RAISING GOATS IN THE SOUTH

MEAT GOAT PRODUCTION FOR SMALL-SCALE FARMERS. III. Feeding the Goat Herd-A
by Claude H. McGowan and Godfrey A. Nurse

INTRODUCTION
The progressive meat goat producer should want optimum performance from his animals. Therefore, quality forage, hay grains, and the utilization of forbs and browse plants, crop residue and crop by-products can provide a balanced feed program for goats raised for meat.

A. Pastures
Pastures are usually the cheapest source of essential nutrients for grazing livestock. Good permanent pastures containing a mixture of cool season perennials or reseeding legumes, warm season perennials grasses and temporary forages should provide grazing for a year. Some of the best pastures for goats raised for meat are Bahiagrass, millet, sorghum, sudan grass and a mixture of a grain, grass and clover (rye, ryegrass and crimson clover).

Many of the practices of pasture establishment and management will vary from area to area. This depends on soil types, elevation, growing season, rainfall and drainage. Also many factors influence the choice of grasses, grains and legumes and a combination of the three.

Some factors are:
· Natural adaptation for the plants. (Do they grow well in your area and on your soil?)
· Managerial ability or capability of the meat goat producer. Some varieties of pasture crops need more intense care, fertilization, clipping and controlled grazing then others.
· Available money to invest in pasture establishment.
· How will the crop be used? (For pastures alone, for pasture and hay, for hay alone, to be grazed heavily and continuously or rotationally grazed).

Pastures will yield there most when they are limed, fertilized, clipped on a routine basis and properly managed. Proper grazing management involves paying attention to the following:
1. Grazing intensity overgrazing starves goats as well as grasses resulting in fewer pounds of meat per acre. Stocking must be adjusted in keeping will available forage.
2. It is advisable to limit acreage of some pastures to what the goat can use during period of lust growth, e.g., during spring.

SOME MANAGEMENT TIPS FOR GOATS ON PASTURE
1. Provide adequate water and shade.
2. Provide goats with mineral mix and trace mineral salt. Do not mix salt and minerals together. Salt may encourage the animal to consume larger quantities of the mineral mix than that is needed.
3. Provide animals ready access to hay.
4. Provide ample pasture areas for rotating animals. Moving animal among pasture areas at least every 7 days permit pastures rejuvenation, and helps to break the cycle of internal parasite.

A. FORBS AND BROWSE PLANTS
Forbs refer to any herbaceous broad leaf plants without regard to family classification. Browse plants includes plants other than grasses and are usually taller plants e.g., trees, shrubs and vines having woody stems.

Goats are natural browsers and weed eaters. Forbs and Browse plants can contribute to an overall feeding program for goats. The nutritive strategy of goats appears to be to select grasses when their protein content and digestibility are high, but switch to forbs and browse plants when the overall nutritive value may be higher. Leguminous forbs and browse plants, for example, commonly contain more than 25% crude protein, where as perennial grasses seldom exceed 15% crude protein content. The energy contents for fruits, seed and nuts of forbs and browse may exceed 1.6 megacalories digestible energy per pound of dry matter. In grass foliage, 1.2 megacalories per pound of dry matter is considered high quality. Keep in mind that when animals are browsing they may, due to starvation or by accident, consume poisonous plants. Some of these plants are the following:
1. Wilted cherry, peach and plum leaves. The limp green or partially yellow leaves are the most dangerous.
2. Crotalaria.
3. Nightshade.
4. Poke weed.
5. Clippings from ornamental plants.

C. CROP RESIDUES AND CROP BY-PRODUCTS
Goats provide an excellent means for utilizing crop residues and crop by-products. Vines, stems, leaves and other plant residues that have not been treated with harmful pesticides may be used for feed.
For example:
1. Plant residues from most vegetable crops, tuberous crops, and green stover of corn, sorghum and millet are excellent feeds when fed green.
2. Meal cake from extraction of oil from oil seeds (cottonseed, peanut etc.) is high protein feed of excellent nutritive quality. The greatest values of these feedstuffs are their utilization in summer months when perennial forage plants are making little or no growth.

D. HAY
Hay that is of high quality is an excellent feed for goats. However, legume hay is higher in protein and minerals compared to grass hay. A visual appearance can give much information about the quality of hay such as:
A. Lack of seed heads indicates early cutting.
B. Coarse stems suggest late cutting while crushed stems indicate early removal.
C. Earlier cutting date indicates more digestible nutrients.
D. More leaves provide more protein and minerals.
E. The presence of weeds or tree leaves mean reduced feed value.
F. Green color indicates presence of vitamin.

E. CONCENTRATES
Grains such as corn, oats and barley are excellent sources of energy. These grains are best utilized by the goats, if they are either cracked, crimped or rolled. If fed whole most of them will go through the animal. Concentrate mixtures (pellets) for goats that contain linseed meal, soybean meal or dried brewer’s grains are available at some local feed stores.

FEEDING THE GOAT HERD
Since, meat goat producers largely determine their own destiny when it comes to feeding, it is important that they are familiar with some of the nutrients essential to reproduction and production efficiency in goats.

F. ENERGY DEFICIENCY
A shortage of energy may result in the following:
· Poor growth and development.
· Failure to show estrus or heat.
· Low milk production.
· Low kidding percentage.
· Lightweight kids at birth.
· Abortions.
· Low kid survival.

G. PROTEIN DEFICIENCY
A shortage of protein may result in the following:
· Delay onset of puberty.
· Impair fertility.
· Poor growth.
· Loss of weight.
· Reduced milk production.
· Low kidding percentage.

H. PHOSPHORUS
A shortage of phosphorus may result in the following:
· Delay onset of puberty.
· Failure to cycle regularly.
· Low first service conception rates and silent heat.
· Milk production may drop.

I. PHOSPHORUS AND VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is necessary for phosphorus absorption. Animals raised in confinement and exposed to minimal sunlight should be supplemented with vitamin D. If not, kids may develop rickets and adults ostemalacia.

J. SELENIUM AND VITAMIN E
Selenium-vitamin E deficiencies in growing kids can lead to white muscle disease and increased incidence of retained placenta. These nutrients can be supplemented by feeding or by injections.

K. VITAMIN A
Vitamin A is essential for normal sperm production. It is also needed for vision, healthy skin and mucal membranes. The presence of nitrates or nitrites in feed can interfere with sufficient levels of vitamin A reserves in the liver or inhibit conversion of carotene to vitamin A.

A deficiency of vitamin A may result in:
A. Kids may be born weak or dead.
B. Abortions or retained placenta may occur.
C. Newborn kids may have lower vitamin A reserves, which may lead to mortality.
D. Eye abnormalities, which are serious deficiency signs.

Mr.Claude H. McGowan, Coordinator
FAMU Statewide Goat Program

Florida A&M University
Tallahassee, FL 32307

 

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