November 2023 Issue


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One of the main reasons that  many people have such a difficult time raising goats is the widespread but wrong  belief that goats can eat just about  anything and thrive.   Goats  must have  high quality forage, browse, and hay.

Rumen passage rates directly affect what goats   can digest to obtain nutrition. Goats, like deer,  have very fast rumen passage rates, which determines  what goats can and cannot digest.

Goat rumen passage rate  is 11 to 14 hours, giving their rumens   little  time to break down complex compounds. They need to consume plant materials that can be processed  more rapidly by  rumen micro-organisms.

Cattle take  up to three (3)  days to digest their food. Cattle have a very  slow rumen passage rate that allows  them to consume and   digest   nutrients from  coarse and dormant plant materials.  Cattle  take much longer to process plant materials, so their rumens have extra time  to break down the complex plant compounds into useable nutrition.   It is more accurate to say that cattle can eat almost anything.

Goat raisers tend to focus on percentage of protein, but energy and especially fiber  are important.   Goats instinctively know  to focus on  the fiber content of forages that they select to eat. The  more easily digestible plants require less energy from the micro-organisms to break down the complex compounds, leaving more energy    for the goat  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 estimate  of the digestibility  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 because they are stemmy, plus they are  lower in energy. This is why you should mow your pastures to a height that will stimulate new growth.

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  dormant plant materials.

An additional benefit of a low Acid Detergent Fiber measurement is that the plant material is usually higher in energy (calories).


Another nutritional measurement that is critical to goats is NON-FIBROUS CARBOHYDRATES (NFC).     A high Non-Fibrous Carbohydrate  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  provide many vital nutrients and energy (calories).

Low Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF) and high Non-Fibrous Carbohydrates (NFC) plant materials are most desirable for goats.

Hay testing is critical and  inexpensive. I use Dairy One Forage Lab in New York. Call 1-800-344-2697 or go online to to their website shop and order their pre-paid mailers, each of which includes a quart ziplock bag for hay   sample and the needed paperwork to accompany your order.  Cost   is  $4.50 each.   Follow the instructions and mail it.    Current cost of "Package 325 testing" is $20.00 (November 2023).   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  call you with the results.

My thanks to Kent Mills, goat nutritionist, Hi Pro Feeds, Texas, for his assistance.   Kent Mills has been my goat nutritionist for over 25 years and teaches Goat Nutrition at GoatCamp™ every year.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas        11.1.23

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.


Goat Camp™ 2024

Taking reservations for
23rd annual Goat Camp™
Oct 21-24, 2024
Click Here for more info...


2023 GoatCamp™ a Big Success

Pat Cotten and I thank Staff members Del Hanna and his son Ian, Tom Thornton (who arrived right after his 80th birthday celebration), and Seth and Tricia Cross. Long-time staff member Carol Mathews was unable to attend, having just lost her husband Sherman Dolin to a very serious illness. Our condolences to Carol.

Additional thanks to Chad Peschak of Rut Fencing who handled the slaughter demonstration, Bob Glass of Pan American Lab, Dan Byfield of American Stewards of Liberty private property rights organization, parasitologist Dr. Jim Miller (and his delightful wife Carol), goat nutritionist Kent Mills of HiPro Feeds, and my long-time veterinarian Dr. Mark Swening of Coleman Texas Vet Clinic who closes out GoatCamp™ by performing a necropsy on a goat.

And of course thanks to all the terrific students who attended, including 1 from Canada, 3 from New Mexico, 3 from California, 1 from Idaho, 1 from Oklahoma, 1 from Kansas and the rest from Texas.

GoatCamp2024™ will be held at Onion Creek Ranch near Briggs, Texas from October 21 through October 24, 2024. You can sign up as early as NOW.


Students working bucks


Kent Mills, HiPro Feeds goat nutritionist


Dr. Mark Swening, Coleman Vet Clinic, necropsy


Pat Cotten demonstrating how to give injections


Dr. James Miller, DVM and professor emeritus Louisiana State University teaching parasitology


Chad Peschak of Rut Fencing
handled the slaughter demonstration

BendingTree Ranch TexMaster Goats

Pat Cotten 501-581-5700
Bending Tree Ranch located near Greenbrier, Arkansas

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Photos of previous TexMaster™ and TMG™ herdsires.
We currently have 2022 and 2023 TexMaster™ and TMG™ bucks




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