Dairy Goat Society of Western Australia


Feeding Your Goats

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Feeding Information For Goats

Feeding of Dairy Goats Feeding Kids & Yearlings Feeding The Milking Herd

Feeding Dry Does Feeding The Buck More about Feeding


Sound feeding practices and good housing facilities result in optimum growth and high milk production and contribute to the good health and comfort of dairy goats.

Feeding of Dairy Goats

When feeding dairy goats, keep these objectives in mind: 

  • Feed a young animal enough energy for growth, and feed a mature animal enough energy to maintain a fairly constant body weight;
  • Provide enough protein, minerals and vitamins in a balanced feeding program to maintain a healthy animal; and
  • Offer does enough extra food during gestation and lactation for fetus development and milk production.

Optimum growth, good health and high milk production are the results of sound feeding practices. Dairy goats are not unique in their body requirements; they will respond to good nutritional practices.

Digestible fiber is especially important in dairy goat diets. Too much grain in relation to forage does not foster good ruminant action and is a costly feeding practice.

When feeding, keep minerals and trace mineral salt separate. Always feed them separately. Feed hay in a rack that will not permit wasting. One recommended type of feeder is a keyhole feeder. Do not overlook forage testing as an economical way to feed the correct ration to your herd.

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Feeding Kids & Yearlings

Kids are born with no natural protection from disease. The first milk (colostrum) from the mother offers protection and gets the digestive system working. To be most effective, it must be fed before disease-producing organisms enter the mouth and digestive tract.

Wash the fresh doe's udders and teats with warm water. Hand milk half a cup of colostrum and feed it to the kid within 15 minutes of birth. This is the best way to ensure that the newborn receives some milk and to provide it with the most protection from organisms present on the skin of the doe. Complete the first milking and store the colostrum for later feedings if you elect to hand feed. Otherwise, permit the kid to nurse at its convenience following the first hand feeding.

Clean the feeding utensils immediately after each use. Use the same cleaning procedures you follow for washing milk-handling equipment or your dinner dishes.

Table 1 is a practical milk feeding schedule. Warm the milk to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Provide extra water at two weeks of age.

Table 1
Milk feeding schedule


Amount of milk

Times to feed per day

1 to 3 days

4 ounces (1/2 cup)

4 or 5

4 to 14 days

8 to 12 ounces

3 or 4

2 weeks to 3 months

16 ounces

2 or 3

3 to 4 months

16 ounces


Milk replacer may be fed from the fourth day; it should contain at least 20 percent protein, 20 percent fat and be free of vegetable products. A lamb or high-quality calf milk replacer is recommended. Provide hay and grain at one to two weeks of age. Wean from milk when grain intake reaches 1/4-pound daily and kids are readily consuming hay.

If diarrhea is a problem, try the following mixture:

            Beef consommé 1 can
            Fruit pectin (Sur-Jel) 1 package
            Lite salt 1 teaspoon
            Baking soda 2 teaspoons
            Water to 2 quarts

Make sure the solution is thoroughly mixed. Mix a fresh mixture daily and feed in place of milk. Double the rate you were feeding. Feed as soon as you notice diarrhea. Use for 1-1/2 or 2 days, then return to the regular milk diet.

After four to six months of age, the kids may be fed a ration similar to that of the milking herd. Good hay and 1/2 pound of grain per day should provide an ample growth rate. Poor hay may require 1 to 1-1/2 pounds of grain daily. 

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Feeding The Milking Herd

If milk production is important, feed maximum amounts of high quality hay balanced with a grain ration containing enough protein, minerals and vitamins to support production and animal health (Table 2). Grass or legume hays are equally acceptable. As the percentage of legumes is increased, the need for protein in the grain mix is reduced.

Table 2
Hay and grain rations for the milking herd 

Forage fed

Level of protein in grain

Mineral mix to use

Legume or mixed, mostly legume

14 to 16 percent

High phosphorus mixes

Grass or mixed, mostly grass

16 to 18 percent

2:1 Ca:P mixes

To determine the amount of grain to feed, consider level of milk production, amount and quality of forages consumed, appetite and state of fleshing. Thin, high-producing does should have access to all the hay they can eat plus grain to the limit of their appetite. Does in mid-lactation that are in good flesh should have all the hay they will eat plus 1 pound of grain for each 3 pounds milk produced. Late lactation does may not need more than 1 pound of grain for each 5 pounds of milk.

Feed a grain ration formulated for a milk-producing ruminant (dairy cows). Rolled or cracked grain is more palatable than ground grain. Because of palatability problems, urea is not recommended. Some commercial cow feeds may contain byproduct ingredients unpalatable to goats. Wet molasses is more palatable than dry molasses. Beer or citrus pulp is a valuable source of fiber, especially if the available hay is of low quality.

Table 3 lists some palatable and nutritious rations your local miller could mix.

Table 3
Sample grain rations


Level of protein in finished mix (pounds)


14 percent

16 percent

18 percent

20 percent

Cracked or rolled corn





Rolled oats





Soybean oil meal (44 percent)





Beet or citrus pulp










Trace mineral salt





Dicalcium phosphate





Magnesium oxide





Add a vitamin premix that will provide 1,000 units of vitamin A, 500 units of vitamin D and 3 units of vitamin E per pound of grain.

Weeds and browse are not a necessary part of a goat's diet. Good pasture is a valuable source of summer feed. Vegetable tops and parings may be used as an "extra;" do not depend on them as a sole source of forage.

Water is critical to good health and high milk production. A clean water source should be available at all times. If the water is warmed during cold weather, goats will consume more. 

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Feeding Dry Does

If the doe is not thin, reduce the amount of grain to 1/2 to 1 pound per day. Feed her all the forage she will eat.

Hay fed during the dry period may be of lower quality, but if so, the grain ration should contain additional protein. Browse, leaves and weeds are often useful to recondition the stomach.

If the dry ration differs from the milking ration, be sure to change to the milking forage and grain ration two weeks before the doe freshens.

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Feeding the Buck

For convenience, you may feed the buck the same grain fed the milking herd.

Most bucks do not need more than a pound of grain per day plus forages. Don't let them grow fat. Adjust grain upward or downward accordingly.

Always feed full forage.

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More about Feeding

Contrary to the classic joking stereotype, goats will not eat everything - especially not tin cans! Actually they are fairly picky eaters and will resist eating soiled food unless starved.

Dietary needs of your goat can be easily met through a balanced combination of forages (hay and browse), feed based on grain and grain by-products (corn, wheat, sorghum and even sunflower and cotton seed), and the integrated use of nutritional supplements (minerals, salt) in the feeding program. 

Feeders should allow easy access for all goats within their pen or yard, and need to be kept clean and free from sharp edges or exposed nails that might inadvertently cause injury to the goat.

Goats, like other animals, are sensitive to abrupt diet changes - whether in feed amounts given, feed types, and even time of feedings. Introduce any desired changes gradually over a couple weeks' time and monitor the goat's behaviour for potential problems. And a goat that exhibits behavioural changes in its own usual feeding or drinking routine should immediately alert you that there is a problem, possibly medical, with the animal that you will need to quickly assess and address.

Grain:  A good rule of thumb is to use a quality balanced, non-medicated feed (dairy ration, goat or sheep/goat mix) with 16%-18% protein for lactating does and kids; 12%-14% protein balanced, non-medicated feed (goat or sheep/goat mix) for non-milking does and bucks; and to consider using a feed with a coccidiostat added for kids during the first few months.

Bags of feed have nutritional labels that describe the nutrient values and mineral percentages so make sure you read them thoroughly.

If using a sheep/goat mix, you will need to supplement for copper as goats require it and it is often not at high enough levels in feed meant for sheep. Feed in unopened bags should be stored off the floor if possible on pallets or shelves.

Once opened, the feed needs to be stored in rodent-proof containers. Good choices can be found among in heavy plastic garbage bins with locking lids, metal garbage cans with tight fitting lids, or even in clean metal drums that are often for sale at farm suppliers. In both cases, make certain the feed is kept protected from the goat's independent access - some goats will overeat grain if given the chance, and that can kill it through bloat, acidosis or toxemia reactions to grain excess.

Lastly never, NEVER store toxic compounds such as pour-on insecticides, paint, gasoline or antifreeze, in feed storage areas - accidents can happen and you would not want to accidentally poison your goat.

Integrated supplements: salt, minerals, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)  

Goats should have free-choice access to mineral, salt and bicarbonate of soda supplements at all times. Minerals should be offered in loose form rather than in a block.

Mineral feeders can help keep the minerals clean and dry. Use a goat specific or dairy specific mineral formula - sheep minerals do not contain enough copper for goats. To determine the best mineral for your goat's use, consult your feed's nutrient labeling first to see possible suggestions for additional supplementation.

Additional nutrients to consider are brewer's yeast and kelp meal - both which can provide benefits when used in conjunction with a balanced base feed.

Forages: hay and browse  

Goats are by nature browsers not grazers - this means that they prefer eating leafy plants, weeds, and woody plants. Pasture grasses and hay choices should reflect this.

Goats do not easily eat Bermuda hay since it is a fine grass forage more suitable for horses. Rather, hay that offers a wide blade, such as Sudan, will be readily consumed. Oat hay is a good choice when available. Legume hays such as alfalfa, clover, or peanut work will be readily consumed, but goats can bloat if fed too much at one time. 

Mixed-grass or mixed-grass-and-legume hays often provide a ready variety more to the like of the goat palette. 

NEVER feed mouldy hay and avoid feeding hays that are from pastures that use lots of pesticides and herbicides, especially with dairy goats. Hay should be provided in a manger or hayrack that keeps the hay off the ground and prevents the goats from climbing into it to eat and soiling it. 

Unless using large round bales for feeding, hay needs to be stored in dry areas where the bales are not in direct contact with the ground to help keep it from getting mouldy. Hay barns offering wooden flooring, or sheds using wooden pallets, treated lumber garden slats, or even plastic tarp that is free from holes can be used to keep hay from direct contact with the earth.

Cool, Clean Water

Clean water is a must.  Clean water offered in a clean container is highly recommended.

Goats are finicky, and will not drink dirty water unless forced to do so through excess thirst.

If you want your goat to stay healthy and active, offer free choice clean water in a water trough that is regularly cleaned or even in buckets.

Just make sure that you have enough buckets - a goat will consume 2 to 5 gallons a day on average, more in warmer weather, and depending on the breed and size of the goat. 

During colder weather, you may want to offer warm water to your goat to encourage adequate daily intake.

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