Goat Pastures Nutritional Needs

Matching forages to nutritional needs of goats

Highest quality forage and/or browse should be available to does during the last month of gestation, as well as to lactating does, developing/breeding bucks, and weanlings and yearlings. Female kids needed for reproduction should be grazed with their mothers during as much of the milk feeding period as possible and not weaned early. When the quantity of available forage and/or browse is limited or is of low quality, consider limit-grazing or feeding a concentrate supplement to maintain desired body weight gain or body condition, depending on cost/benefit ratios. Whole cottonseed makes an excellent supplement for goats when fed at no more than 0.5 pound per head, per day. Dry does and non-breeding mature bucks will meet their nutritional requirements on low to medium quality forage. They need 10 percent to 11 percent protein and 50 percent to 60 percent total digestible nutrients, or TDN.

In a barn feeding situation such as during the winter months, goats with the highest nutritional requirements should be offered the highest quality hay available. Whether grazed or barn fed, meat goats should be limit-grazed or supplemented with a concentrate feed when either the forage that they are grazing or the hay that they are fed do not contain the necessary nutrients to meet their requirements. To give producers an idea where some of these requirements fall, low quality forages contain 40 percent to 55 percent TDN, good quality forages contain from 55 percent to 70 percent TDN, and concentrate feeds contain from 70 percent to 90 percent TDN.

In some situations, where brush control in rough areas is the primary purpose of keeping goats, animals in a non-productive phase or maintenance animals can be offerd a lower quality feed. If their body condition deteriorates, these animals can then be grazed on better quality pastures or brushy areas. Once desirable body condition is achieved, the same goats can again be used to control brush.

Luginbuhl, J-M. 2006. Pastures for Meat Goats. In: Meat Goat Production Handbook, ed. T.A. Gipson, R.C. Merkel, K. Williams, and T. Sahlu, Langston University, ISBN 1-880667-04-5.