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By February 13, 2018 0 Comments Read More →

Feeding Goats

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Emma Hurrell BSc (Hons), PGCert, discusses the importance of providing your goats with a high quality, balanced diet to ensure they remain healthy and productive


As ruminants, goats are highly adapted to digesting fibre. Eating fibrous material such as hay and tree branches promotes rumination (‘chewing the cud’), maintains healthy rumen function and, once digested, provides the goat with a source of energy. As goat owners will know, goats are not the most effective lawn mowers because, whilst they will nibble on grass, they are much happier browsing on woody material from shrubs and trees. If your goats don’t have access to shrubs and trees in their enclosure, they will certainly appreciate having some branches hung up to munch on. Hawthorn, hazel and brambles are usually popular, but care should be taken to avoid access to poisonous plants such as rhododendron and yew, as well as stoned fruit tree varieties such as cherry, which are poisonous when dried.

Eating fibrous material such as tree branches promotes rumination in goats.

Forage such as hay should always be available to goats and is an excellent source of fibre for them. Goats are very particular when it comes to the cleanliness of their feed so the hay they have should be of good quality and dust free – if it is not to their liking they will not eat it! To satisfy your goat’s browsing behaviour, it is best to feed their hay from a rack to simulate the natural behaviour of looking upwards for food.

Forage such as hay is an excellent source of fibre. It is best fed from a rack as goats naturally look upwards for food.


Water is very important for all animals, and goats are no exception. It has many functions in the body, which include regulating body temperature, assisting transportation of nutrients around the body and excreting waste products, as well as having a role in many of the body’s chemical reactions. As has already been noted, goats can be very particular, so to ensure your goats drink enough, it is important to ensure they always have access to fresh, clean water. Wethers (castrated goats) are unfortunately at greater risk of urinary stones because they have a narrower urethra, so if you keep wethers it is especially important to encourage them to drink plenty of water because urinary stones are less likely to occur in dilute urine.


Fruit and vegetables make a good addition to your goats’ diet and will provide added interest. It is important to avoid poisonous plants such as tomatoes and rhubarb, as well as any decaying matter. Additionally, grass clippings are not advisable because they can cause your goat to choke. It is important to note that catering waste, even from your own kitchen, should not be fed.

An all-round goat mix.


Offering a high quality, balanced goat mix appropriate for the goat’s nutritional requirements alongside their forage and browsing material will help to keep them at their best. The type of goat mix you choose and how much you feed will depend on a number of factors, including; age, breed, reproductive status and purpose (e.g. breeding, milk or as pets). Whilst many owners like to mix their own concentrate feeds, using a good quality prepared feed takes out much of the hard work and will ensure you are providing your goats with a balanced diet.

To ensure that your goats are fed the correct amount of feed for their requirements it is important to assess their body condition and to follow the feed manufacturer’s guidelines. Remember to weigh your scoop of feed – different feeds will vary in weight. If you are unsure if you are feeding the correct amount then it is worth contacting the feed company helpline as they will be able to advise you.




A pygmy goat mix.

Small breeds such as pygmy goats are often kept as pets, and due to their small size it is not uncommon for them to pile on the pounds. To avoid pygmy goats becoming overweight, it is important to use a low energy feed, which is also high in fibre. Whilst pygmy goats do require a good source of quality protein for maintenance, their requirements are not as high as the protein requirements of a dairy goat. Specifically formulated pygmy goat feeds are available and would be suitable for all pet goats. Whilst lower in energy and protein, they often contain fruit and vegetables such as carrot, apple and pineapple to make them more palatable and interesting. They will also be balanced with essential vitamins and minerals for all-round good health, and this will include a correct ratio of calcium and phosphorus, which is important to minimise the risk of urinary stones.

Pygmy goats require a low energy high fibre feed.


Goats kept for milk will understandably have higher nutritional requirements than those that are kept as pets. Without adequate nutrition, dairy goats can lose condition quickly, and this can have a knock on effect on their milk yield. It is important to ensure they are fed a feed that is high in energy and provides a good level of protein, ideally with a protein content of 15% or greater. For high yielders, they may require as much as 3kg of complementary feed to meet their daily nutritional requirements. To make digestion as efficient as possible, it would be beneficial to split the quantity between 3 or 4 smaller feeds rather than feeding it in one or two large feeds – this will also reduce the risk of conditions such as acidosis occurring.


Contrary to the popular belief that goats will eat anything, they are actually very fussy eaters. If this is a problem you face with your goats, look for a feed that contains palatable herbs such as mint, fenugreek and oregano for added flavour, which may tempt a shy feeder. Many feeds formulated for goats contain molasses, but there are dry goat mixes on the market that may be more suitable if you have a goat with less of a sweet tooth! If your goat suddenly stops eating, and you cannot see a reason why, it is always best to contact your vet, in case of illness.

A dry goat mix for goats with a less sweet tooth.

With access to lots of interesting forage and browsing material, clean fresh water and a good quality goat feed specifically tailored to your goat’s requirements in place, your goats should certainly have everything they need to keep them in tip-top condition.



Emma Hurrell is a Nutritionist at The Smallholder Range and has a BSc in Animal Management and Welfare as well as a postgraduate certificate in Ruminant Nutrition.

For more information on feeding your goats, contact the friendly Smallholder Range Advice Line on 01362 822900, or visit














Posted in: Goats

About the Author:

Ruth Tott is the publisher of Home Farmer Magazine, and together with her husband, Paul Melnyczuk, Editor,is founder of the company. But her background is far removed having specialised in Costume History with a Post-Grad diploma in Museum Studies to boot. A far cry from looking after chickens, growing veg and making bread!

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