white goat eating hay

Goats are ruminant animals with a four-compartment stomach that ingest and digest plants. On nutrition, they are closer to deer than sheep or cattle, which consume a lot of grass. The ability of goats to feed on anything, from new grass to woody bushes, is noticeable.

Goats are browsers rather than grazers like cattle, sheep, and horses. They work well to clean difficult, overgrown land because of this. However, how much hay does a goat eat?

Goats need careful feeding as they cannot survive on grazing and browsing. For upkeep, growth, and milk production, nutrients are necessary. However, goats need hay and concentrate feed (coarse mix or pellet feed) to supplement grazing.

What Foods Do Goats Eat?

Goats love to eat. While there are quite a several available choices to pick from, here are some goat foods they enjoy eating when they browse and graze.

Grass/Hay

Grasses and hays are the most common food that goats eat. However, these ruminants prefer particular grass species, such as pigweed, crabgrass, and bermudagrass. Others include sorghum-sudan grass and ragweed.

However, the grass is insufficient for goat survival. So, to get extra nutrients from other plants, goats must add browsing to their food-sourcing process. They also need vitamins from other plants, such as brambles, to be at a healthy weight and produce a lot of milk.

Brambles

wild bramble bushes

Goats can consume plants and twigs that belong to the rose family, including brambles and loganberries. Others include blackberries, dewberries, and boysenberries.

Holiday Trees

The branches and needles of the Christmas tree are pleasant to goats, so they enjoy nibbling on and playing with them. Pine needles are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and other nutrients. Some petting zoos also use the sap as a natural dewormer.

How Much Hay Does a Goat Eat?

Your goat knows how much hay to eat, so you should let them eat as much as they want. Each day, your goat should eat hay equal to 3.5% of its weight. The available area pasture, weeds, grasses, and bushes, as well as your goat’s needs, will determine what you should feed your goat.

However, adult goats typically consume 1 to 2 kilograms (2.2 lb to 4.4 lb) of hay per day or more if alternative feedstuffs are unavailable, while milkers sometimes require closer to 3.5 kg.

Long fibers, essential for hay’s digestion, are present in goats. It’s important to note that goats need longer fibers to maintain a healthy digestive tract because they are ruminants, like sheep and cattle.

Important Types of Hay for Goats

When you use hay, you can let the animals decide how much to eat, or you can feed them two pounds twice a day—one in the morning and one in the evening. Some of the hay types important to your goat’s diet include:

Legume Hay

alfalfa hay baled

Alfalfa (lucerne), clover, and birdsfoot trefoil are examples of legume hay. Alfalfa is one of the best goat hays for milking goats since it contains more protein, vitamins, and minerals like calcium than grass hays. It has a 15–22% crude protein level and a 34% crude fiber content.

Hay From Cereal Grains

This variety is softer and sweeter than legume hay and has more fiber. It has a lower crude protein concentration (about 9%). It does include minerals like calcium, manganese, and phosphorus, which is good news.

Hay From Orchard Grass

This hay has a crude fiber level of approximately 30%, but only about 7% is protein.

Timothy Hay

For instance, hay has a crude fiber-to-protein ratio of 32% and a protein-to-fiber ratio of 7%. The best use of Timothy hay is in combination with legumes, like cereal grains. It doesn’t provide enough nutrition for your goats.

Issues with Hay

Given the wide range of hay types, some words of warning are necessary because nothing exactly works without a disadvantage in excess. Hay looks like a logical choice for feed because alfalfa has more protein, vitamins, calcium, and minerals than grass hays.

However, alfalfa contains too much calcium and protein for healthy goats. So, sick, pregnant, or crippled animals should only eat Alfalfa hay. However, Alfalfa is costly and prone to waste, so many experts say it’s best to let your goats enjoy it in the form of concentrated pellets.

Why You Should Feed Your Goats With Hay

Hay contains most of the goat’s essential nutrients, causing them to be among the best diets for your goats. The following nutrients are available from hay to your goats that meet their nutritional needs.

Carbohydrates

Goats can get carbs from hay, and cellulose fiber and the sugars and starches in hay are important in your goat’s diet. The rumen’s microbes transform them into fatty acids, the body’s main energy source.

However, if you have a dairy goat, you must remember that they need 21% more energy than the ordinary goat. Furthermore, your goats can need more energy during late gestation, lactation, and breeding, so you should include more food in their diet.

Proteins

You won’t need many protein supplements if you give your goats high-quality hay. However, goats can get protein from other meal sources like:

  • barley
  • corn
  • peas
  • oats
  • distilled grains and meals like soybean, canola, and cottonseed
  • and forages

Concentrates

Hay adds certain concentrates to your goat’s diet. However, you might have to include concentrates in their diet if the hays cannot sustain them. Examples of concentrate include carbonaceous foods like wheat, oats, rye, milo, corn, and barley.

They are high in energy but poor in protein. Unless the animal is under six weeks old, they do not need any processing. If you can’t get extra nutrients, a carbonaceous diet has a high phosphorus level but a low calcium content.

Hay contributes a certain amount of nutrients to your goat’s diet. Consuming the appropriate amount of hay is a basic requirement for your goat’s growth and development.

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