Feeding Habits of Goats

Feeding Habits of Goats

Feeding goats well is of fundamental importance to the success of the whole goat enterprise. Good nutrition is a prerequisite for good health, good reproduction, high milk yields, fast growth rates, and a successful goat system.

Most textbooks and other literature on goat production and animal nutrition in the tropics approach the improvement of nutrition in a classical European way, by itemizing the nutritional require of goats in terms of energy, protein, vitamins, minerals, and water at different stages of their life: pregnant, lactating, or growing. After listing what the goat should ideally eat, these sites proceed to formulate rations composed of several different feeds which will provide the identified nutrients. Unfortunately most farmers who keep goats in the tropics are not in a position to pick and choose the feeds they give to their goats according to the energy or protein content of each feed, Farmers keeping goats in the tropics make use of the natural grazing and crop by-products that are available, and try to feed their goats as best they can with what they have. This might be termed ‘supply-driven’ feeding, as goats are fed according to the supply of feeds available, over which the farmer may have little control Farmers can be helped to make more efficient use of the available feeds and to increase the supply of feeds by growing forage crops; but encouraging the use of a formulated ration is not helpful in most situations.

It is important to understand the feeding habits of goats, so that when they are cared for by people, particularly when confined in a goat a house, their natural habits can be copied as closely as possible, and they are comfortable and healthy.

The goat, being a ruminant, is able to live and be productive on fibrous vegetation of relatively poor quality. The goat is a natural browser, feeding by preference on tree leaves, flowers, and seed pods, when it can. Goats are able to eat quite woody stems of trees and bushes. They are very active when they eat, moving rapidly round a tree, picking off the best parts, and quickly moving on to the next tree or bush. Goats naturally prefer to eat at a height 20-120 cm above the ground. They can stand on their hind legs for long periods, and even climb into trees in order to reach some particularly delicious part of the tree . Goats find it difficult to eat directly off the ground, normally bending down on their knees to do so. They have a very mobile upper lip and tongue, allowing them to consume leaves between thorns. When left to themselves, goats are able to find a diet of reasonable quality by making a selection of the plants, and the parts of plants, which they eat in the same environment goats, will consume many more species of plants than sheep, grazing the same area.