The Best Feed for Your Goat Herd
Updated: Jun 22
Goats are famous for “eating anything,” but in reality, proper nutrition for a thriving goat herd is complicated.
What you should feed your goats will depend on what kind of goats you have, what products your goats provide (meat, milk or fiber), how old your goats are and what quality of pasture your farm can provide.
But first, let’s start with the basics.
Goats are Ruminants
Goats are ruminants, similar to cows, with a four-compartment stomach. That gives them the ability to consume much more fibrous materials than single-stomach animals (like omnivore species).
But unlike cows, goats are more browsers versus grazers. They prefer to eat just the tops of grasses and enjoy woody species, like shrubs and vines (hence why they are great at clearing overgrown pasture land).
In general, goats should have access to pasture. But, depending on the pasture quality, time of year and the production needs of the goats, they may also need supplement feed, including forages (like hay) and potentially grain rations. Goats typically get most of their vitamins and minerals from their food but may require supplements of vitamins A, D and E. They should be provided free-choice salt, calcium and phosphorous (and possibly selenium supplements, if you are in the Pacific Northwest).
Goats should always have access to unlimited fresh water.
Feeding Dairy Goats
A high-producing dairy goat herd of Nubians, Alpines, Saanens or one of the other popular dairy goat breeds need special attention paid to their diet to support their production levels and ensure they produce sweet-tasting, high-quality milk.
Dairy goats should have access to pasture — a typical rule of thumb is ½ acre of land per milking goat in temperate climates (drier climates will need more land or risk over-grazing). But, dairy goats in production and growing stock and pregnant does should be supplemented with high-protein legume hay (like alfalfa). Kids, bucks and milking does should also receive a standardized dairy grain ration.
Also, be careful of what you feed your dairy cows as certain types of feed (soy is often identified as a culprit) can flavor the taste of the milk, making it “goaty.” Some goat owners report tasting specific pasture weeds (like wild onions) in their goat’s milk as well.