Feeding Your Goats

Just as there are many different types of goats, there are also many ways of feeding your goats.  It is important to build a relationship with your nutritionist to choose a feeding system that is right for you, in order to maximize your herd's potential. 

Also it is good to keep in mind your male goats (bucks), as they have their own particular nutritional needs. See Caring for Your Male Goat.

There are four main feeding systems: 

  1. Total Mixed Ration (TMR)
  2. Partial Mix Ration (PMR)
  3. Component Feeding
  4. Complete Feed

Dry matter intake drives production (whether it be growth or milk production).  One of the biggest factors that influences dry matter intake is water consumption.  

Total Mixed Ration (TMR)

TMR feeding is the practice of weighing and combining all the necessary components in their diet and mixing them thoroughly to prevent  the goats from separating and sorting each ingredient.  These rations typically contain large volumes of forages with various supplements added in order to meet all the goat's nutritional requirements.

What are the advantages of TMR?

  • The ability to include a wide variety of ingredients, some which would not appeal to the goats when fed separately.
  • Very easy to adjust the ration based on body condition or stage of lactation.
  • Each mouthful taken is nutritionally balanced.
  • Feed costs are kept lower by the ability to incorporate components grown on-farm.

What are the drawbacks of TMR?

  • Keeping feed "fresh" can be a challenge, especially in hot weather.
  • High initial capital cost of purchasing the equipment needed (TMR mixer and silos).
  • Poorly fermented forages can cause stomach upsets or health problems (Listeria, Clostridium

For more on feeding your goats by TMR, read the following case study by Ontario Goat: Total Mixed Rations at Roos Dairy Goats 

Partial Mix Ration (PMR)

PMR is similar to TMR in that it involves mixing the bulk ingredients in a mixer along with some of the micro-ingredients. The pellet supplement/concentrate is added either as a top-dressing or can be fed in the parlour as an added incentive for the goats enter the parlour for milking. Though very similar to TMR there are still pros and cons when compared to TMR.

What are the advantages of feeding your goats by PMR?

  • The ability to mix one large batch of base ration for multiple groups of goats.
  • The ability to micro manage groups more easily than with TMR by feeding different amounts of concentrate or a different type of concentrate.

What are the drawbacks of PMR?

  • The need to feed the pellet supplement/concentrate makes this system more labour intensive than TMR.
  • Keeping feed "fresh" can be a challenge, especially in hot weather.
  • High initial capital cost of purchasing the equipment needed (TMR mixer and silos).
  • Poorly fermented forages can cause stomach upsets or health problems (Listeria, Clostridium)

For more on feeding your goats by PMR, read the following case study by Ontario Goat: Implementing Partial Mixed Rations at Sunny Day Acres

Component Feeding

Component feeding is another forage based feeding system that uses  a pellet supplement/concentrate that is formulated to supply the nutritional needs that are lacking in the forage. Just as in the PMR system of feeding the pellet is fed either as a top-dress or in the parlour. Where they differ is that instead of mixing the components in a mixer each type of component is fed separately at the bunk.

What are the advantages of feeding your goats this way? 

  • Feed costs are kept lower by the ability to incorporate forages grown on-farm.
  • The concentrate may be used for multiple groups including doelings by adjusting the amount that is fed/goat.
  • Low capital cost for setting up.

What are the disadvantages?

  • Keeping feed "fresh" can be a challenge when using ensiled forages, especially in hot weather.
  • Becomes more labour intensive as more components are added to the ration.

For more on Component Feeding, read the following case study by Ontario Goat: Implementing Component Feeding for Meat Production with the Vingerhoeds Family

Complete Feed

The Complete Feeding System is a pellet based feeding system. All the nutritional needs of the goat are included in the pellet. Since goats are ruminants they require forage in addition to the pellets in order to keep their rumen active and  healthy.  In this type of feeding system it is important to be feeding your goats high quality straw or hay ad-lib. It is key to remember that though the forage portion of this diet is small in proportion to the pellet consumption, it is still a very important part of the feeding system. Insufficient amounts of forage may cause problems such as Acidosis which in turn decreases production.

Advantages to Complete Feed:

  • Feed stays fresh, leading to more consistent intake and production during summer months.
  • Significant time and labour savings.
  • Significant reduction in machinery costs and storage facilities.
  • Very little feed wastage.
  • Consistent feed quality.

Disadvantages to Complete Feed:

  • Fluctuations in feed costs.
  • Difficult to alter ration based on body condition or stage of lactation.

For more on feeding your goats by PMR, read the following case study by Ontario Goat: Complete Pellet Feeds at Bushwalker Farm Ltd. 



Are you feeding your goats enough water? 

Ensure that your goats have access at all times to clean, fresh water.  Goats are picky about their water which in turn affects milk production and growth rate. Would you drink from a dirty cup out of the sink that has last night's supper splattered on it? probably not.  So the same goes for your goats - keep their water troughs & water bowls clean to encourage their water intake.

One way to increase your goats' water intake through the winter is to circulate warm water (approx 20 degrees) through the water lines.  This can increase milk production in the winter by approximately 0.2L/goat/day.

Water bowls or water troughs?

Water bowls are recommended for use in the bedding pack.  They are relatively easy to keep clean, and are a great way to provide that constant source of clean, fresh water.  It can also be a method for medicating your whole herd.  

If you are using water bowls, follow a ratio of 1:20.  For mature goats, the water bowls should be 22 inches off the bedding pack. 

After milking, goats are especially thirsty and need to replenish their fluids.  A water trough can be useful as an extra source to have available only after milking, so that they don't have to fight for space at the water bowls. The main drawback to water troughs is that they are difficult to keep clean.

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