Types of Feed for Your Goat

Commercial feeds for goats come in many different types and forms. The various types have uses for different types of goats. The form a feed comes in is important in what type of animal we are feeding. The common forms that feeds come in, are a mash, a crumble and a pellet. A mash is like coarse flour, all the ingredients are crushed and the feed pours and it can be dusty. A crumble is coarser than a mash. A crumble is a pellet that has been broken into 5 - 6 pieces. Crumbles consist of small pieces of feed, each piece about the size of a kernel of barley. A pellet is usually about the size of a wood pencil and about 0.5 to 1.0 inch long. A feed mill making pellets can vary the size and length of the pellets as needed.

There are supplements for mature does and kids. A supplement is a concentrated feed, usually 32 - 37.5% protein, made to be mixed with grain to make a ration. The ration (mixture of supplement and grain) provides energy, protein, vitamins and minerals. A supplement for does is usually made in the form of a pellet. A supplement for kids should in the form of a crumble. A crumble will mix well with whole grain. It is hard/impossible for kids to separate a crumble from kernels of grain. Kids are very good at separating pellets of supplement from whole barley grain. It is possible to adjust the level of protein in a ration by changing the proportions of supplement to grain in the ration. Nutritionists use a Pearson square to calculate the proportions of supplement to grain in rations.

Here is an example of a Pearson square formulating a 16% grower ration based on 11% protein barley and 37.5% protein supplement. The Pearson square will look like:

Pearson Square (7137 bytes)

The 16% ration is a combination of 19% supplement and 81% barley grain.

Supplements for goats may contain urea. Urea is a nitrogen-containing compound that the bacteria in the rumen of goats can convert into microbial protein, which then can be used by the animal. Feed companies add urea to make a supplement cheaper. This is one of the reasons why the cheapest supplement may not necessarily be the best supplement. The urea costs less than other protein sources such as canola meal or soybean meal.

If a supplement contains urea, the feed tag will show this. The feed tag will have something like 32 - 18 on it, which means the protein content of the supplement is 32 % and that 18 of the 32 % comes from urea. The feed tag may also indicate 18% ECP, which means the 18 % protein is Equivalent Crude Protein. Urea is best fed to kids on high grain diets once they weigh 65 lb. If you want to feed urea, contact a nutritionist, as urea can be toxic if overfed.

Complete feeds are also available to goat producers. Feed companies usually make complete feeds for does and for kids. A complete feed is a balanced ration put together by the feed company to meet the nutritional needs of animals. In many cases the feed has molasses in it to reduce dustiness and improve palatability. A common complete feed for does is a 16% ration. Most feed companies make an 18 - 20% protein creep feed for kids. The advantage of a complete feed is consistency, companies don't change the recipes often so the feed is usually the same. The disadvantage is cost. Complete feeds are usually more expensive than a ration based on supplement and grain.

Finally a couple of other feeds that need to be considered are minerals, salt and vitamins. Most feed companies sell a complete salt/vitamin/mineral mix. This product is in a loose form in a 25-kg bag. The mixture contains calcium and phosphorus along with trace minerals and vitamins. The vitamin content of these mineral mixes is capable of meeting the animals' requirements. When you are feeding a complete mineral mix, remember that no other source of salt should be available. Goats eat the complete mineral mix to get salt.

If a mineral does not have salt in it, it may be necessary to add salt to get adequate intake. Phosphorus has a bitter taste and animals don't like to eat it. Also if the vitamin content of the mineral is not high enough, you can purchase a vitamin premix to fortify the mineral. A vitamin premix is a very concentrated source of vitamins. Some goat producers have mixed a vitamin premix with a salt free mineral and then added salt to the mixture to make a complete salt/vitamin/mineral mix. You may want to contact a nutritionist to get advice on mixing the three products.

Prepared by: Rob Berry - Dairy Specialist, Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development