Feeding Dairy Goats
A Nubian dairy goat eating kelp
out of a mineral feeder.
An Alpine dairy goat eating minerals
out of a mineral feeder.
Feeding dairy goats properly is a very important aspect of raising dairy goats. Since it is high in protein, alfalfa is a good choice for dairy goats if they are producing milk because it promotes excellent milk production. A high quality grass hay is okay for wethers, kids, and dry does (does who are not lactating).
When our kids are very young, and they are in a stall separated from the rest of the herd, we feed them high quality grass hay. Once a day we feed our kids one cup of concentrate (grain). Wethers can have one cup of concentrate, but it is not necessary to give them any at all. Wethers should not be fed alfalfa as it causes urinary calculi (kidney stones).
When our does freshen (begin producing milk after they have their kids), we feed them 6 cups of grain at each milking. After one year or so, their milk starts decreasing, and sometimes their intake of grain lessens as well, so we feed them as much as they want up to 6 cups at each milking. Our favorite commercial brand which our goats like is Super Goat by Albers. If you decide to switch from one brand to another, add the new brand gradually. A very smart thing to do is to mix your own grains. It is time consuming, but healthier and less expensive in the long run.
A pregnant dry doe needs to be fed one pound of concentrate each day. At 16 weeks into her pregnancy, start slowly increasing her grain until it reaches 3 lbs. per day by the due date.
Our goats love it when we bring them treats from our garden such as collard greens, kale, comfrey and sunflower leaves. We don't give them too much at a time though since too much could upset the rumen. However, it is okay to be generous with blackberry leaves since these are great for them. We are fortunate to live in western Oregon where blackberries grow abundantly. Maple leaves and apple tree leaves are good for them too, and they love them.
In the fall our goats like chunks of pumpkin from our garden, but we make sure we don't cut the pieces too large or they could choke on them. Apples and pears are good for goats, but in small amounts, and again we cut them up. Too many apples given to a lactating doe could make her dry up. Black oil sunflower seeds are best for dairy goats, but sometimes we give sunflower seeds from our garden to the goats, just not too many. Flax seeds can be given to them. It's okay to feed them the leaves of corn, but don’t feed them the stalks.
Never feed Ponderosa pines needles to a pregnant goat since they can cause abortions.
There are a lot plants and weeds that are poisonous to goats. Here are some recommended books:
A Guide to Plant Poisoning of Animals in North America by Anthony P. Knight, Richard Walter
Livestock-poisoning plants of Oregon by Helen Margaret Gilkey
Sheep and Goat Medicine by D.G. Pugh
A good website listing plants poisonous to livestock is:
To find out what poisonous plants to goats are in your area of the country, you might try asking your extension service.
A few poisonous plants to goats are bracken fern, larkspur and columbine.
Some poisonous weeds may grow in your goat pasture. You may not realize they are growing if you keep your goats in the same pasture because they will graze everything before you get a chance to see the weeds grow tall enough to tell what they are. It is a great idea to rotate pastures. One of the reasons is so while you have them in one pasture for several months, the weeds in the other pasture will grow so you can dig out the poisonous ones. Another reason to rotate pastures is if you keep them in only one pasture, they are much more likely to get worms. If you see mushrooms coming up, make sure you dig them out.
Each day we clean out their mineral feeder containers and give them goat minerals, kelp, and food grade diatemaceous earth which is, a natural substance that kills worms, bugs, or insects in their bodies. It is okay to feed this to pregnant does. Kelp is great for them and is good source of iodine. A block of salt should be placed on something off of the ground so the goats can reach it easily to lick it whenever they want. In Oregon there is a selenium deficiency, so we buy selenium salt licks. Loose selenium salt is also an option, but the rainy Oregon winter causes way too much moisture to accumulate on the loose salt making it unappetizing.
Every morning we clean their large water buckets and fill them with fresh water. On hot summer days, we check a few times to make sure they have plenty of water. On freezing winter days, if the water in their buckets is frozen, we add hot water to melt the ice. Dairy goats need to stay hydrated, so it is important to make the water desirable in any kind of weather. Hanging water buckets on a barn wall is a good idea to prevent the buckets from being knocked over. Rubber buckets are very smart to have if you live in a cold climate since they don't crack nearly as easily as plastic buckets.
Putting a small amount of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar on top of their concentrate (grain) helps prevent mastitis and worms.
“Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds.” (Proverbs 27:23)
Three Willows Ranch
Located in Western Oregon
Copyright 2010 Three Willows Ranch