Goat Diet

Goats are ruminants and have four stomachs (like a cow). Much of their energy indirectly comes from breaking down cellulose from plant fibers into energy. However, no mammal on earth secretes enzymes necessary to digest cellulose. However, bacteria can readily utilize this energy source. As such, goats (and other ruminants) basically work like a huge fermentation vat. They eat, and mechanically break food down (cud chewing) and bacteria in their digestive tract then actually break the food down into nutrients the goat can use.

Goats are “browsers” meaning that they vastly prefer to eat woody plants and shrubs but will eat a small amount of grass. Cattle are “grazers” and pretty much the opposite (mostly grass a small amount of browse). If you want to get a goat to “mow your lawn,” you are going to be disappointed. You are better off getting a sheep for that. A goat will probably eat all your ornamental bushes and peel the bark of your weeping cherry tree BEFORE it gets to your lawn (if at all). This feeding pattern means that it is possible and even economically advantageous to graze goats and cattle in the same area as they do not directly compete with each other. Goats are quite happy to munch down brambles, thorns, weeds, and even poison ivy, that cows won’t touch.

The mainstay of our goats diet is hay. We feed a mix of timothy and alfalfa hay. We usually buy 60 pound square bales. We feed it in a steel "dual purpose" feeder. Goats typically won't eat much hay off the ground and at any rate if you feed it on the ground they will quickly soil it.
Besides hay, we feed about a pound or so of grain per day. We use Blue Seal "Caprine Challenger."There are about a million schools of thought here with feeding grain. These range from feed alot of grain, to feeding none, to feeding pellets without molasses, to feeding grain with molasses.... The majority opinion seems to center on a pound or so a day for growing kids and does in production... so we went with that.
Throughout the day the goats find alot of their own stuff to eat in the paddock. They will eat pretty much any kind of vegetation. This will range from tree bark (with birch, maple, and pine being the favorite, see below) through all types of weeds and brush, and even fallen leaves
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As our herd got bigger we outgrew our wall mounted feeders (although still useful for winter, and to feed the kids). Not only that the goats soon learned to jump up and pull the bales of alfalfa down from my storage shelves. For both these reasons, we needed to upgrade to a bigger, outdoor, hayrack (below). Instructions on how to build one of these are included here. This will easily hold 6 good-sized bales of hay and reduce wastage.
Another problem faced as the herd got bigger, was feeding grain inside. As the goats got bigger, and we had more of them.. they would simply mob us when they new feeding time was near. As we grew tired of horns and hooves in our face.... we decided to feed them through the fence. We made this nice little feeding station for just a few dollars worth of lumber.
Winter conditions are especially challenging. In freezing conditions, we use a 300 gallon rubbermaid with a 1250 watt heater for watering. Couple of tips here... Invest in an "ice chopper". As the water level drops, the ice stays put.... eventually the goats can't reach the water. A couple quick whacks with the chopper breaks through the ice. Of course have to be very careful not to put a hole in the trough.
Also, in the winter, I supplement the goats with Blue Seal "Hay Stretcher" (below right) in addition to "Caprine Challenger" (below left). 45 gallon rubbermaid trash cans make handy containers that won't crack in sub zero temperatures. According to the label, you can replace about 50% of the goats ration with Hay Stretcher, but it does not have the extra vitamins and minerals that are added to the grain. Goats still need fiber, so you certainly can't feed them Hay Stretcher only. However, it does have about twice the calories, pound for pound as compared to hay and gives them a little boost for the cold winter months.