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Goat feeding in times of drought

goat nutritionIn 2008 the drought in New Zealand was producing pasture with low nutritive values. This meant that supplementary feeding of goats may be necessary in some areas to maintain growth rates and milk production, meet the requirements of pregnant does or even just maintain the welfare of goats depending on the situation and use of goats.

Although goats are ruminants like sheep and cattle, they are different in the sense they have the ability to utilize both pasture and browse (trees, shrubs and weeds) in their diets. This allows them an extra source of nutrition although they will happily consume only pasture and be very productive on it. Physiological adaptions such as a narrow muzzle and cleft upper lip allow goats to be highly selective feeders and typically if allowed will select from a wide range of feeds. This selectivity can impact consumption of supplementary feeds as goats have the ability to select palatable parts and leave behind the less palatable parts. This selectivity can result in feed wastage.

Energy is a major nutrient requirement and is often the first limiting nutrient during a drought when pasture digestibility is low and gut fill limits intake. The energy requirements for goats consists of the basic requirements for maintenance plus additional for growth, pregnancy and lactation. A 50kg, pregnant doe gaining 135g/d requires 13.4 MJME/day of energy and 112g of protein per day. This increases to 38.4 MJME/day of energy and 451g of protein per day when does are lactating.

Drought pasture provides approximately 8 MJ ME/day and 110g of protein per day. For the pregnant doe this leaves a gap of 5.4MJ ME/day and 2g of protein. NRM “multifeed” contains 11.5 MJ/ME and 12.5% protein. The pregnant doe therefore requires ±0.5kg of multifeed per day to meet her daily requirements. When the doe is lactating the deficit from the pasture is 30 MJME/day and 341g of protein per day. This means that the lactating doe requires ±2.5kg of “multifeed” per day.

When feeding out a supplementary feed it is important to be aware of the feeding behaviour of goats. When insufficient space is provided then bullying will occur with not all goats receiving the desired amount of feed.  If bullied goats lose too much condition then it may beneficial to feed these animals separately from the main mob

It is important to ensure that the vitamin and mineral requirements of goats are being met. Important minerals for goats include calcium and phosphorus for milk production and bone development. Other minerals include sodium, chloride, magnesium, iodine, copper, cobalt, zinc and selenium. Major deficiencies of minerals in New Zealand occur with sodium, selenium and copper. Selenium is linked with vitamin E, which also can be deficient and both are important for the immune system and disease prevention.  NRM “Multifeed” provides a balanced feed that contains the required levels of vitamins and minerals to meet the requirements of goats.

The benefits of feeding a balanced supplement during the drought include maintaining body condition, improving fertility and reproductive performance, improved immunity and maintaining or increasing milk production.