Feeding

Tin cans? No thanks!

Contrary to popular opinion, goats do not eat trash, and especially not tin cans! In fact, goats are among the most finicky of all farm animals and will not drink dirty water or eat contaminated feed unless forced by extreme thirst or threat of starvation. The myth about goats' eating habits comes from their innate curiosity which is not unlike that of human infants, who put objects into their mouths in order to explore them. Goats will nibble at labels, jackets, zippers, gate latches, hair, and fingers, among other things, but not because they are yearning for a snack!

In Alberta, meat and fibre goats are usually turned out to pasture during the summer months and confined to a yard (dry lot) in winter. Most dairy goats and pets are kept in dry lots year-round. In either situation, goats need supplemental minerals and salt. These important elements are usually supplied loose in weatherproof containers or as lickable blocks.

Unlike grazing cows and sheep, goats prefer to browse for their food, similar to deer. Diet favourites include the weeds and shrubs often spurned by cows and sheep, as well as leaves and twigs from trees such as willow and poplar.

Hay for goats in the dry lot should be of good quality and free from mould, which can cause respiratory problems. Hay should be green and leafy, and not so dry that it crumbles. Alfalfa hay is the best choice for high-producing milking goats. Grass hay or a grass-alfalfa hay is a good choice for most other types of goats, although requirements do vary with age, growth, stage of pregnancy, and environmental conditions.

Most goats require grain at certain ages, at certain stages of production, and in the winter to provide extra protein and energy. Goat grain rations are available, however a good cattle ration will do, provided it does not contain urea, which is toxic to goats. Grain is often fed in troughs hung outside the fence to minimize contamination from dirty feet.