Goats are known to be efficient browsers and so prefer to feed on bushy plants along with some woody and weedy plants. A large portion of their nutritional needs are therefore met through grazing on a variety of pastures. In fact, to achieve the target growth rate and production, goats must be provided with optimum nutrition throughout the production cycle. Unfortunately, ideal maturity and productivity may be affected by climatic changes, when pastures are unavailable or in short supply. As such, it is necessary to provide animals with well-balanced supplements during dry seasons. Commercially produced feeds are highly expensive thus difficult to maintain for prolonged periods or when larger flocks are involved. Farmers can formulate goat feed as a means to counter this challenge. This is achieved by complete understanding of goat feed ingredients and their nutritional value.
Proteins are an essential part of animal diets, hence most commercially produced feeds are distinguished according to their protein content. In order for goats to develop and become fully productive, their diets should consist of sufficient levels of protein. Fish meal is among a variety of goat feed ingredients rich in protein. The protein in fish meal has a high rumen bypass value. To add on, the bypass protein found in fish meal is high in quality; it is a rich source of essential amino acids lysine and methionine. As such, it is best paired with alfalfa or early-cut grass silage, which tends to be higher in rumen degradable protein. Farmers should be cautious when using fish meal as part of goat feed ingredients. This is because fish overfeed can have detrimental effects on metabolism. Also, fish meal should be supplemented with a stabilising antioxidant to prevent fish oil from becoming rancid. An additional point to note is that fish meal must be gradually introduced to the animal diet so as to avoid feed refusal.
Grainy feed constitute a significant part of goat feed ingredients. It is favoured by most farmers as it is easily digestible and enriched with various types of nutritious ingredients such as protein, carbohydrate as well as fat. There are various types of grainy feed including cereal grains and by-product feeds. Cereal grains consist of corn, barley, sorghum, rice, rye and oats. By-product feeds include soy hulls, distiller’s grains, corn gluten as well as wheat middling. Grain goat feed ingredients can be mixed with different types of vitamins and minerals. Note that grains should not be provided in excess as they can possibly be harmful to animal health. Excess grain feed results in depressed appearance, diarrhoea, dehydration and thirst, bloating (of the left side of the abdomen), tender gait and ‘sawhorse’ stance or even death. To add on, there may be need to provide grainy types of goat feed ingredients with vegetable greens to improve nutritional value. Grainy feed is an important source of roughage therefore is present in almost all formulated pig feed including commercially produced feed. A study conducted in 2002 comparing a whole barley-protein supplement diet with a commercial pelleted meat goat diet indicated similar performance for both types. It was also proven that goats consuming a grain diet produced gains at half the cost.
Protein is usually the most expensive component of the goat diet. It is required as a source of nitrogen for the ruminal bacteria as well as to supply amino acids for protein synthesis. Farmers therefore opt to use soybean meal as a protein supplementary goat feed ingredient. Soybean meal is high in protein and energy and is one of the most commonly used protein supplements in the world. It is highly palatable which makes it an ideal ingredient for goat feed. Soybean meal contains approximately 8% dry matter, 48% crude protein and a total of 78% digestible nutrients. Unlike energy, excess of protein is not stored in the body of the goat; it is eliminated by the kidney. For this reason, it is important for animals to have access to enough protein to cover their nutritional requirements.
Goat Feed Additives
Feed additives for goats compromise a variety of minerals including selenium, zinc, copper, calcium, phosphorus, iodine, iron, manganese, and sodium. These play a major role in animal health maintenance. In fact, shortage of these additives lead to health complications such as weak muscles, breathing difficulties, stiff joint, deformed hooves, excessive salivating, low milk supply, slow kid growth and reduced fertility. Pellets supplements are preferred by most commercial farmers. Supplying pelleted supplements as part of goat feed ingredients can deliver a healthy dose of vitamins, protein and minerals. It is generally advisable to mix pelleted supplements with feed such as grain for higher productivity. Furthermore, water is one of most important feed supplement for goats. Farmers should therefore ensure that animals have access to water. Animals that take adequate amounts of water are more likely to stay healthy in comparison to their counterparts.
Hay is the primary source of nutrients for goats during the winter or non-grazing season. Hay generally varies in quality hence the need to know its nutritional value so as to provide an appropriate supplement. It contains protein and energy necessary for growth and productivity. The recommended type of hay to use as goat feed ingredients include alfalfa, timothy ad red clover among others. Alfalfa is considered as one of the highest quality forages thus is widely used as part of goat feed ingredients. As a matter of fact, legume hays such as alfalfa, clover and lespedeza tend to be higher in protein, vitamins and minerals, especially calcium, than grass hays. Good quality hay does not need much protein supplements. However, if the hay is of low nutritional value of approximately 12 to 13% then an appropriate supplement should be provided. Farmers can offer a protein source of bout 227g in the form of corn, barley, peas and oats. Note that a proper source of supplement should have 20% protein content. If the hay is of average quality, a pound of protein must be added. Another important point to note is that hay may cause bloat. As such, it is advisable to practise co-cropping bloat safe legumes as means to protect goats from bloat.
Use of home formulated goat feed is essential in meeting goat dietary needs, especially during dry periods. Some farmers opt to mix various goat feed ingredients with commercially produced feed or provide it after feeding as supplementary feed. This is because formulated feed can be highly nutritious and beneficial to growth, health as well as productivity, provided it is done correctly. Evidence gathered from a variety of agricultural research indicates that performance of ruminants increases due to improved nutrition, hence the need for farmers to acquire adequate knowledge about goat feed ingredients. This basically communicates the need for farmers to be able to balance feed rations according to weight as well as variety.