February 2019 Issue



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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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Why does a goat need high quality hay and forage, while cattle can survive eating coarse or dormant (temporarily stopped growing) plant materials?

Ignorance about goats is appalling. The belief that goats can live off anything, eating tin cans and cardboard, is still widespread, both by the general public and within in the livestock industry. It is one of the major reasons why so many people have such a difficult time raising goats successfully.

Ruminant nutrition is complex, so I am going to break it down into a format that is useful to goat raisers. It might be a bit overly-simplified, but it will be helpful.

Rumen passage rates directly affect what the ruminant animal can digest to obtain nutrition. The first thing you need to know is that goats (and deer) have very fast rumen passage rates, while cattle have extremely slow rumen passage rates.

The goat rumen passage rate is about 11 to 15 hours. Cattle take 1 to 3 days to digest their food. This is a huge difference and directly affects how the rumen is able to obtain nutrients from plant materials. Because of their fast rumen passage rate, goats have less time to break down complex compounds. They need to consume plants that can be broken down more rapidly by the rumen micro-organisms.

Goat raisers tend to focus on percentage of protein, but ENERGY and especially FIBER are important. All ruminants tend to put more emphasis on the fiber content of forages that they eat. This is because the more easily digestible plants require less energy from the micro-organisms to break down the complex compounds, leaving more energy for the animal to use for its body's requirements for maintenance and growth.

Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF) is a measurement used in analyzing forages. The ADF number represents an estimation of the digestibility and palatability (tastiness) of plant materials. Goat raisers are primarily concerned with Acid Detergent Fiber's measurement of an indigestible fiber called lignin. Lignin is the material that gives plants the structural ability to stand upright to receive sunlight for growth. We refer to these plants and grasses as stemmy and coarse. Taller and older plants are less digestible and are lower in energy. This is why you should mow your pastures to a height that will stimulate new growth. Tall mature pastures are not quality forage for goats.

A high ADF measurement means that the plant material has a lot of indigestible material in it. For goats, an Acid Detergent Fiber measurement of 39 or higher is too high for them to digest. Because of the goat's fast rumen passage rate, there isn't enough time to process nutrients from coarse, fibrous, and (in winter or drought) dormant materials. Cattle, on the other hand, have a rumen passage rate of 1 to 3 days, providing their rumens more time to break down the complex plant compounds into useable nutrition. An additional benefit of a low Acid Detergent Fiber measurement is that the plant material is usually higher in ENERGY.

Another nutritional measurement that is critical to goats is NON-FIBROUS CARBOHYDRATES (NFC). A high Non-Fibrous Carbohydrate estimated value means that the plant materials have good levels of starch, simple sugars, and soluble fiber. High NFC numbers also indicate that the plants have higher amounts of cell contents which are more readily digestible than the fibrous cell walls, plus they also provide many vital nutrients and energy (calories).

The common belief that goats can eat and survive on anything is completely wrong and more accurately describes cattle than goats.

Hay testing is critical and very inexpensive. I use Dairy One Forage Lab in New York. Call 1-800-344-2697 and request their kit that includes quart ziplock bag for hay sample and a pre-paid mailer. Follow the instructions and put in your outgoing mail. Total cost of "Package 325 testing" is $22.00 in February 2019. If you are testing native or improved pastures (which by definition have multiple species of plants), then call and ask if a different test is more appropriate to provide the information you need. Turnaround is about one week. They will even call you with the results. You can't beat the service or the price.

My thanks to Kent Mills, goat nutritionist, Hi Pro Feeds, Texas, for his assistance with and review of this article for accuracy. Kent has been my goat nutritionist for nearly 20 years and teaches this topic at GoatCamp™ every year.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas 2.5.19

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Contact Suzanne Gasparotto at
512-265-2090 for prices and availability.

Tennessee Meat Goat™ and TexMasters™
are available now.
Make your reservations!

Personalized Consultation Services Available

I am pleased to announce that beginning February 1, 2019, I am offering individualized consultation services on health, nutrition, and management to goat raisers.

Raising goats in a challenge, given that few vets know anything about goats. We have to learn to use medications off-label. Limited help is available on nutrition or just about anything involving goats.

This subscription service is $195 a year, with no limit on number of contacts. Payment may be made via CASH app on your phone, using a debit card, or you can mail a check for $195 made payable to Suzanne W. Gasparotto to 300 Happy Ridge Road, Briggs, Tx 78608. Provide contact information so I can confirm receipt and set up your account.

Although I am not a vet, I have been raising goats full time since 1990. I've been writing articles on goat nutrition, health, and management for 25+ years. I know goats.

My meat-goat education group ChevonTalk, the meat goat e-magazine MeatGoatMania, and the articles on my website http://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com will remain free.

I already offer ranch layout/design consultation on a case basis.

Taking the individual consultations to a fee basis will allow me to better help persons seriously interested in properly taking care of their goats.

If you wish to sign up and have questions, please email me at onioncrk@centex.net or call me at 512-265-2090.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas

Tennessee Meat Goats™ and TexMasters™ are the cream of the meat goat industry. Contact us for availability, ages and pricing by calling 512-265-2090 or emailing onioncreek@tennesseemeatgoats.com



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