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All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.
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Hay & Feed for Goats Print E-mail
Written by Administrator-GL   
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
Hay, Fodder and Grain Chart -

Goat Feed Chart

Feeding goats is a complex endeavor. It is not just as simple as putting hay in front of them or setting them out in a pasture.
No matter what you have ever been told in the past.. goats do NOT eat Tin Cans! Nor do they eat moldy feed. For that matter.. they do not eat just anything you will place in front of them.. unless they are starving.

Dairy goats need a year-round supply of roughage, such as pasture, browse or well-cured hay. Winter browse and pastures should be supplemented with hay. Milking, breeding and growing stock need a daily portion of legume hay, such as alfalfa.

Feed is the single largest cost associated with raising meat goats. It has a large influence on herd reproduction, milk production and kid growth. Late-gestation and lactation are the most critical periods for doe nutrition. Nutrition level determines kid growth rate. Goats receiving inadequate diets are more prone to disease and will fail to reach their genetic potential.

Goats require energy, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber (bulk) and water. Energy (calories) is usually the most limiting nutrient, whereas protein is the most expensive. Deficiencies, excesses and imbalances of vitamins and minerals can limit animal performance and lead to various health problems. Fiber is necessary to maintain a healthy rumen environment and prevent digestive disturbances. Water is the cheapest feed ingredient and often the most neglected.

Many factors affect the nutritional requirements of goats: maintenance, growth, pregnancy, lactation, fiber production, activity and environment. As a general rule of thumb, goats will consume at least 3% of their body weight on a dry matter basis in feed. The exact percentage varies according to the size (weight) of the goat, with smaller animals needing a higher intake (percentage-wise) to maintain their weight. Maintenance requirements increase as the level of the goat's activity increases. For example, a goat that has to travel farther for feed will have a higher maintenance requirement than a goat in a feed lot. Environmental conditions also affect maintenance requirements. In cold and severe weather, goats require more feed to maintain body heat. The added stresses of pregnancy, lactation and growth further increase nutrient requirements. The following chart gives the nutritional requirements for various classes of meat goats:

Animal Protein Energy
Bucks 11% CP 60% TDN
Dry doe 10% CP 55% TDN
Late gestation 11% CP 60% TDN
Lactation (avg. milk) 11% CP 60% TDN
Lactation (high milk) 14% CP 65% TDN
Kid (30 lbs, >.4 lbs/day) 14% CP 68% TDN
Yearlings (60 lbs.) 12% CP 65% TDN

Source: National Research Council (NRC, 1981)

The next chart gives typical "book values" or "ballpark" figures for the nutritional content of various feed stuffs commonly fed to goats.

Feedstuff Protein Energy
Mature pasture 8% CP 50% TDN
Clover pasture 25% CP 69% TDN
Orchard grass pasture 18% CP 65% TDN
Browse (Honeysuckle) 16% CP 72% TDN
Soybean meal 44% CP 88% TDN
Complete pellets 12% CP 78% TDN
Barley grain 13.5% CP 84% TDN
Corn grain 10% CP 89% TDN
Poor hay 8% CP 50% TDN
Grass hay 12% CP 58% TDN
Mixed hay 15% CP 60% TDN
Legume hay 18% CP 62% TDN

A goat's nutritional requirements can be met by feeding a variety of feed stuffs. Feed ingredients can substitute for one another so long as the goat's nutritional requirements are being met. Goat feeding programs should take into account animal requirements, feed availability and costs.

Pasture and browse
Pasture and browse are usually the primary and most economical source of nutrients for meat goats, and in some cases, pasture and/or browse are all goats need to meet their nutritional requirements. Pasture tends to be high in energy and protein when it is in a vegetative state. However, it has a high moisture content, and it is difficult for a high-producing doe or fast-growing kid to eat enough grass to meet its nutrient requirements. As pasture plants mature, palatability and digestibility decline, thus it is important to rotate pastures to keep plants in a vegetative state. During the early part of the grazing season, browse (woody plants, vines and brush) and forbs (weeds) tend to be higher in protein and energy than ordinary pasture. Goats are natural browsers and have the unique ability to select plants when they are at their most nutritious state. Goats which browse have less problems with internal parasites.

Hay is the primary source of nutrients for goats during the winter or non-grazing season. Hay varies tremendously in quality and the only way to know the nutritional content is to have the hay analyzed by a forage testing laboratory. Hay is a moderate source of protein and energy for goats. Legume hays – alfalfa, clover, lespedeza – tend to be higher in protein, vitamins and minerals, especially calcium, than grass hays. The energy, as well as protein content of hay depends upon the maturity of the forage when it was cut for forage. Proper curing and storage is also necessary to maintain nutritional quality.

Silage made from forage or grain crops has been successfully fed to goats; however, special attention must be paid to quality, as moldy silage can cause listeriosis or "circling disease" in goats. As with fresh forage, the high-producing goat cannot consume enough "wet" silage to meet its nutritional needs. Silage is typically fed on large farms, due to the need for storage and automated feeding equipment.

Concentrates (grain)
It is oftentimes necessary to feed concentrates to provide the nutrients that forage alone cannot provide. This is particularly true in the case of high-producing animals. There are also times and situations where concentrates are a more economical source of nutrients. Creep feeding and supplemental feeding of kids has been shown to increase growth weight, but should only be done to the extent that it increases profit.

There are two types of concentrate feeds: carbonaceous and proteinaceous. Carbonaceous concentrates or "energy" feeds include the cereal grains – corn, barley, wheat, oats, milo, and rye – and various by products feeds, such as fat, soybean hulls and wheat middlings. It is not necessary to process grains for goats unless they are less than six weeks of age. One of the problems with cereal grains is that they are high in phosphorus content, but low in calcium. Feeding a diet that is high in phosphorus and low in calcium can cause urinary calculi (kidney stones) in wethers and bucks. Inadequate calcium can lead to milk fever in pregnant or lactating does.

Proteinaceous concentrates or "protein supplements" may be of animal or plant origin and include soybean meal, cottonseed meal, and fish meal. Ruminant-derived meat and bone meal may not be fed to goats.. Protein quantity is more important than protein quality (amino acid content) in ruminant livestock since the microorganisms in the rumen manufacture their own body protein. Goats do not store excess protein; it is burned as energy or eliminated (as nitrogen) by the kidneys.

Many feed companies offer "complete" goat feeds – pelleted or textured – which are balanced for the needs of goats in a particular production class. Pelleted rations have an advantage in that goats, who are very selective eaters, cannot sort feed ingredients. In recent years, a number meat goat feed products have been introduced to the market. Complete feeds come in 50 or 100 lb. sacks and tend to be much more expensive than home-made concentrate rations.

Vitamins and minerals
Many minerals are required by goats. The most important are salt, calcium, and phosphorus. The ratio of calcium to phosphorus should be kept around 2:1. Vitamins are need in small amounts. Goats require vitamins A, D and E, whereas vitamin K and all the B vitamins are manufactured in the rumen. A free choice salt-vitamin-mineral premix should be made available to goats at all times, unless a premix has been incorporated into the grain ration or TMR (total mixed ration). In the very least, does should be fed pre-choice mineral during late gestation and lactation. Either a loose mineral or mineral block may be offered. Force-feeding minerals and vitamins is actually better than offering it free choice since goats will not consume minerals according to their needs.

How to make a quick cheap mineral feeder for your goats

Maryland soil's are deficient in selenium, thus the premix should be fortified with selenium to prevent white muscle disease in kids and reproductive problems in does. Supplementing selenium via the feed or mineral is preferred to giving selenium injections. Goats appear to have a much higher tolerance for copper in their diets as compared to sheep, thus it is recommended that feeds and/or premixes contain copper, unless the goats are co-mingled with sheep. It is possible to get pelleted supplements that contain vitamins and minerals, as well as high levels of protein (34-40%). These supplements can be combined with whole grains to create a balanced concentrate ration. Coccidiostats and antibiotics can also be added to the mineral mix or supplement.

Goats should have ad libitum access to clean, fresh water at all times. A mature goat will consume between ¾ to 1 ½ gallons of water per day. Inadequate water intake can cause various health problems. In addition water and feed intake are positively correlated.
This chart will help you to understand which hay is most nutritious which is lowest in nutrition.. along with different types of fodder and grains. I hope this chart makes choosing your feed just a little bit simpler.


HAY TYPE Crude Protein % Digestible Protein % Fat % Fiber % Nitrogen Free Extract % Mineral Content % Calcium % Phosphorus %
Alfalfa 15.3 10.9 1.9 28.6 36.7 8.0 1.47 .24
Bermuda 7.1 3.6 1.8 25.9 48.7 7.0 .37 .19
Birdsfoot trefoil 14.2 9.8 2.1 27.0 41.9 6.0 1.60 .20
Brome 10.4 5.3 2.1 28.2 39.9 8.2 .42 .19
Fescue early 12.4 2.6 .77 22.2 not avail not avail not avail not avail
Fescue bloom 9.5 2.12 .35 21.7 not avail not avail not avail not avail
Red Clover 12.0 7.2 2.5 27.1 40.3 6.4 1.28 .20
Mixed Grass 7.0 3.5 2.5 30.9 43.1 6.5 .48 .21
Johnson Grass 6.5 2.9 2.0 30.5 43.7 7.5 .87 .26
Soybean early 16.7 12.0 3.3 20.6 37.8 9.6 1.29 .34
Timothy early 7.6 4.2 2.3 30.1 44.3 4.7 .41 .21


Fodder Type Crude Protein% Digestible Protein% Fat% Fiber% Nitrogen Free Extract% Mineral Content% Calcium% Phosphorus%
Green Alflafa Early Bloom 4.6 3.6 0.7 5.8 9.3 2.1 .53 .07
Bermuda Grass Pasture 2.8 2.0 0.5 6.4 12.2 3.1 .14 .05
Cabbage 1.4 1.1 0.2 0.9 4.4 0.7 .05 .03
Carrots 1.2 0.9 0.2 1.1 8.4 1.2 .05 .04
Kale 2.4 1.9 0.5 1.6 5.5 1.8 .19 .06
Kohlrabi 2.0 1.5 0.1 1.3 4.3 1.3 .08 .07
Mangel Beets 1.3 0.9 0.1 0.8 6.0 1.0 .02 .02
Parsnips 1.7 1.2 0.4 1.3 11.9 1.3 .06 .08
Potatoes 2.2 1.3 0.1 0.4 17.4 1.1 .01 .05
Pumpkins with seeds 1.0 1.3 1.0 1.6 5.2 0.9 ------ .04
Rutabagas 1.3 1.0 0.2 1.4 7.2 1.0 .05 .03
Sunflowers(entire plant) 1.4 0.8 0.7 5.2 7.9 1.7 .29 .04
Tomatoes(fruit only) 0.9 0.6 0.4 0.6 3.3 0.5 .01 .03
Turnips 1.3 0.9 0.2 1.1 5.8 0.9 .06 .02


Grain Product Crude Protein% Digestible Protein% Fat% Fiber% Nitrogen Free Extract% Mineral Content% Calcium% Phosphorus%
Barley 12.7 10.0 1.9 5.4 66.6 2.8 .06 .40
Steamed Bone Meal 7.5 ---- 1.2 1.5 3.2 82.1 30.14 14.53
Buckwheat 10.3 7.4 2.3 10.7 62.8 1.9 .09 .31
Dent Corn 8.7 6.7 3.9 2.0 69.2 1.2 .02 .27
Linseed Meal 35.1 30.5 4.5 9.0 36.7 5.7 .41 .85
Cane Molasses 3.0 ---- ---- ---- 61.7 8.6 .66 .08
Oats 12.0 9.4 4.6 11.0 58.6 4.0 .09 .33
Field Peas 23.4 20.1 1.2 6.1 57.0 3.0 .17 .50
Pumpkin Seed 17.6 14.8 20.6 10.8 4.1 1.9 ---- ----
Rye 12.6 10.0 1.7 2.4 70.9 1.9 .10 .33
Soybeans 37.9 33.7 18.0 5.0 24.5 4.6 .25 .59
Sunflower Seeds with hulls (Black Oil) 16.8 13.9 25.9 29.0 18.8 3.1 .17 .52
Wheat 13.2 11.1 1.9 2.6 69.9 1.9 .04 .39
Wheat Bran 16.4 13.3 4.5 10.0 53.1 6.1 .13 1.29

The following article is very interesting and covers different ruminants.. well worth reading for a better understanding of feed practices..
Scott R.R. Haskell, DVM, MPVM
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Minnesota
St. Paul, MN 55108


Many veterinarians as well as animal scientists learn up front that the majority of first time small ruminant owners have never owned livestock before. The owners understanding of nutrition is basically limited to anecdotal as well as pet nutrition insight. The other extreme would be owners who carefully calculate the feed rations of large sheep feeding operations and commercial dairy goat herds. The span of knowledge is great. Many producers become enmeshed in feeding a "least cost" ration to their flock or herd. I would like to start this treatise with the statement that THE CHEAPEST OR LEAST COST RATION IS NOT NECESSARILY THE MOST EFFICIENT RATION. With this in place a better understanding of feed utilization needs to be formed. Producers as well as specialists need to understand the balance between the rumen (or compartmental) microbes and the nutritional capacity of the animal.

Type of feed:
Ø pellets
Ø hay
Ø grass
Ø grazing pasture
Ø grain
Ø cubes
Ø ground feeds
Ø water

Types of feeders:
Ø bunk feeders
Ø free choice troughs or bins
Ø key hole feeders
Ø pasture
Ø forest/ rough land

Other factors of importance:
Ø feeding hierarchy/psychology
Ø bunk space
Ø feed utilization
Ø spoilage (mold)
Ø poisonous plants
Ø particle size/ feed related factors

Feeding hierarchy is extremely important in the nutrition of small ruminants. Social structure of small ruminants is key to feeding these species successfully. It is extremely important to body condition score the herd on a regular basis. Wether the body condition score is from 1-5 or 1-10, I personally allow the owners to make this decision. However, it is important that all animals with a thick coat (wool or hair) be monitored carefully. It is very common that many animals low in the social hierarchy are too thin, and body condition score can be over looked with a full fleece.

Sub-clinical acidosis is a common problem in the feeding of all livestock. Too "hot" of a ration with inadequate long stem roughage is generally to key to this problem. Many first time small ruminant owners feed excessive concentrate levels to animals. Also with social eating schemes, one animal may gorge on all of the concentrate. This may be due to inadequate feed bunk space.


Ø limit or discontinue concentrate feeding
Ø buffering agents may be helpful (baking soda)
Ø free choice excellent long stem hay or grass pasture
Ø transfaunation
Ø probiotics

Feeding success:

Ø appropriately process feed according to type and need for the given species
Ø appropriate storage of feed in dry well ventilated areas
Ø adequate amounts of feed available (a minimum approach is the 1.5% of body weight on an as fed basis)
Ø available to all members of the herd or flock
Ø proper bunk space requirements per animal unit

Assessment of a successful feeding program:

Ø annually feed analysis: grass, hay, silage, mineral mix, supplements
Ø water analysis
Ø blood mineral analysis
Ø liver biopsy/analysis: males and non-pregnant females over six months of age at the end of the winter feeding season before being placed on pasture
Ø animals of all species eat in a wave like structure: first wave- dominant animals will eat the highest quality feed stuffs; second wave- the middle class group will eat most if not all of the higher quality feedstuffs; third wave- the least aggressive group will eat the "fines" and stem components left in the feed bunk. These animals will be the young, old, infirm and the more timid stock. Also males fed with females may keep others away from the feed bunks.
Ø BCS is the key to success to diagnosis of nutrition problems.
Ø Llama and alpaca nutrition is unique in the small ruminant pattern. They maintain a low dry matter intake of 1.8-2.0% of body weight. Their ideal ration will contain 12% protein, 55% TDN, 0.7% calcium and 0.4% phosphorus and 2 mg selenium per head per day would be a good mix. The norm would be to feed good quality of alfalfa, alfalfa/grass hay or plain grass hay along with a small amount of pelleted supplement per day. Grass hays are deficient in Ca and P so these are compensated for by the pelleted feed. It should be noted that at least 25% CF or greater should be include to insure normal compartment function. During the last trimester of pregnancy the caloric density on an as fed basis needs to be increased.


There have been well over 150 different species of microorganisms (yeast, bacteria, protozoa, viruses and fungi) isolated from the rumen fluid. It is important from the start to understand that fiber breakdown and fermentation with subsequent absorption and utilization of nutrients occurs only at higher pHs. Rumen acidosis will allow this balance to be broken and shut down will occur. Levels of microbial organisms are pH dependent and as such population shifts are common and easy to manipulate.




Sheep feeding habits:
. the sheep's muzzle is divided by a vertical cleft
. sheep tend to be less selective feeders than other small ruminants
. sheep utilize "selective consumption". Sheep consume diets much higher in nutritive value than the average of the forage provided to them. They select out the more nutritional components.
. mobile upper lips and prehensile tongue


Ø water requirements- lactating ewe: 6 liters per day average; fattening lamb: 4 liters in temperate climates
Ø 4-5 pounds of water are required for every pound of DM consumed; when water intake drops, feed intake drops
Ø water intake must exceed expected levels of milk production. Under temperate conditions 3.5 pounds of water must be consumed for every pound of milk produced
Ø with snow, sheep do not need water when out on range; they consume snow
Ø water consumption is also directly related to the crude protein (CP) consumption. Water acts to flush nitrogen from the system
Ø Water sources: tanks, streams, reservoirs, succulent feeds; beware of earthen tanks, they can bog down and trap sheep
Ø When formulating mineral mix requirements, levels of mineral in the water supply should be considered. Many water sources contain high levels of minerals
Ø When grazing semiarid pastures the crude protein levels often fall below 4%
Ø Below 7% CP rumen microbial activity is depressed by lack of nitrogen. A level of 8.5% crude protein should be considered a minimal level to sustain normal rumen function.
Ø Stage of plant growth needs to be assessed when determining CP
Ø In rangeland agriculture the most important factor affecting productivity is vegetation/plant management

Weight gains can be increased by:
. control of pasture pests
. lambing season manipulation to fit the productive unit
. over sowing legumes into natural grass lands
. range and pasture testing and fertilization when necessary
. genetically selecting animals for specific environments

1. livestock management
a. mixtures of livestock species
b. seasonal grazing
c. adequate stocking rates for the environment
2. vegetation replacement
a. reseeding
b. deferred grazing
c. want high leaf to stem ratios
d. rapid recovery ability is desirable
e. high tolerance to grazing
f. ability to regenerate from seed
3. supplemental feeding during critical periods to remove pressure from
4. water development
5. salt/mineral distribution
6. plant monitoring
7. nutritional laboratory assessment of native plant species
8. soil testing to determine deficiencies/toxicities
a. nitrogen fertilization increases the yield and protein content of range and pasture plants
b. fertilization does not improve forage digestibility

Ø insufficient energy levels are the primary limiting factor/nutrient deficiency
Ø inadequate amounts of feed
Ø poor quality feeds
Ø symptoms: slow weight gains, weight loss, reproductive failure, decreased milk production, reduced wool yield, animal mortality and lowered immune function
Ø no production occurs until the maintenance requirement has been satisfied

RULE OF THUMB: sheep consume 2 ½ to 3% of their body weight in DM per day

Nutritional wool quality factors:
a. requires energy and protein for production
b. poor nutrition=poor fiber quality
1. fleece fibers break easily
2. angora goats- fiber yield improves as protein level increases
a. elevated plane of nutrition allowing thinner ewes to increase ovulatory capacity just prior to breeding
b. moving to lush pasture or providing ½ pound per head per day of concentrate
c. ewe with a BCS of 3.5 or higher should not be flushed; works best with BCS 2.0 to 3.0
d. may increase lamb crop by 15-20% ? ?

NPN (nonprotein nitrogen)
Urea + keto acids from rumen flora= amino acids
These amino acids + rumen flora= microbial protein

Ammonia toxicity secondary to massive urea consumption is common
. lipid layer of the rumen layer is permeable to ammonia
. rumen has a poor buffering ability to buffer ammonia
. ammonia levels may overwhelm the liver's ability to convert it to urea=toxicity
. problems with urea feeding: lack of adaptation, fasting prior to feeding, feeding urea in diets of poor quality roughages, low water intake, improper formulation of ration

Treatment: instill 5-40 liters of cold water to rumen before seizures occur; cold water lowers ureolysis




Management of the pregnant ewe is critical to the reproductive and economic success of the sheep producer. It has been estimated that 60-80% of sheep production cost is in the
feeding program. It should be noted when evaluating a ration that BCS must be practiced.

Fetal development:
substantial increase in the requirements of the pregnant and lactating ewe over the dry unbred animal
1.5 to 2.0 times greater dietary requirements for the pregnant (third trimester) ewe for crude protein (CP), digestible energy (DE), calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P)
the transition ewe is an important aspect of the sheep producers feeding program

maximize dry matter intake
minimize the animals ability to create a negative protein and energy imbalance
insure adequate levels of calcium and the maintenance of a proper Ca: P ratio
adequate nutritional stimulation of rumen papillae
maximize immune system health and function
decrease metabolic disease
increase lamb viability, 60% of fetal growth occurs in the last month of pregnancy
acclimate the rumen microbe slowly to prevent the potential for acidosis and the animals going off feed
maternal protein deficiency is more important than energy deficiency
NRC recommends 11.3% CP however 15-16% is really required on an as fed basis, this is especially important after day 130.
Soybean meal and blood meal prepartum is a good source of protein above the requirements necessary to meet microbial feed requirements
Bypass proteins can be helpful

Increasing the dry matter consumption is critical in a time period when the abdominal distension of the uterus will preclude adequate fill. Therefore the quality of the feed is extremely important to the success of the program.

Common Transition ewe problems:
hepatic lipidosis
metabolic ketosis
milk fever
hypomagnesaemia/grass tetany
trace mineral levels are decreased in the dam from the fetus. Fetal hepatic micro and macronutrient levels are developed by in utero absorption of minerals and the absorption of high concentrated Colostrum
vitamins A and E as well as other fat soluble vitamins do not cross the placenta, the total fetal absorptive source is the Colostrum

It is important when evaluating individual animals nutrient status that a flock "mean" and "median" level be arrived at for the population assessed. This is the process of developing a flock normal.
cost benefit
pooling of samples where ever possible
hepatic biopsies
blood samples- not as exact as hepatic sampling; collect from animals over 6 months of age. Most labs do not have normals set for younger animals. Whole blood for selenium and plasma for copper and zinc
feed samples
water samples
draw samples from all representative groups: age, sex, feed type, transitional, physiologic state and disease categories. This does not allow for an evaluation of population variance, however it does give us an idea of normals for the herd or flock

Parameters, which need assessing from the herd:
. body condition scores (BCS)
. energy balance
. liver function
. kidney function
. micronutrients
. macronutrients
. protein status- measured by blood urea nitrogen (BUN), total protein, albumin and muscle enzyme activity.

These will all give an understanding of protein status and metabolism in the body.
. vitamins
. NEFA assessments- reflect an increase of liver and lipid metabolism. This can lead to hepatic lipidosis with secondary ketosis. NEFA's are a very sensitive measure of energy balance.
. serum samples are best assessed when the animals are in a physiologically challenged state


reasons: multiple births, bummer lambs, intensive management
Colostrum: laxative, protective, nutritive
cow Colostrum can be used, make sure it is from the first two milkings, double the volume you would normally feed of ewes milk, freeze in 4-6 ounce servings, do not microwave to thaw it will denature proteins
recommend 3-4 feedings of 4 to 6 ounces each at 2-4 hour intervals
feed lamb standing, this conditions them to "milk bar" feeding
milk replacer after the colostrum feeding
higher quality lamb milk is worth the money= you get what you pay for
sanitation needs to be strict; clean all feeders daily with bleach; disassemble feeder tubes, clean and air dry
feed milk replacer at a temperature below 40 degrees F. This limits consumption, teaches more frequent nursing and reduces digestive problems
wean at 4-5 weeks of age; feed solid feed initially with milk replacer
abrupt weaning is preferred over gradual weaning; gradual weaning stimulates bloat
for the first 2 weeks after weaning the diet should contain a minimum of 24% crude protein





It is important to remember that the camelid has a stomach divided into three compartments and is not technically a ruminant. These compartments are referred to as the first (C1), second (C2) and third compartment (C3). C1 and C2 are the compartments comparable to the rumen with approximately 90% of the total volume. These like the rumen are located on the animals left side in the paralumbar fossa.
C1 and C2 are lined with both stratified squamous cells as well as glandular mucous secretion cells
The glandular cells may secrete bicarbonate to buffer the fluids found in the compartments
Cells of the C1 and C2 absorb VFA and digest from both salivary breakdown as well as microbial fermentation
Saccules occur in the first two compartments to increase fermentative capacity
C1 contractions average 4-6 per minute in the normally fermenting animal, but can increase in animals recently post-pyrandial. These contractions progress from caudal to dorsal. They are much weaker in intensity than those of the cow.
C3 represents 10% of the gastric volume or ability
With C3, the distal 20% is glandular and acts as the abomasum does in ruminants; 80% is non-glandular
Camelids do not have a gall bladder, bile flows on a continuous basis
Camelids have a spiral colon which commonly impacts; colic is common in camelid
Camelids can more readily utilize poor quality feeds due to a slowed nutrient transit time allowing for better breakdown and absorption
Camelids are 10-25% more efficient in the digestion of feed stuffs over sheep and goats
Camelids are both grazers and browsers; llamas are primarily browsers while alpacas are primarily grazers
Nutrient requirements: CP 8-10%, CF 25%, TDN 55%
Calcium 0.6-0.8% and 0.3-0.5% phosphorous
Lactating and growing animals require an increase in protein to 12-14%
Alterations of the diet should be made during the winter, for pack animals and those animals which are used as jogging partners
Supplementing for energy should be done slowly; fat can be increased; in the Midwest where corn is readily available. Up to 20% of the total dry matter content can be corn. Camelids are not as susceptible to grain overload as other animals are.
Mineral needs are met with a multitude of commercially available camelid supplements; these contain needed micro minerals. Feed as to labeled instructions
With selenium deficient areas supplementation is necessary. It should be emphasized that a presumptive diagnosis needs to be made. Supplements should contain 90 ppm Se or as a added supplement 1-3 mg/100 pounds of body weight on a daily basis
Zinc deficiencies are common in animals fed high levels of calcium such as free choice alfalfa hay
During the last trimester llamas should be BCS weekly and may require grain at 1-2 pounds per head per day
Llamas gain 45-60 pounds during pregnancy/ alpacas gain 20-30 pounds
Lactation requirements may increase by 50% over maintenance; TDN at 60-65% and CP at 12-14%
Diets severely restricted in energy and protein can lead to ketosis, hepatic lipidosis, poor quality Colostrum
Males should be kept at a BCS of 5-6/10 heat stressed animals require more mineral and energy to maintain thermoregulation


Dry molasses 50 pounds
Bone meal or Dicalcium Phosphate 25 pounds
Monosodium Phosphate 25 pounds (if alfalfa is fed replaces bone meal)
Trace mineral salt with selenium 50 pounds
Zin Pro 100 10 pounds (Zin Pro Corp Edina, MN 55439-2441)
Fed on a 1.0 oz/animal/day basis


Feeding crias:
Ø crias will gain 1 pound during the first 2-4 days of life
Ø crias average ½ to 1 pound of gain per day
Ø minimize contact with the cria as much as possible. Imprinting is a common sequella and as such can lead to Berserk Llama Syndrome
Ø crias consume 10% of their body weight per day in 6-10 feedings; sheep's milk is best (dilute by 25%) followed by goats milk if sheep milk is not available
Ø lambs milk replacer is the best replacer (though a much poorer selection than whole milk). The replacer should be diluted by 25%.

Heat Stress:
Ø very important in hot humid climates
Ø avoid obesity
Ø avoid the over consumption of protein
Ø poor quality roughage gives off more heat during digestion
Ø panting increases energy requirements
Ø slowed gut movement of ingesta, colic is more common


Ø selenium is absorbed with less efficiency than in other small ruminants
Ø C 1 microflora convert the absorptive capacity of selenium diminishing its ability for assimilation
Ø Vitamin A and E enhance uptake of selenium
Ø Vitamin C, calcium, Sulfur, Cu and arsenic diminish selenium absorption
Ø Rain, pasture irrigation and acidic soils can decrease selenium levels
Ø Legumes are higher than grasses in selenium/ concentrates are the lowest
Ø Processing of feeds can decrease the level of selenium in a feed
Ø Best way to evaluate selenium is to have the diet analyzed by a commercial nutrient analysis laboratory; whole blood can also be used to evaluate the levels and is resistant to short term discrepancies (serum is not a good test) collect in lavender or green top tubes
Ø Diet levels should be around 1 to 1.5 ppm over this can be a toxic level
Ø Salt blocks for sheep, injectable Vit E/Se, mineral supplementation diets
Ø Symptoms: colic, muscle weakness, lameness, arched back abortions/stillbirth, infertility, poor growth of crias
Ø Most commonly seen in young rapid growing animals

ZINC DEFICIENCY- very common

Ø zinc is better absorbed from legumes than grasses or grains
Ø zinc absorption is inhibited by calcium, Fe, cadmium, oxalates, organophosphates
Ø Vit C, lactose and citrate enhance absorption
Ø Skin lesions are the most common sequella to zinc deficiency
Ø Symptoms: skin crusting and scaling, poor quality fiber, infertility, decreased food intake, hoof abnormalities, poor immune function
Ø Skin lesions include: alopecia, papules, plaques, thickened scaling-ventral abdomen, escutcheon, bridge of nose, inguinal region, inner thighs; parakeratosis on biopsy, inflammatory highlights; usually in animals older than 1 ½ years of age
Ø Treatment: 1 gram of zinc sulfate daily; if severe and non responsive 2-4 gm of zinc methionine daily; inform owner that it may take 2-4 months for success; decrease the calcium level in diet if the nutritional evaluation is high
Ø Diagnosis: biopsies, plasma zinc concentration, scrapping, impression smears, fungal and bacterial culture
Ø RBC's have a high zinc concentrations




The number one nutrition problem in small ruminants in the world today is starvation. Though this is problematic in many areas of the world, it also can be common in the USA, Canada, and other "developed" nations. Nutrient understanding is key to a healthy nutrition program.

Goat feeding habits:
. mobile upper lips and prehensile tongue
. browse and short forage feeders; normally browse contributes 50% of the diet
. energetic feeders; randomly consume feed stuffs in a highly inquisitive manner
. relish aromatic herbs in areas of sparse feed supply
. tend to wander and graze widely
. meticulous feeders
. retain feed for shorter time frames (22.0 hours/ sheep 32.7 hours)

RULE OF THUMB: goats consume from 5 ½ to 10% of their body weight in DM per day


Ø water consumption: goats drink 3-5 times per day
Ø goat water consumption depends on ambient temperature; 0 degrees C= 2.3 liters per day; 35 degrees C = 6.6 liters; 40 degrees C = 4.0 liters per day consumed. At forty degrees there is a failure of the heat regulatory mechanism.
Ø water consumption increases with salt intake in the diet
goats should be provided with a clean water source at all times; they will not drink readily from foul or polluted water sources
unpalatable or extremely cold water sources can also precipitate urolithiasis secondary to poor water consumption
goats can go for 3-4 days without water due to rumen water contents
utilize BCS to evaluate a herds nutrition program initially
with chronic low BCS in animals on an excellent diet the animals should be checked for: dental/oral disease, parasites, chronic wasting diseases (Johne's disease, CLA, CAE), blindness, foot and leg problems, low level acidosis
goats ruminate 8 hours a day
dry matter intake is the primary nutrient limitation in goats; this can be a decisive factor in nutrient absorption
monitor silage if fed, goats are extremely susceptible to listeria
molasses improves palatability of processed feeds. Feeding over 5% molasses can adversely affect rumen function leading to low level acidosis.
Over feeding of grain by owners is the number one cause of clinical acidosis
when the doe is dried off, feeding of woody browse can be of importance to restore rumen capacity. Goats as browsers have an extreme change in rumen function with fine particle, high energy rations. Rumen tone is lost and there is a marked decrease in rumen contractions
goats will refuse dusty or moldy hay
dry matter intake of hay can be increased with the addition of supplemental green forage daily; goats will waste up to 40-50% of hay fed in a manger; most producers try to have a 20% waste loss
hay intake as a rough estimate is 2.5 pound of hay per 100 pounds of body weight as a rough rule of thumb; maximum DM intake is 5 to 6 kg/100 kg of body weight
during lactation goats fed high quality alfalfa hay plus concentrates will consume 2.8 to 4.2 Kg DM/ 100 kg body weight. This range will depend on the stage of lactation (DIM)
lactational consumption may reach 3.5% of the live body weight
early lactation feeding: free choice hay plus one pound of concentrate (14-18% protein, 75% TDN, low dry matter) for each 2 pounds of milk produced daily; the feeding of concentrates is dependent on milk production



DRY MATTER INTAKE (adapted from: Smith and Sherman, 1994)
Animal Weight 50 kg 60 kg 70kg

Maintenance 1.20 1.33 1.47

Last month of 1.09 1.21 1.34


gestational dry matter consumption is depressed
DM consumption ranges from 2.2 to 2.8 kg/100 kg of live body weight during the last trimester of pregnancy
Hay intake ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 kg/100 kg of body weight during the pregnant dry period or transition doe period.
When feeding alfalfa hay and concentrates a 2:1 H:C ratio is a good rule of thumb
When feeding poorer quality hay a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio can be utilized. It should be noted that as the % of concentrates in a lactational diet increase, the % butterfat decreases
Early lactation does require 17-18% crude protein
Midlactation does require 13-16% crude protein
Zero-grazing versus grazing programs need to be considered in formulating a diet.
Palatability is of extreme importance to goats. Coarse textured feeds are preferred over finely milled feeds. Smell and taste are also key issues. Dusty or moldy hays are not well tolerated.
When purchasing hay it should be green not yellow or brown. Break open a bale and determine its dust and mold content. Smell the hay for freshness. Look for toxic plants or trash in the hay. Forage testing on a regular basis should be recommended where it is economically feasible. The stage of maturity is paramount in the selection of hay. If the hay has too much stem the animals will waste a large proportion of the feed.
Stored brownish hays have a decreased vitamin A, D and E level. This should be considered when determining the mineral mix or supplement feeds.
Angora goats have a decidedly higher protein and energy requirement. Critical time periods are: early stock growth, reproduction, mid through late gestation and during lactation.



1) Ketosis (pregnancy toxemia)
2) Parturient Paresis (milk fever)
3) Acidosis/indigestion
4) Enterotoxemia
5) Abortion
6) Diarrhea/constipation
7) Starvation
8) Lameness
9) Weak kids at delivery
10) Poor colostral quality/quantity
11) Urolithiasis (see below)
12) Posthitis (pizzle rot): excess protein fed to males
13) Arthritis: hypercalcemic diets
14) Vitamin/mineral imbalance



Urolithiasis is a common problem in sheep and goat medicine. Uretheral obstruction due to stone formation is common in both males as well as females, however castrated males pose the greatest risk. Nutrition plays the biggest part in urolithiasis. This is a substantial problem in "pet" food animal medicine (hobby farm animals); requires a more long-term approach to the control of this disease. In production animal medicine the treatment protocol is for salvage not long term survival.

Urinary stone formation

The composition of uroliths in sheep and goats is primarily dependent on the feeds and soil conditions within a specific geophysical location. Researchers at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine have done studies on goat uroliths and found them to be of two common types: calcium apatite and phosphatic calculi. The phosphatic calculi can be further broken down to calcium hydrogen phosphate dihydrate and magnesium ammonium phosphate. Silicate and calcium carbonate uroliths can also be seen, though less commonly.

Phosphatic Uroliths
Ø low roughage
Ø high concentrate
Ø low Ca: P ratio; high phosphorus levels in grains
Ø increased magnesium
Ø alkaline urine
Ø decreased saliva formation due to high levels of phosphorus. Normally phosphorus is excreted via feces in small ruminants, but the lowered saliva levels allow the concentration of phosphorus in the urine
Ø several breeds of sheep are predisposed: Texel and Scottish Blackface
Ø Pygmy goats are much more predisposed to the disease

Disease Diagnosis:
Ø early signs: hematuria, dysuria, tail flagging, vocalization, depression, off feed, colic, chewing at tail head, urine dribbling
Ø late signs: recumbency, depression, change in appetite, prepucial swelling, severe straining, severe vocalization, abdominal distension, increased TPR
Ø tachycardia, tachypnea and increased or decreased core body temperature
Ø ultrasound revels a distended bladder with or without stones
Ø increased BUN, creatinine, AST, CPK, hyponatremia and hypochloremia
Ø ultrasound of the penis revels a distended urethra; stones lodge most commonly at the urethral process. Many times just amputating this process will help alleviate many of the symptoms. Another common site for blockage is the distal sigmoid flexure


pet sheep and goats should be castrated at an older age (6-12 months)
increase water consumption through the use of salt, more water sources
acidify urine with ammonium chloride at a rate of 0.5 to 1% of the total ration
do not feed equine diet mixes to sheep and goats. These diets are higher in phosphorus and add the problem. This is commonly seen with back yard hobbyists
show animals and feedlot animals fed high levels of grain should have salt mixed in at 2-5% to increase water consumption and there by flush the system
Ca:P 2:1 or 2.5:1
Grass hay is lower in Ca and higher in P
Calculi in younger goats on milk replacer: cheaper milk replacers have a 1:1 Ca: P ration and will require Ca supplementation

reeducate owner to improved dietary program
prognosis poor to grave
owner should be educated to the high incidence of recurrence
first approach remove/amputate urethral process- temporary approach, recurrence is likely; to extrude penis the animal is usually placed in a sitting position on its rump. 10-15 mg of Diazepam is given IV, the penis is extended with a gauze sponge; proprynylpromazine at 1.0 mg/kg IM can also be used
tranquilizers and antispasmodics can be used: acepromazine at 0.1 mg/kg IV, diazepam at .5 mg/kg IV, aminopromazine at 2.0 mg/kg IM
perineal urethrostomy- salvage procedure of feeder animals, poor prognosis for pet animals
urethral translocation
ischial urethrostomy- exteriorize the urethra at a larger diameter
permanent cystotomy



Deer and elk nutrition is very similar to sheep nutrition. The importance of feeding varies with the productive cycle of cervidae. However, deer and elk appetites fluctuate seasonally. Understanding the annual appetite cycle is extremely important in nutritional management of the herd.

fetal growth and lactation can increase maintenance nutrient requirements by 70% for energy and 85% for protein during the last trimester of pregnancy and a 45% greater energy and 75% protein requirement during lactation
elk and deer give birth from late May to July; they consume less feed during the winter months and time their increase in nutrients to correlate with the grazing of forage pastures
seasonal growth and reproduction of cervidae requires changing nutritional programs
stags need maximum nutrients in the winter; stags having lost condition in their rut gain increase in body condition and appetite in the spring and summer
hinds need maximum nutrition in the summer
hinds nutritional demands are greatest in the spring and summer. During the fall breeding season they must regain condition. Though the hind has a decreased appetite in the winter, it is imperative that they do not loose condition
for calves the first winter, the seasonal depression is less than for adult deer; growth becomes limited with rapid weight gains in the spring and summer.
With calves it is important that dry matter consumption be monitored so that during winter feeding the animals can eat enough to maintain their weight.
Winter is the period where higher energy feed stuffs need to be supplemented
Concentrate or pelleted supplements should be fed but not to exceed 50% of the ration

Weanlings and stags: hay 6: corn 3: supplement 1
Pregnant females: hay 8: Corn 1.5: supplement 0.5

Ø most feeding programs emphasize the feeding of good legume hay or pasture with grain (oats, corn, barley, or a mix) as a supplemental energy source
Ø grass hay feeding programs require additional protein, minerals and vitamins; pellet supplements supply this


Jordan Deer Pellet Formulation:

Ground Alfalfa 31
Soybean Meal 31
Corn 30
Molasses 4
Limestone 1
Dicalcium phosphate 2
Trace Mineral Salt (with 1
Selenium and copper).
TOTAL 100%

Ø fall feeding of fawns and calves is imperative to prepare them for the winter-feeding pattern. Needed body weights and gain are important early on
Ø flushing hinds in September increases the ovulation rate
Ø summer pastures should contain grasses as well as legumes
Ø deer and elk rarely bloat!

. red deer require 4.0 Mcals of ME/lb of gain
. this would be the equivalent of 4.9 Mcals of DE or 2.5 pounds of TDN
. on a grain supplement basis this would require 3.1 pounds of corn per pound of weight

. red deer require 9.43 Mcals ME/day
. this would equal 11.5 Mcals DE or 5.75 lbs TDN
. 7.19 lbs of corn or 10.8 lbs of 53% TDN hay

mature hind will consume 4.5 to 6 pounds of dry matter per day in the winter.
This diet should consist of a good quality forage fed free choice plus 2 to 3 pounds of concentrate
Stags and calves should be fed a ration higher in concentrates since they have a marginal dry matter intake during this period
The best way of assessing a nutrition management program is by regular live weight monitoring; setting target weights allows program evaluation; target weights should be set on conditions particular to a given farm
General purpose mineral and trace element supplement should be available at all times
Stags lose weight during the breeding period; dominant stags in multiple sire herds will loose more weight than subordinate stags
Stag weight loss is directly related to the amount of energy required for sexual and antagonistic behavior
Stag weight loss is inversely related to the amount of feeding done by stags
BCS on a regular basis





Anderson, D.E. (1998) Troubleshooting nutrition for camelids. American Veterinary
Medical Association Annual Meeting. Pp.31-32.

Evans, C.N. (1994) Nutrition in llamas "What Veterinarians Should Know".
Proceedings North American Veterinary Conference 8:845-846.

Johnson, L.W. (1994) Llama nutrition. Veterinary Clinics of North America:
Food Animal Practice. W. B. Saunders Co. Philadelphia, U.S.A. Pp. 187-200.

Jordan, R.M. (1991) Deer farming: An overview of the industry and some basic
Nutrition and reproduction information. Deer and Elk Farming Symposium.
University of Minnesota. St. Paul, MN Pp. 1-8.

Osborne, C.A., et al (1989) Analyzing the mineral composition of urolith from dogs, cats,
Horses, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. Veterinary Medicine 750-764.

Pugh, D.G. (1997) Nutrition and feeding of South American camelids.
Proceedings of the Central Veterinary Conference. Kansas City, MO. Pp. 150-3.

Pugh, D.C. (1997) Special feeding practices in lamas. Proceedings of the Central
Veterinary Conference. Kansas City, MO. Pp. 154-7.

Smith, M.C., Sherman, D. M. (1994) Goat Medicine. Williams and Wilkins.
Philadelphia. Pp. 527-564.

Stone, W.C., et al (1997) Prepubic urethrostomy for relief of urethral obstruction
in a sheep and a goat. J Am Vet Med Assoc 210:939-941.

Van Saun, R.J. (1998) Small ruminant nutrition: feeding for two. Proceedings from
the Central Veterinary Conference. Kansas City, MO. Pp. 73-77.

Van Saun, R.J. (1998) Pregnant ewe nutrition. Proceeding from the Central
Veterinary Conference. Kansas City, MO. Pp. 78-83.

Van Saun, R.J. (1998) Case studies in sheep nutrition. Proceeding from the Central
Veterinary Conference. Kansas City, MO. Pp. 84-87.

More Good Links for Feeding and Nutrition

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