So I'm about two months into goat keeping and I still feel like I don't have a handle on the feeding part. Right now we're doing one cup of 'goat chow' for each of the goats in the morning. They snarf that down. I've got a bucket that I throw about three cups of alfalfa pellets into each morning - thats usually gone pretty quickly. Then they have a big bin of grass hay that they'll eat if nothing else is around, but don't really care for. They would rather eat newspaper that blows into their pen. Finally, I have been cutting a couple thin branches of elm for them each day. They love that. This diet seems fine for my girl goat, but my wether acts like he's constantly hungry and his poo is clumpy (which I believe is due to a too rich diet - I think he's eating all the alfalfa pellets himself). Once we're done with the alfalfa, I thought about switching to a measured amount of the chafhaye pellets that somene suggested plus free feed alfalfa hay...Am I making this harder than it needs to be? Once my girl gets pregnant will she be ok just having the chafehaye pellets?
From our experience with chaffehaye, you won't ever see right looking poop. If that is what you are feeding them, be happy it isn't liquid (that is what happened to ours every time we tried the stuff). We eventually gave it to a friend with cows, who actually liked it. Personally, I would never touch chaffehaye again, even if it was free and my goats were starving.
What kind of goats do you have? Are they full-sized or a dwarf/pygmy breed? What kind of "goat chow" are you feeding them? How old are your doe and wether? Are you planning to breed your doe to someone else's buck (do you have a buck picked out already?) Just checking, since if you breed her now, you will have kids in the middle of winter... Plus, are you planning to milk your doe?
Honestly, it sounds like you are making it MUCH harder than it needs to be.
Your wether really doesn't need the grain, and he may get overweight with it, or develop urinary stones. Even the alfalfa might be too rich for him, so I would just stick to free-feeding the grass hay & whatever he browses (including the branches) for him.
If you can feed her separately, you can give her the grain or grain/alfalfa pellets so that your wether doesn't get to them. If you can get some alfalfa and mix it with the grass hay it might be better for her as well. Grass hay has lower protein than alfalfa does, and pregnant and lactating need more protein than wethers do.
I think that the alfalfa pellets may indeed be too rich. The alfalfa bales bought locally are usually a good mixture of grasses (that they seem to like) and alfalfa. I did try some more pure stuff for a while-it just smells way to rich---and I had one goat get loose stools. So, I am back to the local bales. We also supplement with a half cup of grains each per day--along with pasture grazing (free choice).
1. clumpy poo can be from too rich diet or parasites. since you're feeding alfalfa pellets it's probably the diet, BUT you should start doing fecals to monitor the parasite load of your goats (especially the female).
2. goats do NOT need grain, especially "goat chow" which will just make them fat. you can give the doe grain (I use oats ONLY -no goat chow/four way with molasses, corn, etc.) when she is milking. again, goats are ruminants. they would eat very minimal grain in the wild. woody browse, trees, forbes, grasses, these are the best things for them. elm is awesome goat feed.
3. i would stick with alfalfa hay instead of the pellets. i have no experience with chaffaye. ditto what steve said about getting some alfalfa with grass mixed in. since you're keeping a wether with your doe, you will need to feed her any alfalfa pellets separately, on the stand. they're too rich for him. the benefit of this is that she will get used to being on the milking stand, and it's a good way to keep an eye on her overall health. brush her, trim her hooves as needed, etc.
4. if you're not feeding minerals yet, you need to start doing that. if you're feeding alfalfa, i reco a 1:1 calc/phosph mineral mix fed separately from salt. they will need salt separately which they will go through more quickly than the minerals. feed them free choice and they will get what they need. if you're feeding grass hay, then 1:2 is fine, and that is what most conventional mixed minerals are (although, they typically come with salt mixed in). I also give my goats thorvin kelp free choice when they're on the stand. they love it!
5. i highly recommend joining one of the yahoo message boards for goat keeping. they will be a wealth of information as you're just getting started. holistic-goats, goats_101 and homedairy_goats are good ones to check out.
Interesting about the grains, I have heard differing views on it (going without is definitely more economical!). Its hard to tell if a goat is fat though, as a rounded stomach is a sign of a healthy working stomach. I've read that you can tell more from a neck than a belly to see if a goat is over weight. I actually started the goats on the grains, because I thought ours did not have round enough bellies. Its definitely hard to nail down one feeding approach with so many thoughts out there. Its good to get your thoughts Jen, and the links. Thanks!
When I first started keeping goats, I too started them on grains, a feed mix (4way), usually a COB (corn oats barley mix) plus molasses. They would just chow that stuff down like candy.
The more I learned about pasture-based (or with goats, forage-based) grazing, the more I realized I was feeding them food they didn't need, could minimally process, and didn't promote optimum health for them. I'm not anti-grain. I feed oats on the milking stand, but i do think they are completely unnecessary and don't benefit their rumen. I just use the grains to keep them on the stand. If my goats were better behaved, I wouldn't feed them grain at all.
I'd be interested to hear views "for" feeding grains.
I agree about fat goats. I don't consider that a goat with a big belly is fat, I look more at the pin bones (above the tail) and along the inside of the upper legs above the udder. When I see extra padding there, I know the alfalfa's a too rich. Since I milk my girls through and don't breed them, I don't worry so much about them being fat. If I was breeding them, I'd want to get them in good condition before birthing to avoid complications.
I'll check out the leg bones today. We have one goat that has a much healthier rumen than the others (the others are much better now), who has gotten that way because of a protective mother. I bet she is a bit overweight.
I've followed Fias Co Farm a bit for feeding advice. Since I started with grains (fewer than what they mention), the goats seem healthier---could just be my overall wellness plan for them though!
If you are worried about your goats getting enough copper, you can give them a copper bolus and/or feed them free-access minerals that you can get from the feed stores.
We find the copper bolus to be really easy to do, so we bolus them when it looks like they need it (coats starting to look rough or with brittle hair), and we also give them a container of minerals to eat as they wish.
Free minerals is what we do too. I was just responding to the post above, I should have clarified.
" if you're not feeding minerals yet, you need to start doing that. if you're feeding alfalfa, i reco a 1:1 calc/phosph mineral mix fed separately from salt."
I get them down here in Bosque Farms at the Fox Propane/Cross Country Feed.
I bet any feed store that carries RanchWay will have the minerals.