Rather than being grazers, goats are browsers: they look beyond the grassy pasture to the shrubs and small trees. While they occasionally (and possibly disastrously) love fresh green herbs and vegetables from the garden, their preferred diet is a mix: some grass, some herbs, and some leaves of the trees and shrubs. If it’s the right season and they can reach it, they might pick a fresh apple, or eat one that dried on the tree. Yum! Goats also have individual preferences. Some of our goats like carob, others don’t even look at it.
To survive goats don’t need a lot. Traditionally in Europe goats were kept in herds, they could be kept in mountainous areas where nothing much would grow. However losses of goats kids and adults were high and the milk production low. The great thing of goats is that if you provide them with better conditions they will be much more profitable. Well fed goats can, depending on the breed produce up to 5 liter of milk a day.
We want to give our goats a healthy basis, and make goat keeping economic. That is why we provide them with a meal twice a day. Our goats, regardless of what else they eat, get a grain-alfalfa based mix twice a day while they get milked. Since we are doing this we have no more losses in goat babies, the babies are strong, our goats look healthy, and we hardly have any medical issues. So if you have a pasture, use the goats for weed control or herd them or what ever, give them a good dietary base.
Buying or making a feed mix?
There are two things you can do, you can buy a good goat mix, or as we do, you can make a mix yourself.
There are some reasons why we mix our own. It is slightly cheaper in our case. The ingredients we buy: alfalfa pellets, barley, oats, sunflower seeds and feed broad beans. When available we also buy carob. Buying the ingredients separate is cheaper than buying a pre mix. Another reason is that the pre mix contains GMO corn, which we do not wish to use because of the potential risk of pesticide remnants. When you have a lot of space and energy you could even grow the ingredients of our mix yourself, there is nothing very fancy in there, yet it keeps the goats healthy.
The mixture we made is based on a study of a table of cattle food values. From these values we made a calculation. The outcome is a mix of 4 parts alfalfa pellets, 3 parts barley, 3 parts oats, 1 part feed broad beans, 1 part carob and 2% sunflower seeds (then latter can be done by estimation).
These are the amounts we give to our adult goats daily (the ration depends on the weight of the goat):
Milking goat: 1800 gr
Pregnant goat: 1400 gr
Regular maintenance: 1000gr
Billy goat outside breeding season: 200gr
Billy goat with in breeding season: 1200gr
The other food sources our goats have is a pasture on shrub land where they can freely snack; in January and February they are taken out every morning for 2 hours for a walk in an orchard with a lot of herbs and grass. The goats always have hey available.