April 2020 Issue

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FEEDING GOATS PROPERLY

What do these terms mean to you? Full feed, long fiber, pelleted feed, textured feed, free choice feeding, creep feeding, supplements, limiters. Unfortunately, they mean different things in different parts of the USA. You must understand what these words mean to avoid management mistakes that can make your goats sick or kill them.

FULL FEED is a nutritionally-balanced ration that contains proper levels of protein, energy, minerals, and vitamins. FULL FEED comes in sacks or bulk bags and is manufactured at a feed mill based upon a formula developed by a trained livestock nutritionist for a specific geographic area or purpose such as production goats or show wethers. Cottonseed hulls that have not been ground are high in long fiber but fed alone are not nutritionally balanced and therefore are not a full feed.

PELLETED FEED, which is usually considered a FULL FEED, is produced in a pelleting feed mill and is uniformly sized. For goats, I prefer 3/16th of an inch pellets. TEXTURED FEED (aka horse & mule feed) is molasses based and you can see the individual ingredients (i.e. corn). I believe that pelleted feed is healthier for goats because the potential for mold in textured feed can make Listeriosis and ruminal problems more likely. Goats also tend to pick out what they like in textured feed and leave the rest, resulting in an unbalanced diet.

LONG FIBER is hay and forage/browse. LONG FIBER is not available in adequate amounts in any full feed and should always be available FREE CHOICE to goats. Long fiber (hay and forage/browse) should be offered with all sacked feed. Read "The Importance of Long Fiber" on the Articles page of my website www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

SUPPLEMENTS are produced in blocks or tubs and usually in two forms: Protein only and protein/mineral combinations. They are fed to goats that are primarily on forage, browse, or pasture to SUPPLEMENT nutritional deficiencies in their diet. These items should be available FREE CHOICE, i.e. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to the goats . FREE CHOICE feeding allows goats to choose when and how much they wish to eat. Items that should always be offered free choice are water, grass hay, loose minerals, and protein blocks or tubs. Never feed sacked or bulk feed rations free choice to goats.

LIMITERS are ingredients used in feed products to reduce consumption to force the goat to eat more forage, browse, pasture, or hay and therefore eat less of the more expensive full feed or supplements. The use of limiters in livestock feed has the same effect as over-salting your own food, i.e. it isn't palatable and therefore you don't eat as much (limits your consumption). Limiters should not be used with goats, because their rapid metabolism requires a higher quality of nutrition than needed by cattle or sheep. Salt and other minerals are used as limiters in many types of feed, so you need to investigate and understand the amounts of all ingredients in products fed to your goats.

The only product that I feed to goats that has the word "sheep" on it is Hi-Pro Feeds' sheep & goat block. It is a 33 pound all natural (no urea, no non-protein nitrogen) 20% protein block that is mostly protein and few minerals so it is very soft and easy to bite off the block. Minerals harden the block, making it difficult to bite. I want my goats to eat it so that those in the herd who are lower in the pecking order get their needed protein that they might not get from the pelleted feed because the more aggressive goats push them away from the trough. No other nutritional product labeled for sheep is appropriate for goats due to the low amount of copper in them.

Offer loose minerals free choice alongside these all-natural, urea-free (aka non-protein nitrogen) blocks or tubs. Using these two different supplements together is better than using one combination protein & mineral product because minerals reduce (limit) consumption. You may have trouble finding these "sheep & goat" blocks or tubs outside of Texas. Go to the HiPro Feeds website (www.hiprofeeds.com) to the Products page and find sheep & goat block's general nutritional content to help you find equivalent products in your area.

IMPORTANT: Unless you have (a) formal training in goat nutrition, or (b) have direct access to a goat nutritionist who will help you formulate a feed for your herd, do not mix your own feed. You can easily get too much of one item that may bind up the utilization of something else. The chemical form of certain items (oxides, sulfates, sulfides) makes a big difference in the goat's ability to utilize them. As a general rule, the cheaper products are less bio-available (easily usable) by the goat's body. Oxides are the cheapest and least bio-available; sulfates are the most expensive but the most easily utilized by the goat.

Don't automatically decide to feed what your neighbor feeds; his circumstances are probably different from your herd's needs and he may not know what he is doing anyhow. Every feed company has a ruminant nutritionist on its staff. Contact the company that makes feed in your area and work with that person to develop a feed formulation for your goats. Feed companies want to sell their products; there may be no charge for this service if you buy their products. Also don't take a full feed product and mix other products into it. You change the nutritional value of the feed and subsequently have no idea what you are actually feeding.

If you don't have goat feed available in your area, contact one of the big feed manufacturers, educate them on the number of goats raised in your area, and invite them to be the first company to provide goat feed in your market.

Don't mix full feeds with supplements. For example, loose minerals should not be mixed into full feed rations. Full feed already has minerals and vitamins formulated at a level designed for proper delivery to the goat. Mineral supplements have much higher concentrations of minerals in them and are designed for the goats to consume small amounts per day on a free choice basis. If you mix loose minerals with full feed, the goat may receive a toxic level of minerals.

CREEP FEEDING is defined in various ways around the USA. In Texas where I live, creep feeding means different things to different people. The problem arises when one person thinks he understands what the other is saying, but really doesn't. To me, creep feeding means free-choicing sacked feeds. Do not ever free choice sacked grain to goats of any age. The potential for entertoxemia (overeating disease), ruminal acidosis, urinary calculi, bloat, laminitis-founder, and a host of other very serious rumen-based and therefore life-threatening illnesses is put into play. See my article entitled Feeding the Rumen - Not the Goat on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

Some people speak of creep feeding as feeding sacked feeds to kids who are still nursing their dams and may or may not involve offering it free choice. This is done to (a) provide additional nutrients above that which the dam's milk offers, (b) reduce lactation requirements of the doe, and (c) ease the kid onto solid food so the transition at weaning from dam's milk to all solid food won't result in rumen problems. If allowed, goats can overeat on sacked feed. Kids raised in managed populations that receive regular graining tend to become feed-bucket animals at best and develop rumen-related illnesses (or die) at worst. If regular grain feeding is a part of your management regimen, offer a measured amount of sacked feed to all goats (including young kids) on a regular schedule, then gather up what is left (if any) after ten minutes and feed less the next day.

The next time you are talking with fellow goat producers about feeding, make sure you understand what they mean by the terms they are using so that no one receives incorrect information that might harm the health of your goats. Ask them what they mean when they say creep feeding ,supplements, etc. so that you are all talking about the same things. The devil is always in the definitions.

See my article entitled Feeding the Rumen - Not the Goat" on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 4.1.20

Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

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WEANING KIDS

WEANING is one of the two most stressful times in a kid's life, the other event being birth. Weaning may even be more stressful because it is the first time in the kid's life that it is without the antibodies in its dam's milk that protect it from diseases, yet the kid's immune system is far from fully developed.

Intact bucklings must be weaned at three months of age to keep them from breeding their dams, sisters, or other females in the herd. Doelings can stay with their dams longer. However, my experience is that doelings grow better if they are weaned and placed in their own herd away from their dams no later than six months of age, giving dams time to re-gain body condition before their next annual breeding.

At Onion Creek Ranch in Texas, this is my weaning protocol: All kids are dewormed, inoculated with their initial and then booster CD/T and pneumonia vaccinations, and have had all eartags inserted before weaning. My article titled Deworming and Vaccination Schedules appears on the Articles page of www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

Weaned kids are moved to pens/pastures as far away from their dams as possible. Stress can cause illness and even result in the kid's death, so you must work to minimize stress at all times. Kids and dams calling to each other for days is stressful to everyone. A common fenceline between males and females is not good management because it allows direct access of males to females, resulting in "party girls" who get bred too young through the fence and produce unwanted matings. Males and females need to be penned away from each other.

I wean kids early in the morning of a good-weather day. Extreme weather conditions such as rainy, very hot, or extremely cold are avoided. Morning is chosen so that kids have time to acquaint themselves with their new surroundings before nightfall. Kids are separated from their dams at the central working pens. If the distance is great, goats are trailered to their new location. If the distance is short but the alleys are dusty from lack of rain, then the route that the goats will travel on foot will be watered to avoid respiratory problems like inhalation pneumonia. The goal is always to avoid stress.

When weaning kids (bucklings in particular), I never wean just one or two kids and put them into a herd of already-weaned kids. They will be harassed to the point of exhaustion as the pecking order is re-established. I establish a mini-herd of weanlings, then wait several days or a week to introduce this established small herd of at least three to five (3 to 5) kids into the larger weaned group in the morning of a good-weather day. Doelings are not as aggressive as bucklings, but they too will chase and mount each other until everyone accepts their new positions in the group. I follow the same mini-herd protocol for doelings as I do with bucklings.

Polled bucklings (goats born naturally without horns) trying to establish their place in the pecking order of mostly horned goats in hot climates can collapse and die of heatstroke. Horns act as radiators to remove heat from the body. This is another reason not to disbud kids.

Check your fencelines before nightfall and at daylight to make sure that newly-weaned kids haven't gotten themselves caught in fences or into other life-threatening situations as the pecking order is re-set and as they try to find a way back to their dams who are calling to them.

Feed the weaned kids after they are in their new pastures. Eating together is a familiar group activity that will add some routine to the new herd. Kids tend to wander, getting lost from the main group, and become targets for predators. Put an older goat of the same sex in with the bucklings to create a leader for them to follow. Herding kid goats is like trying to herd chickens, i.e. they go in all directions.

The weaning process puts stress on the dam, too. I wean one kid per dam each week, starting the first week of weaning with the biggest buckling. This process allows the doe's body to lower milk output gradually. Weaning all kids at one time can send her udder into milk overload. This is especially true of dairy and dairy-influenced goats, including Boers and Kikos, both breeds of which have significant dairy genetics in them. Remove all kids at one time and the dam's udder is going to be uncomfortably tight by the next day. A too-full udder makes her miserable, the potential for congested udder or mastitis is increased, and you likely will have to milk the dam. Do not take the dam off water. Repeat: Do not EVER take the dam off water. Meat-goat breeds without dairy influence like I raise seldom have this drying-up problem, but I choose to be careful when drying off dams.

A competent adult (preferably neutered or spayed) livestock guardian dog, although tough to find but invaluable to have, should have been with put in with the dams as they were kidding so that kids got used to its presence. This, of course,depends upon the availability of a livestock guardian dog who isn't aggressive towards kidding dams or young kids. If not already done, introducing the livestock guardian dog (LGD) is another hurdle that you have to cross. See my article on Livestock Guardian Dogs on the Articles page of www.tennesseemeatgoats.com and in MeatGoatMania.

Goats are prey animals. Livestock guardian dogs are essential in pastures of newly-weaned goats. A livestock guardian dog should not hurt kids but it can initially frighten them when the dog tries to move a straying kid back to the herd by nudging it in its attempt to familiarize itself with its new charges. Remember that each livestock guardian dog is its own unique individual with challenges that you must either adapt to, resolve. or change out the dog for one that works under your management conditions.

Around the beginning of the third month of the kids' lives, consider cutting back slightly on grain fed to the dam. Kids should be eating more solid feed and should be requiring less milk. This is, of course, subject to evaluation since a doe with multiple kids, i.e. triplets or quads, has different nutritional needs from a dam with a single kid or twins. At the time of first kid's weaning, you may need to cut back a bit more on grain-based feed to the dam.

Recognize that growing kids require a higher level of nutrition than mature goats, so be prepared to provide quality nutrition to these weanlings as they transition to eating on their own. Do not creep-feed (free-choice) feed them grain products or you will run the risk of ruminal acidosis, bloat, or founder. Do not ever suddenly take any goat off one type of feed and change to another feed type. My article on how to feed newly-weaned kids is on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

This is a very vulnerable time because they no longer are receiving antibodies in their dams' milk that protect them from disease yet their own immune systems are far from mature. Just -weaned kids are very susceptible to Haemonchus contortus (barberpole worm) infestation. These worms suck blood, causing anemia, and can kill them. Doing fecals randomly monthly is essential. Just because you dewormed doesn't mean it worked.

 

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 4.1.20

 

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