Feeding Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Goats are ruminants like cattle, sheep, and deer. Ruminants have 4 stomachs, the Rumen, the Reticulum, the Omasum and the Abomasum. The Abomasum is oftentimes called the "true stomach".
The reticulum and rumen work together kind of like a fermentation vat where microorganisms and bacteria breakdown the fibrous feedstuffs such as hay, grasses, leaves, and browse that they consume.
Goats move the larger particles of feed contents in their rumen back and forth for rechewing, hence the term "chewing their cud". Once the feed stuff has been broken down between the rumen and reticulum, into the Omasum where water is reabsorbed and further digestion occurs. The digested materials then flow into the abomasum where the acidic and enzymatic digestion occurs and nutrient absorption happens.
Goats can produce up to 5 quarts of gas per hour (most is carbon dioxide and little methane) which causes belching. If a goat does not belch, bloat occurs.
Maintaining the correct PH balance is very important for a healthy functioning rumen. A goat fed a diet that is high in forage will have a higher PH than a goat fed a diet of high concentrates. As an example, a grass fed goat PH is 6.5 where a goat that is adapted to a diet that is fed a 50% grain diet may have a slightly acidic PH of 6.2.
The rumen is affected by the type and amount of acid produced and the amount of saliva that enters the rumen. Changes in diet that are sudden causes PH levels drop can cause acidosis. Acidosis will kill many of the microbes which can cause the rumen to stop contracting.
To Prevent Acidosis and maintain the PH level of the rumen, changes in the grain levels of a goat's diet must be made gradually to allow the microbials to gradually shift and adjust.
Fiber is needed and is necessary in a goat's diet. Failure to provide fiber can lead to disease.
All goats are ruminants which are animals that chews cud regurgitated from its rumen. Most ruminants have a complex 3 or 4 chambered stomachs. Goats like to lay down and chew their cud while basking in the sun.
Hay and or forage are important for goats to maintain a healthy gut. Hay or forage should be available for them at all times.
Choosing a good quality hay that is free from mold and dust is important. Does, kids and bucks should be given a lower protein hay like Timothy, Bermuda, Orchard Grass hay or a combination of grass hay. (I've heard of Peanut Hay being fed in the southern states.)
Lactating Does: The only time we feed an Alfalfa/Grass Hay Mix to the does is about a week before kidding until we begin to dry them up. Does should only be given the higher protein content of Alfalfa Hay when lactating and just prior to kidding.
Fresh, Clean Water
Goats prefer their water to be warm, especially and in colder months, they really appreciate clean, warm water.
Goats will refuse water that is dirty or contaminated with feces so you may want to check their water buckets a couple of times a day.
Does require a higher protein diet while pregnant, nursing or being milked. A special pelleted feed manufactured specifically to meet the nutritional requirements is an easy way to ensure a balanced diet for your dairy goat. (We feed Kalmbach Feeds - All Natural Meat & Milk during lactation, Kalmbach Medicated Feed to our Bucks and during non-lactation to the does, and a medicated Kalmbach feed for the kids.
We mix the pellets with Timothy Pellets and a few Black Oil Sunflower Seeds for the does. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds should not be given to bucks - they can throw off the phosphorus/calcium ratio off in their diets.
Additional "treats" given sparingly. We make a Treat Ball for our goats. We give them an occasional Fig Cookie to hide medications/supplements.
Minerals, Baking Soda, Thoravin Kelp & Himalayan Salt Block
Providing your goats with free access to the following helps your goats maintain their health.
Provide baking soda, which is also called sodium bicarbonate, at all times. They will eat it as needed to help maintain a balanced rumen.
Goat minerals they will ingest if they are deficient in their diet. There are a few different brands available.
Offering Sea Kelp provides:
Excellent source of iodine which helps them to regulate their metabolism.
Strengthens their immune system.
Improves the quality of their feed.
Can help increase weight gain.
Reduces breeding problems.
Improves milk production.
Kelp helps decrease mastitis.
& kelp helps increase butterfat in their milk.
We provide a Himalayan Salt Block in every stall. This provides trace minerals and encourages them to drink more water.
Bucks & Wethers
Feeding a buck or wether ( a neutered male goat) too much concentrated feed and/or feeding concentrates with an improper calcium-to-phosphorus ratio is a major cause of a deadly condition called Urinary Calculi. (See our blog post on this horrible disease.)
The feed you give your bucks and wethers should have ammonium chloride in the ingredients. The ratio is 1 pound of ammonium chloride to every 100 pound of feed. You can also add 1 tsp. ammonia chloride powder to 1 gallon of water per goat as a preventative.
We are working on a newsletter for more information on Nigerian Dwarf care and homesteading so be sure to check in periodically.