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Technological Alternatives to Traditional Feeding Management

Basic Concepts in Goat Nutrition
Traditionally, goats are let loose in open areas or newly harvested fields to allow them to search for whatever forage they can find. Sometimes they are tied with a rope to a peg and brought to grazing areas but tethered (tying a goat with a rope to peg) to the same spot every day. If the raiser is uncaring, goats may even be tied along the road, where patches of grasses are present, unmindful that it can pose hazard to the animals. Seldom are ropes longer than 2m to enable them to move around a 10m radius to browse on more plants. At best, goats are transferred to other sites once or twice a day and brought to the shade of a tree during the peak of a hot day. Otherwise, goats are allowed to freely graze wherever their hooves would take them. No water or supplemental feeds are offered to them.

But tethering and free grazing (allowing goats to roam freely and search for own food) can result to poor performance of your goats. Although they are free to select plant species, they do not always have access to the most nutritious feeds. Tethered goats are the most unfortunate of all, since they do not have the option to search and are contented with whatever is available within the confines of their rope. Because of these, their production performance is reduced, making them prone to diseases. Moreover, the grazing area is compromised and degraded, as goats are tethered to the same spot everyday for long periods of time.

To address these problems, stall feeding as an alternative to tethering or free grazing is offered. This is the feeding system that involves confinement of goats and provision of cut forages, concentrates and other feed resources in the pen.

Feeding Characteristics of Goats
By nature goats are browsers with inquisitive feeding behaviors.  The unique mechanisms of goats for feed selection, prehension, and utilization give goats high survival rates under harsh conditions.  The prehension of feed by goats with their mobile upper lip and bipedal stance ensures the consumption of the more nutritious and succulent parts of the plants.  Relative to body size, goats can consume more feeds of up to 6% of their live weight compared to 2-3% in cattle.  This means that goats can satisfy their nutrient requirements for production, provided good quality pasture and fodder trees and shrubs are available.

Even though they are called ruminants, your goats have feeding characteristics that differ from sheep, cattle and buffaloes.
  • Your goats like to eat a variety of feeds, especially leaves of trees and shrubs (up to 60% of their diet).
  • They accurately select only the most nutritious plants or plant parts to eat using their narrow lips.
  • Due to their inquisitive feeding behavior, they tend to bite any plant material, but will spit out those that are undesirable to them.
  • They can stand up on their two hind legs and grab plant parts with their narrow lips located high above their head.
Nutrient requirement of Goats

Your goats need energy that serves as the fuel for their different body processes, protein that helps them grow and repair tissues such as muscles (meat), organs, hooves, skin and hair, vitamins, minerals and water at the right balance or proportions.  These nutrients are obtained from the feed materials that they eat.

Fibrous plant materials can easily be digested by mature goats through the microorganism in their rumen; hence you can feed mature goats with old or mature and fibrous plant parts. Largest compartment of the goat's stomach, which houses microorganisms that can digest fibrous feeds eaten by goats.

Preweaners (kids aged 1-3 months that are not yet weaned), however, should be allowed to sucker the dam's milk while introducing them to creep feeds. Creep feeds are feeds given to kids 1-2 months to prepare them for adult feed; these are the transition feeds that bridge the shift from liquid (milk) to solid feeding.

To enhance their early rumen function, give mashed concentrates gradually starting  at 1 month, and succulent, young grasses and tree leaves at two months of age.

To ensure proper digestion, give goats unlimited access to fresh and clean drinking water everyday.

Although goats obtain minerals from the feed they eat, actively growing and miling goats should be given additional minerals especially calcium and phosphorous.  You also need to give salt to provide them with the needed sodium and chlorine.

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