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"Goats and Nutrition - The Facts and the Myths"

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Goats and Nutrition - The Facts and the Myths
By: "Gary Pfalzbot"
  • About the Author

    Ask anyone who raises goats what to feed them and you're sure to get as many different answers as there are breeds of goats. While the trend and history of what to feed goats seems to be rooted in "pre-mixed" and readily available feeds, there is a growing number of persons raising goats who regularly mix and create their own feed types based on their own experiences. For the individuals who do mix their own types of feeds and supplements, you will find the "Select An Ingredient" feature to be very useful in comparing different types of feed ingredients.

    There are also several persons (author included) who prefer to let their goats graze openly on pastures and woods besides the feeding of readily available commercial feeds. There are certain dangers in this as well; in grazing openly, there is always a chance that a goat can accidentally consume a portion of a plant or substance known to be toxic - poisonous plants. As one myth puts it - "goats will eat anything." They don't and won't. And no, they do not eat tin cans either.

    In this section "Goats & Nutrition - The Facts and the Myths," we will attempt to cover both areas by presenting "known" factual information as well as rumours and insights regarding "what's worked" but has yet to be proven by clinical studies. Science is not always 100% accurate, but I think that most of us know that our own science is usually determined by hands-on experience.

    Common NameScientific NameEfficiency of Utilization2
    Black PersimmonDiscaria spp--
    CatclawAcacia gregii+ +
    CedarJuniper ashei; J penchoti+
    Coral BeanErythrina corrallodendron+
    ElmUlmus spp+ +
    GuajilloAcacia berlandieri+ + +
    Ill-scented sumacRhus spp+ +
    Oak, LiveQuercus virginicus+ + +
    Post oakQuercus stellata+ +
    Shin oakQuercus harvardii+ +
    Small leaved sumacRhus glabra+ +
    White brushLippia liguestrina--
    Wild PlumPrunus spp+
    Yauponllex vomitoria+ +
    1Adapted from Texas Angora Production, Tex. Ag. Exp. Sta. Bull., B-926
    2Excellent = + + +; Good = + +; Fair = +; Poor = --.

    This section will continually grow with more and more information as this web site progresses. We are relying upon your own input to help create a vast resource. We welcome your comments, stories and your own experiences to help make this useful to everyone involved with goats, or those persons who are considering raising goats.


    Due to their smaller numbers, along with producers being prone to let the animals fend for themselves, in terms of tonnage of purchased feed ingredients and feed costs, goats are unimportant in comparison to other domestic animals.

    Angora and Spanish goats utilize rough, brushy range areas that are not suited to other species - many of these ranges would not otherwise be utilized and would revert to brush and wilderness. On such ranges, Angora goats are supplemental fed to a limited degree only, whereas most Spanish goats live entirely off the land and are rarely supplemented. This does not mean, however, that Angora and Spanish goats would not benefit from, and increase production, with supplemental feeding, especially during the critical periods - just before breeding (for flushing), just before and after kidding, and when feed is short.

    Modern dairy goat producers generally feed well-balanced rations that are high in energy and protein and contain adequate minerals and vitamins. Many of them use commercially prepared feeds during lactation and for the young kids.


    In the past, efforts to set nutritional requirements for goats have relied heavily on the extrapolation of values derived from cattle and sheep studies. Despite their similarities as ruminants, goats exhibit significant differences from cattle and sheep in grazing habits, feed selection, water requirements, physical activities, milk composition, carcass composition, metabolic disorders, and parasites. So, the nutrient requirements of goats should be treated separately from those of other ruminants.

    The hearty appetite of goats makes for a significant species difference. Lactating and growwing goats will consume from 3.5 to 5.0% of their body weight (moisture-free basis) in one day, while cattle and sheep normally eat only 2.5 to 3.0%. It follows that their large feed capacity in relation to body weight makes it possible for them to consume large quantities of low quality materials. This characteristic, along with their ability to select the high-quality parts of plants, makes it possible to maintain goats successfully on poor pastures.

    Since the nutritional requirements of the goat are distinctly different for milk, mohair, and meat production, specific requirements and allowances are discussed in separate feeding sections. Despite these distinctly different quantitative needs, the basic nutritional physiology of all goats is similar; hence, certain fundamentals relative to their nutritive needs - energy, protein, minerals, vitamins, and water - apply to all goats regardless of the purpose for which they are kept.

    1 1990; Feeds & Nutrition; M.E. Ensminger, J.E. Oldfield, W.W. Heinemann

    About the author: Gary Pfalzbot is a Service Connected Disabled Veteran and the web master of GoatWorld as well as some other web sites. He has raised goats over the years, been involved with 4-H (as a young boy) and currently resides in Colorado where he and his wife Pam raise a few breeds of goats and other animals, and primarily author the GoatWorld web site to continue to inform, educate, and promote the industry.

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