If you’re just starting out at caring for goats, you might have no idea where to begin. Or perhaps you have little to no idea about goats but you’re interested in rearing some. In any case, you probably at least know what a goat looks like and know they can be raised for milk and meat production. Well, that’s why we have put together this beginner’s guide for people like you. In this guide, we give a brief introduction to goats and the basic care that they require!
Goats Are Ruminants
This may be the first and most important fact that anyone would need to know. Goats are ruminants. But, what is a ruminant? Well, ruminants are basically mammals that digest fiber by regurgitating their already chewed food and chewing it some more. If you’ve talked to anyone about goats before, you may have heard them talk about “cud”. Cud is simply a word for the food that’s been regurgitated for more chewing.
So, what kind of fiber do goats consume? Well, they consume a variety of things, such as shrubs, woody plants and forage like hay or pasture. While these fibers are a large percentage of their diet, goats also require other nutrients. As a farmer, you would have to supplement their diet. The options for supplementation are usually grains. These grains could come in its coarse form or they could also be given to your goats in pellets. To ensure that your goats are at its healthiest, you might want to consult a veterinarian to come up with a completely balanced plan.
Both goats and cattle are ruminants. However, goats are unable to fully digest some of the type of fiber that cattle can. Therefore, if you already own cattle, it is important for you to know that what serves as quality fiber for your cattle may not work for your goats. This is mainly because the digestive process of a goat is much shorter than a cattle’s. Cattle are able to easily digest a plant’s cellulose cell wall. However, goats are unable to. This means that unlike cattle, goats are unable to consume plants with thicker cell walls as they would be completely unable to digest it. Similarly, goats also consume certain fibers that cattle would not, such as leaves from trees. In fact, goats often consume fibers that have completely no nutritional value for them.
Therefore, as a farmer, there is an important need for you to ensure that your goats receive the proper nutrition. For example, you could supply hay to them by placing a mount for hay on their barn walls. This also has the additional benefit of reducing hay wastage.
There are also certain plants that are completely poisonous to goats and it is important to ensure that your goats are not exposed to these plants. Here are a few poisonous plants to look out for:
- Wild cherry
- Laurel family plants
There are also other plants that are poisonous that may only be found in your region. If you are new to owning goats, you should also check if there are any such poisonous plants in your area.
Supplementing Your Goats’ Diet
As a farmer, you should always be careful with your goat’s diet. It is important to supply them with the right nutrients to ensure that they thrive and grow well. You could easily do this by purchasing quality goat nutrients and feeds. In general, goats used for milk production will require more nutrition than goats used for meat.
However, you should also be careful to not over supplement or feed your goats as this could cause obesity in them.
Providing Minerals For Your Goats
All animals require a variety of minerals in their own diet. Goats are no exception. They require several minerals within their body at all times in order to achieve basic function and production. In particular, goats require selenium at all times. Without selenium, goats will have difficulties in reproducing, lactating, giving birth, and urinating. Their muscles will also cease proper function if deprived of selenium for a long time. As a farmer, it would be a great idea if you purchased and used a full mineral goat supplement. These supplements would be properly formulated with all the minerals a goat would need.
Mineral supplements can be particularly useful for goats during two specific times – the first is when there is lesser forage available for goats and the second is when goats are working at peak production. During these times, minerals may be hard to find or your goats may require more minerals to supplement what is being lost. For example, it may be harder for goats to gain access to magnesium in winter and fall as there is less lush pasture available. This means that they are intaking less magnesium within their diet. Due to the deficiency in magnesium within their blood levels, they may then fall ill with Grass Tetany. In order to prevent this from happening, goats should be fed with a mineral supplement that is high in magnesium during such times.
Like all living things, goats also require regular water intake. However, goats do not require the same amount of water all the time. Instead, their water intake requirements vary as the weather, production levels and quality of forage changes. For example, milk goats would require more overall water intake due to them constantly losing water through their milk. Therefore, the best way to ensure that is by simply ensuring that there is always a ready and abundant supply of fresh and clean water for them.
In conclusion, goats are like all other livestock. They have a few basic requirements, such as food and water. However, they also require special supplementation in their diet to ensure that they are able to stay the healthiest and thrive well. At the end of the day, you will need your goats to be in their best health in order to be able to best benefit from them. And you can keep your goats in their best health by following the few basic rules of this guide.