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Feeding and Management of Goats to Prevent Nutritional Disorders

By Basil Bactawar, UF/IFAS Duval County Extension Service


Goats are ruminants and their diets consist of forages and brushes including weeds such as blackberries, pigweeds, honey suckle, and kudzu.  Goats have narrow and deep mouths.  This anatomical feature allows the goat to selectively harvest soft and leafy tissues and woody shrubs.  The deep mouth enables it to strip leaves and harvest the highest quality parts of the plants.  This adaptability makes the goat well suited for year round grazing.

The nutrient requirements for goats are energy, protein, minerals, vitamins and water.  These requirements vary with the animal’s body weight, sex, the stage of pregnancy and lactation.  Physical activities and stress influence these requirements.  Energy is supplied by forage, browse and grains.  Inadequate feed intake, poor quality feed and forage can have a negative effect on productivity through reduced growth and reproductive efficiency.  Additionally, it can lead to reduced milk production.  Kids that depend on the doe’s milk for growth can be negatively affected.  Diseases and parasite infestation are closely linked to inadequate energy intake.  The provision of the required levels of energy in goats is important to maintain a healthy herd.

Protein constitutes the building blocks for cells.  If the level of protein in the goat’s diet is inadequate, then fetal development can be affected.  Furthermore, it could lead to reduced growth and milk production.  Ruminants produce vitamin K and all the B vitamins in the rumen.  Vitamin A is likely to be deficient during times of drought when forage is not available. 


The goal of feeding is to foster good health so as to get the maximum production. It is essential to keep an eye on costs to stay within a reasonable budget. Feed constitute cost about 60-70% of the cost of production. It is important to pay attention to prices and low cost alternative grains. Proper feeding of goats is the best defense against diseases. The question that always arises is how much grain and hay to feed. As mentioned above, it depends on the sex of the animal, the body weight and whether the goats are pregnant, lactating or dry. Hay and grain offered to goats should be consumed in about 20 minutes. If the animals are taking longer than 20 minutes to consume the feed provided, then they are probably being overfed. It is necessary to provide fresh and clean water at all times.  The lack of water can reduce intake. Daily consumption of water ranges from one quart to one and half gallon per head per day. Periodically scrub and sanitize watering bowls to keep them free from contamination, microbes, parasites and algae. On average, and adult animal should be fed five lbs. of high quality feed and hay per day. Milking does should be fed an additional pound of grain/day for every quart of milk produced. Goats may reduce their feed intake if the grains are moldy. It is essential to buy good quality grains. Grains not dried properly or stored under damp or wet conditions in high temperatures can lead to mold growth.


Remember prevention is better than cure. A sick goat in the whole herd can could about 10-20 times more when you have to treat as opposed to the cost of prevention. The following nutritional conditions can develop due, in part, to poor feeding practices:


Gas is a natural by-product of digestive fermentation in the rumen, and it is expelled continuously as the goat belches. Bloat occurs when gas is trapped in the rumen. It is a life-threatening condition. Frothy bloat is usually caused by grazing lush pasture or legume pastures. Foam forms in the rumen with tiny bubbles that are impossible for a goat to belch up. The rumen expands with foam and the goat could die quickly from respiratory or circulatory failure due to excessive pressure on the diaphragm. Dry bloat is usually caused by indigestion from eating too much grain. In this type of bloat, gas forms in pockets and is trapped in the upper portions of the rumen. To prevent bloat, feed high quality hay before allowing them to eat new, green moist grass.  Grain ration should not be fed alone. It is advisable to feed hay first before grains in the morning.


Fiber (e.g. hay or silage) is important in the diet because it stimulates the goat to chew, thereby producing alkaline saliva which serves to control the level of acidity in the rumen. The rumen microflora can only handle gradual changes in forage: grain ratio. If the proportion, absolute amount or type of grain changes too quickly, then lactic acidosis will develop. The type of rumen bacteria change to lactic acid producers. This lowers the pH of the rumen. The acid gets absorbed into the body creating general acidosis. It is advisable to avoid sudden or too much offering of grain to goats.


Laminitis is the term used to describe the initial outbreak of the disease when the laminae become inflamed and break down, releasing its hold on the bones in the hoof. Over-feeding a high-energy diet or feeding a concentrated grain diet with low-to-no-roughage sets the stage for this illness. The signs are lameness, reluctance to move, fever and all 4 feet are hot to the touch. It can be partially cause by complication of other diseases.  The approach to prevent this disease is to feed balanced rations with no sudden or drastic change in diet.

Urinary calculi

The urethra is a tube that empties urine from the bladder. The male's urethra is much longer and narrower than that of the doe. It is less of a problem in does because of the straightness and shortness of their urethra. Stones are mainly formed in the bladder and become a problem when they are lodged in the urethra. Symptoms of this condition include straining or frequent non-productive urination, abdominal discomfort, stretching, kicking, looking at their sides, and rapid tail switching. To avoiding this problem it is advisable to feed a ration of high quality, free choice, mixed legume/grass hay with salt and trace minerals with calcium to phosphorus ratio of 2:1.  Add grain as required. Freedom to browse is an added plus. Have fresh water available at all times encourages urine flow. If possible defer castration until 3 to 5 months of age. This allows the influence of testosterone on the development of the urethral lumen size.

Milk fever

Milk fever usually occurs around kidding time. The noticeable symptom of this disease is dragging of the hind foot. Certain feed rich in calcium, most notably and peanut (legume) hay are believed to be the cause. These feeds contain calcium in excess of what the doe needs at kidding time. This excess calcium sets off a "chain reaction" causing calcium to be deposited into her bones when her body needs to be releasing it for use in milk production.  The best way to prevent milk fever is to lower calcium intake during the last 30 days of pregnancy. In most herds, this can be done by eliminating legume hays from the doe's diet. This puts the doe's body in a slightly negative calcium position, allowing the hormonal system to mobilize calcium reserves during kidding time.


This condition is called over eating disease on pulpy kidney disease. Many sheep and goats carry a strain of the bacteria Clostridium perfringens Type D. This microorganism is part of the normal microflora of the intestine. Excessive consumption of grain or young succulent forage causes the bacteria to multiply and produces a toxin that leads to sudden death of the animal. Control of this disease is vaccination of the breeding female as well as the kid. Avoid feeding high grain diets or allowing goats to graze lush pastures.

Balancing Ration for Meat Goat Using Pearson Square Method

Basil Bactawar, UF/IFAS County Extension Service

All animals including goats have specific nutrient requirements. During winter when the availability of forage is limited, it becomes necessary to provide adequate levels of hay and grain to goats to meet their nutrient requirements. The general recommendation is to feed approximately 5 pounds of hay and grains in total per adult goat. Goats nutrient requires vary based on their weight, stages of pregnancy and lactation.  Consequently, balancing their rations to meet their nutrient requirements can be a cost saving to producers. Over-feeding is wasteful, and under-feeding can affect the health of the animals. Nutrient deficiencies lead to reduced growth, low reproductive performance and poor animal health. One of the ways of balancing rations is by the use of the Pearson Square method. Ration can also be balanced by the use of a computer. The use of Pearson square is most effective when only two feeds are being used. In addition, the animal requirement (the number in the center of the square) must fall between the nutrient concentrations in both feeds. For example, if the animal requirement is 10% crude protein, then one feed must be greater than 10% and the other must be less than 10%.

A ration can be balanced for Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN), crude protein (CP) and fat (EE) etc.  When balancing goat rations for these nutrients, the method requires their nutritive values which can be found in forage/feed analysis reports or can be taken from book values. Table 1. lists the ingredients that will used to balance a goat ration using coastal Bermuda hay, whole shelled corn and cottonseed meal.

Table 1. Nutritive Value of Feed Ingredients Used in Balancing Goat Ration


% Dry Matter


% CP

Coastal Bermuda hay




Whole shelled corn




Cotton seed meal




Apart from the feed analysis report, the nutrient requirements of the animal must be known as well. These are taken from the Nutrient Requirements of Small Ruminants (2006). A ration will be balanced for a 66 lbs. mature doe in late pregnancy with twin kids with an average daily dry matter (DM) intake 2.23 lb., requiring 79.21 % TDN and 14 % crude protein. The protein requirement will be increased to 15% CP as a safe guard.

Table 2. Dry Matter Intake, Total Digestible Nutrient (TDN) and Crude Protein (CP) for a doe in late pregnancy with two kids

Mature Doe in late Pregnancy with 2 kids Dry Matter Intake Total Digestible Nutrients Crude Protein
Live Weight (lb.) Lb. % %
66 2.23 79.21 15

Nutrient Requirements of Small Ruminants, NRC 2006


Step 1

Firstly balance the TDN in the ration. Start by drawing a square and put 79.21 (the desired TDN) in the center of the square. Please refer to Figure 1.

Step 2

Write the TDN value for coastal Bermuda hay (53) on the upper left corner of the square, and whole shelled corn (88) on the lower left corner.

Step 3

Write Coastal Bermuda hay in the upper right side of the square and whole shelled corn on the lower right side of the square.

Step 4

Subtract diagonally the smaller number from the larger number (79.21-53 = 26.21; 88 – 79.21=8.79).  Write the results on right side of square, then add the parts to get the total parts (8.97 + 26.21 = 35)

Step 5

Divide the results of the subtractions for coastal Bermuda hay and the whole shelled corn by the total parts to get their preliminary percentages.  For coastal Bermuda hay it is (8.79 ÷ 35 = .2511 = 25.11 %), and for whole shelled corn it is (26.21 ÷ 35 = .7488 = 74.88 %)

Figure 1. Balancing ration for TDN

Step 6

Next calculate the protein concentration in the coastal Bermuda hay and the whole shelled corn by multiplying each feed ingredient percentage by its crude protein.

Table 3. Calculation the amount of crude protein supplied by coastal Bermuda hay & corn



Crude Protein

Coastal Bermuda hay

.2511 X 10

2.511 %

Whole shelled corn

.7488 X 9

6.739 %




Step 7

Find out if the crude protein is adequate in the ration. The concentration in the Coastal Bermuda hay and whole shelled corn is 9.25%. The animal’s requirement is 15 %. Therefore 5.75 % CP (15-9.25) is lacking in the ration. It can be increased by adding a protein supplement such as cotton seed meal.

Step 8

Once again use Pearson Square method to balance for crude protein as shown on Figure 2. The required crude protein in the rations is 15%. It goes in the center of the square.

Step 9

We now have to use coastal Bermuda hay & whole shelled corn mix as a feedstuff (9.25 %) which goes on the upper left corner, and cotton seed meal (46%) which goes on the lower left corner.

Step 10

Subtract diagonally the small number from the large number (15 – 9.25) = 5.75; (46-15) = 31. Then write the numbers on the right side of the square as before.

Step 11

Add the CP values on the right side of the square (31 + 5.75 = 36.75) to get total parts. Then divide the results of the subtractions for coastal Bermuda hay & whole shelled corn and cotton seed meal by total of the parts to obtain the preliminary percentages (31 ÷ 36.75 = .8435 = 84.35%) and (5.75 ÷ 36.75 = .1565) =15.65%).

Step 12

The result shows that 84.35 % of coastal Bermuda hay & whole corn and 15.65 % of cotton seed meal make up a ration consisting of 15% CP.

Figure 2. Balancing ration for Crude Protein



Step 13

Calculate the pounds of dry matter that each feedstuff contributes to the total ration. Multiply pounds of dry matter required on a daily basis (2.23) by the percentage of the cotton seed meal. The dry matter component made up by cotton seed meal is (2.23 X .15645) = .3488 pound. Therefore, the amount of dry matter that should come for coastal Bermuda hay/whole shelled corn is (2.23 - .0.3481) = 1.8819 pounds.

Step 14

In order to calculate the amount of dry matter from coastal Bermuda hay and whole shelled corn, multiply 1.8819 by the percentage of coastal Bermuda hay and whole shelled corn that were obtained in Step 5. We calculated Coastal Bermuda hay was 25.11 % and whole shelled corn was 74.88 % as shown in Figure 1.


Table 4. Calculating the amount of each ingredient




Coastal Bermuda hay

  1.8819 X 0.2511


Whole shelled corn

        1.8819 X 0.7488


Cotton seed meal






Step 15

Feed requirements are expressed on a 100% dry matter, and so the feed supplied must be expressed on a 100% dry matter basis. But Coastal Bermuda hay, whole shelled corn and cotton seed meal have 89, 88 and 92 % DM respectively. Consequently, each feedstuff must be increased in the ration to meet the 100% dry matter requirement. This is done by dividing the amounts for each feed by its respective dry matter percent.

Table 5. Calculating the amounts of ingredients to meet 100% of the animal nutrient requirements




Coastal Bermuda hay

.4725 ÷ 0.89


Whole shelled corn  

1.4091 ÷0 .88


Cotton seed           

0.3488 ÷0 .92




Table 6. Making a 1000 lbs. of feed




Coastal Bermuda hay

0.5308/2.5111 X 1000


Whole shelled corn

1.6012/2.5111X 1000


Cotton seed meal

0.3791/2.5111 X 1000


Total (lbs.)



The Nutrient Requirements of Meat Goats and Composition of Common Feedstuff Used for Feeding Goats

Basil Bactawar, UF/IFAS County Extension Service

Balancing rations for meat goats requires information on their nutrient requirements. These requirements are provided in this publication. In addition, the nutritive value or the composition of the ingredients used in ration is required.  It is advisable to use the analysis results from your feed ingredients when balancing rations. However, in the absence of information of the nutritive values of ingredients you wish to use in a ration, you may resort to the nutritive value provided in Table 7.  This table is located in the last 3 pages of this factsheet. All the information below was taken from the Nutrient Requirements of Small Ruminants, National Research Council, 2006. The information presented in document has been summarized and grouped into seven tables which are as follows:

Table 1. The nutrient requirements of nondairy (meat) goats- early pregnancy.

Table 2. The nutrient requirements of nondairy (meat) goats- late pregnancy.

Table 3. The nutrient requirements of nondairy (meat) goats- early lactation.

Table 4.The nutrient requirements of nondairy (meat) goats- mid lactation.

Table 5. The nutrient requirements of nondairy (meat) goats- late lactation.

Table 6. The nutrient requirements of nondairy (meat) goats- doe (Maintenance & Breeding) and 
Mature Bucks (Maintenance &  Prebreeding).

Table 7. Composition of common feedstuff.

Additional Resources