May 2021 Issue



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There are less than two million goats in the USA, down from 12 million in 1990,  and the number is decreasing despite increased  demand for goat meat.  They are the hardest livestock to raise for many reasons, and  the turnover of people raising goats occurs  about every two to five years when they discover how difficult goats are to raise properly and profitably.    Consequently, few  products are made for goats because the market is so small that  making the investment back is unlikely, much less earning a profit.

Therefore,  most medications used to treat goats, whether prescription or over-the-counter, are  "off label" or "extra label" usage.    Lack of government approval does not mean that such products are dangerous or ineffective.  It   means that the product manufacturers have chosen not to spend  the large sums of money needed to do the testing and paperwork required to obtain approval because they aren't likely to make money  in such a small market.

Just as there are few products approved for goats, so are there few vets who know much about them.   In most veterinarian schools,  students get  very little  training on small ruminant health.   Since I started raising goats in January 1990,   I've found only  two vets who have serious knowledge of goats,  many who know virtually nothing about goats, and quite a  few who want nothing to do with what they consider a junk species.   I  learned the importance of  cultivating a relationship with a vet who either knows something about goats or is willing to learn.  Sometimes the goat raiser knows more about goats than the vet, having had more experience with them, and they can work together  for their mutual benefit.

Many people   who raise goats do not use vet services.   If they do, they are likely to be  high-quality breeding stock producters or show-goat folks with expensive animals.    Others think they can do without vet services.   If they are raising commercial goats, it is vital to learn to do everything possible themselves to maximize profits.

If you can't find a vet knowledgeable about goats, you still need  veterinary relationship to be able to buy the medications that you need to keep your goats healthy.   The most effective medications for serious illnesses are available only by prescription,   and the Government is putting more drugs under prescription-only requirements.

For prescription medications and veterinary care, you need to establish a vet relationship before  you need help.   You likely won't be able to access a vet when you need emergency veterinary care.   Your   goat health emergency is going to happen on a holiday weekend in the middle of the night in horrible weather and your goat may  die because you weren't prepared.  Get the veterinary part of your goat-raising operation resolved and in place now.

An excellent source of non-prescription   medications and supplies is  Jeffers.   1-800-533-3377.      I   recommend purchasing from  this fine family-owned company.    I've been a Jeffers customer since the early 1990's.    There are lots of supplies you need to have on hand that are not prescription items that Jeffers carries.   A good vet, Jeffers, and you   can be a  powerful team.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion  Creek Ranch, Texas    5/1/21

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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What Happens When You Feed Too Much

The most difficult part of raising meat goats in any managed herd is getting nutrition right. Unless you put your goats on pasture in the winter and the next spring you round up those that survived without any supplemental nutrition or health care, then you have a "managed" herd. Most of us have managed herds.

People either overfeed or underfeed; not many folks get the amounts correct and it can take them years to learn.

Show goat producers and pet goat raisers tend to overfeed. Slaughter-goat raisers try to feed as little as possible and oftentimes border on trying to starve the profit out of goat. This doesn't work in a species that has a fast metabolism and requires highly-digestible nutrients.

Most goat ranchers understand that feeding too high level of protein can result in serious illnesses like ruminal acidosis and laminitis-founder. I have articles on each of these topics on the Articles page at Too much protein can also result in a reduction in weight gain. When a goat is fed a protein level higher than its body requires, then energy that is used to produce muscle instead must be utilized to remove excess protein. The result can be a reduced rate of gain along with higher-than-necessary feed costs.

The process of removing excess protein from the body via urine is this: Micro-organisms reduce protein to ammonia molecules and then remake them into amino acids that make up protein chains. Ammonia molecules that are not utilized by the micro-organisms are absorbed through the wall of the rumen and circulate in the blood stream. Because ammonia build-up in the kidneys can be toxic, these molecules must be converted from ammonia to urea. Urea is then excreted from the kidneys in the form of urine. The process of changing from ammonia to urea to urine is the energy cost of having excess protein in the goat's diet. A little excess protein can be tolerated. A high level of excess protein has both an energy cost and a monetary cost because protein is usually the most expensive nutrient in livestock feed.

How much is too much protein? That is a question specific to your individual herd, location, and operation. I can tell you what I feed and what I would not feed. I feed a 16% protein pelleted goat feed that has a 2-1/2 to 1 calcium-to-phosphorus ratio that was formulated specifically for my goats. There are many other things in this ration that are equally important; protein isn't the only consideration when buying a feed ration. I see no reason ever to feed more than 16% protein to a meat goat, and I think you are treading on dangerous nutritional grounds if you do. I feed this ration only one time per day. There are many goat raisers feeding sacked feed twice a day and I disagree with that approach, unless the goat is nursing three or more kids.

I recommend contacting a goat nutritionist at the company that makes your feed and get his advice. Many times this advice comes without cost if you are buying his company's feed.

SUMMARY : A feed that is higher in protein than the goat needs results in an expenditure of ENERGY by the goat's body to eliminate excess protein that would otherwise have been used to produce muscles and an expenditure of MONEY that may not be necessary.

My thanks to Kent Mills, Livestock Nutritionist with HiPro Feeds, for his assistance in producing this article.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 5/1/21



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