few each time (feed one at a time) because you don’t want to upset your goat’s digestive system. You can feed a slice or two of bread as a treat, but never feed bread as a main part of your goat’s diet.
What not to feed a goat
I have heard outrageous things people feed to goats. Just because a goat will eat something does not mean you should feed it to them.
Paper: Goats like to browse and eat trees and bark, because of this, paper is naturally something they are interested in (it is made out of wood). But, paper has no nutritional value and it also contains a lot of things that aren’t really good to consume. Do not feed your goat paper of any sort.
Cigarettes: Do not feed your goat cigarettes or cigarette butts (no matter out an “old timer” told you). Some people say you can use cigarettes to worm your goat, but if you want to worm your goat with a “natural” product, there are a lot safer natural wormers available.
Dog Food: Heck, I won’t even feed my dog commercial dog food . Do not feed your goat dog food. A dog’s dietary requirements (they are omnivores) are totally different than a goat’s (who are herbivores) and dog food can disrupt the goats digestive system.
Cat Food: For goodness sake, do not feed your goat cat food! Cats are carnivores with a single stomach; goats are herbivores and ruminants with four stomachs. Carnivores and herbivores have two totally different dietary requirements.
Another Note on Dog & Cat food: Be aware that is illegal to feed any ruminate protein back to a ruminate as part of the scrapie/BSE control program. Most dog and cat food has ruminate protein in it, and is not labeled for goats, sheep, or cattle. This ban has been in effect since 1997.