Feeding Goats for Improved Milk and Meat Production (Part 2)
By: George F. W. HaenleinAbout the Author
Cooperative Extension Dairy Specialist University of Delaware
Health is the other important factor for success in goat management. Elevated, slotted floor barns have become popular in humid and hot climates for better health of goats, especially for internal parasite control. Such barns are easily and cheaply constructed, provide cool shade and dry areas for feeding and rest, they keep udders clean and free from contaminations and infections, and they prevent reinfestation from internal parasite eggs in feces, because the goats are resting on the slotted floors away from their feces. Without such basic provisions for optimum health of goats any attempts in feeding improvement are wasted.
Feeding For Health
The feeding program needs to aim for more than just higher milk yield or weight gain; it needs to provide the best possible health also through feeding, because this will directly affect readiness and success in reproduction. It has been said often that the goat has been neglected in research and numbers of publications, but this was true only until 30 years ago. Meanwhile there has been a ground swell of efforts recognizing the goat as an important part of agriculture, especially small holder agriculture, and in the production of valuable food for human needs for selfsufficiency, diversification, risk stabilization, natural resource utilization like no other animal, gourmet foods and for people with medical needs like cow milk allergy, digestive malabsorption and cholesterol problems. There have been new research stations and funding for goats, many national and international seminars, symposia and conferences with their voluminous proceedings, nutrient requirement bulletins from the US, British and French national research councils, the USDA Extension Goat Handbook, the monthly international Small Ruminant Research journal besides many new books, videos and trade magazines, and the standard cow research journals, which now also carry articles on dairy and meat goat topics.
A major concern in feeding for better health is the problem of enterotoxemia or overeating disease (Haenlein, 1982). Many goat managers vaccinate against it successfully, to prevent the associated toxin produced by Clostridium perfringens. Actually, enterotoxemia is caused primarily by acidosis in the rumen due to faulty feeding. At any age, symptoms of diarrhea, depression, incoordination, digestive upsets, coma and death are observed after excessive feeding of kids or mature goats, when sudden changes of feeds occur, when goats are hungry and had free access to palatable, readily fermentable feeds, when goats are fed too little calcium supplement and when too little roughage with too short fiber is fed. The best prevention for nursing kids is to have frequent feeding or nursing immediately starting after birth, so that kids are never hungry. Large meals, once a day and of little variety should be avoided. Goats are by nature browsers and like to select various feeds. High levels of grain feeding relative to roughage in the ration (> 60%), especially in early lactation lead to rumen acidosis, followed by inappetence and indigestion. Feeding buffers like sodium bicarbonate and magnesium oxide and stemmy hay will help alleviate the early symptoms and prevent enterotoxemia. Other effective feeds are sunflower seeds, cottonseed, oats, dry brewers grain.
Fiber is a feeding requirement unique to ruminants, because:
- it maintains a beneficial rumen flora, that produces mainly acetate, the important energy source for all ruminants, rather than propionate from starch fermentation; and
- it causes extensive regurgitation for rumination and plentiful salivation for rumen buffering, rather than fast passage through the rumen and incomplete digestion.
Fiber is rarely stated in nutrient requirement tables, but from dairy cattle research it is recognized, that at least 17percent of the daily dry matter intake is needed. However, it makes a difference whether this fiber is shorter than 1 inch or longer. Effective fiber needs length to stimulate chewing and rumination. Feeds and diets, which cause significantly less chewing are potential problems leading to acidosis and enterotoxemia. When less frequent chewing is observed and before other more serious symptoms occur, a drop in milk fat content of 1 to 2 percentage units will be noted in a few days, the socalled low fat syndrome. Feeding of buffers should immediately commence, besides a reexamination of the ration formulation. Table 2 lists some feeds like sunflower and cotton seed, which are very high in fiber contents, but also have high fat and protein contents, so they are ideal for maintaining the high energy and protein supply needed for early lactation high milking goats, besides providing the extra protective fiber content to avoid low fat syndrome, acidosis and enterotoxemia (Haenlein, 1982).
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