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Can I feed alfalfa hay to my goats I heard that it wasn't good for them but I don't know these are boer an Nubian goats I have and the people that told me alfalfa wasn't good for goats ran a Nigerian dwarf goat farm
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for clearing that up! I know like on my cows alfalfa makes them produce more milk and they raise a better calf when I feed it! Maybe it had the same effect on goats
 

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And the second biggest danger from feeding alfalfa is your goats getting urinary calculi and dying (depending on where you live...).
UC can be caused by many things.

Urolithiasis in Pygmy Goats
Nancy Walters, DVM
(reprinted by permission from Pygmy Goat WORLD magazine, Nov. 1995)

Many goat owners live in fear that their wethered goats or bucks will, sometime in their lives, develop obstruction because of urinary calculi. Many of us feel helpless because of the potential problem.

You can help avoid urinary calculi in by applying some basic principles of husbandry and becoming aware of some important behaviors in goats that predispose them to stones. Most importantly, educating the prospective new owner about these principles of care can be their first line of defense in preventing problems.

Although we don't have all the answers, I hope the following articles will provide some new insights and understandings as to why the problem occurs, what options and approaches are available when a goat becomes obstructed and what measures we might employ to help avoid the problem.

Anatomical Considerations

Two fundamental principles are involved: how urinary calculi form, and the life-threatening condition that occurs when stones lodge in and obstruct the urinary system.

The urethra is a tube that empties urine from the bladder. Illustration 1 shows why male goats are more prone to obstruction; the male's urethra is much longer and narrower than the doe's. Even though does may certainly develop stones, we don't tend to see this as a clinical problem as they generally pass through.

Stones are mainly formed in the bladder. We usually don't have a problem until a stone becomes lodged in the urethra. This causes acute discomfort and inability to urinate. A common misunderstanding is that if the troublesome stone is removed, the goat will be free of any further problems. Unfortunately, the odds are that many more stones are present (usually at the neck of the bladder) or, quite commonly, lodged in urethra just as it narrows ver the pelvic arch below the rectum. I've removed as many as 32 stones from this area.

The S-shaped sigmoid flexure just behind the testicles is another area which is quite prone to calculi obstruction. An even more common location is at the end of the penis where the small-diameter urethral process extends beyond the penis. This extension is often poorly developed in young castrated goats and may even be fused to the end of the penis making it very diffcult for the veterinarian to recognize the urethral opening or to pass a catheter.

Another anatomical "quirk" in the male is the urethral recess found in all male ruminants (sheep, goats, cattle). As the urethra exits the pelvis just below the anus, there is a small blind pocket arising from the urethra. This can make it virtually impossible for the veterinarian to pass a urinary catheter into the bladder in the attempt to flush lodged stones or establish urine flow. Inevitably, the catheter gets caught in this blind pocket.

Factors Influencing Stone Formation

The formation of urinary calculi results from the interaction of numerous physiological, nutritional, and management related factors. The tendency of the stone to become lodged, as we have seen, is determined by the anatomy of the urinary tract and age at castration.

Urine is a highly saturated solution of dissolved minerals. Normally these solutes stay in solution and won't precipitate out to form calculi. Factors which influence precipitation (separation of a solid substance from the solution) of minerals are:

· Decreased water intake and consequently very concentrated urine

· Increased water loss due to dehydration, heat

· Insufficient water provided or lack of potable (fit to drink) water

· Urine stasis (stagnation)

· Increase in urine PH (Alkaline urines allow cer tain solutes to precipitate)

· Increase mineral composition in the diet or im balances

The precipitates can be in the form of crystals often seen in a urinalysis or sandy, gritty material. Because the precipitates occur over a long period of time, the tendency is in the formation of stone from an initial small nidus, such as from free cells along the bladder wall (seen with vitamin A deficiency), or urinary tract infections. Once a stone begins to grow, often other components in the urine, such as an increase of mucoproteins, can act as a matrix and stimulate further concretion. Grain and pelleted feed promote increase in mucoproteins which are excreted in the urine. Figure 18* shows how this works.

Calculus formation frequently reflects diet and this is a very important factor individual owners should look at when attempting to prevent problems. When you have a goat with a calculi problem, getting a sample stone and having it analyzed for its mineral composition can provide you with insight as to the possible source of the dietary imbalance. (Quantitative analysis is preferable).

Stones are made up of many different kinds of minerals. The most commons ones are:

· Silicates from grass and cereal hays, particularly in arid regions

· Phosphate salts, struvites (magnesium, ammonium, phosphate), and apatite (calcium phosphate) usually from excess grain diets

· Calcium ammonium magnesium carbonate, found commonly in pastures where plants concentrate calcium, oxalates and clover rich pastures

From my own subjective point of view, I find mostly calcium carbonate stones in Pygmy goats in my area of Northern California. It seems to be associated with diets restricted to only alfalfa or pelleted alfalfa.

Measures Important in Avoiding the Problem

Diet

No rigid dietary formula can be followed that can prevent stone formation. Individual situations must be evaluated from the standpoint of diet and management. I think its important to emphasize balance and variety in the diet. Goats are browsers. They don't eat the same food every day, all their lives.

We know that oat hay, grasses, and grains are very rich in phosphorous and that alfalfa is very rich in calcium. Fed as the sole ration, either one of these can predispose the goat to calculi. We like to see a calcium to phosphorous ratio of 2:1. Rations high in grass hay and concentrates (grains) will most likely produce excess phosphorous and, consequently, phosphate stones. When possible, a ration of high quality, free choice, mixed alfalfa/grass/oat hay with salt and trace minerals is best. Freedom to browse is an added plus.

Concentrates have their place in the overall balance and should not be fed at more than 1% of the body weight, depending on energy needs - breeding, pregnancy and lactation - and size of the animal. As a general rule, I give adult Pygmy goats no more than 1/2-3/4 cup grain/day. If they eat more alfalfa and not so much of the oat hay I may give them more.

I don't recommend pelleted feeds for several reasons. You are often unaware of weeds and other constituents in the pellet. A high roughage diet is crucial in maintaining a healthy, functional rumen (digestive system) In addition, low roughage diets (such as pelleted feeds) foster increased mucoproteins in the urine which act as a cementing factor in stone formation.

Water Intake

Have fresh water available at all times. Goats are very finicky about their water. Water intake is essential for a good, dilute urine flow and to avoid solute precipitation. In the winter or rainy months make water easily accessible. They won't got out in the rain to drink! Offer warm water at these times as they don't like cold water. Urinary obstruction is often seen in late fall and winter when goats are stressed and stay under shelter. Water consumption decreases because of stale water or a cold, inaccessible source. If you have highly mineralized well water, change their water source or filter it if possible . If you have problems getting them to drink or a history of stones in your herd, increase the concentration of salt in their diet up to 4% of the ration.

Urine Acidifiers

If calculus analysis consists of phosphate minerals, prophylactic use of urinary acidifiers can be helpful. Normal urine pH in herbivores is alkaline (greater than 7) and in this environment phosphate calculi are more likely to precipitate. Administration of ammonium chloride salt at a level of 2% in the concentrated ration is recommended. For example, if you are feeding 1/2 cup of grain/day - that equals 120 ml and 2% of that equals 2.4 mls, or 1/2 teaspoon of ammonium chloride a day. I usually have owners divide that into 1/4 teaspoon salt in 1/4 cup grain morning and night. By testing their urine with litmus paper (available in drug stores) owners can assess urine acidity. One must be very careful in the amount of ammonium chloride given. There is a fine line between therapeutic benefits and toxicity.

Delaying Castration

Deferring castration until 3 to 5 months of age may reduce the incidence of obstructive calculi. This allows the influence of testosterone on the development of the urethral lumen size. It also helps the urethral process separate completely from the its attachment to the end of the penis. This involves more management by the owner because the young males are so precocious and capable of impregnating as early as 3 months. In addition, because the older male requires sedation and more involved castration, the expenses are greater.

Approach to the Clinical Problem of Urethral Stones

When you are faced with a goat who is potentially obstructed, what do you look for? How much time do you have before it becomes a life threatening situation? What needs to be done?

Clinical Signs

In the first phase of obstruction, a male goat will show restlessness and anxiety. Often he will stand with his back legs stretched back and all his weight leaning forward on the front legs. You may see a pumping action and twitching of the tail. He do this frequency and sometimes vocalize. You might notice drops of bloody urine from the penis, no urine stream at all or, with a partial obstruction, an intermittent stream and discomfort. I'm often amazed by the tolerance these goats have to the obstruction. As the condition progresses, some goats will just lie down and stop eating and drinking. This is the phase that commonly alerts owners that something is wrong. If not treated, the goats will become progressively weaker and depressed to a moribund (about to die) state due to the build-up of toxins in the blood. There is also potential for bladder rupture, but usually the goat has been sick and depressed for several days before this occurs.

Diagnostic and Medical Management

A definitive diagnosis of urinary calculi must be made by your veterinarian. Your description of your goats clinical behavior at home is very important information. Examination and history are critical because there can be other medical reasons why a goat is down and not eating. Indigestion, gastrointestinal obstruction, infection, and liver and kidney problems can often present the same symptoms.

Usually on presentation to the veterinarian, the goat is standing and alert and has a very painful, full, hard bladder that can be palpated high into the caudal abdomen in front of the pelvis. Often the goat will resist dramatically and cry out. Palpation of the urethra just below the anus will demonstrate a firm pulsating urethra.

Checking the BUN (blood urea nitrogen) is an excellent way to assess the severity of the condition. This measures the level of toxins building up in the body. These toxins are normally excreted in the urine. As more toxins build up in the blood, the more depressed the animal becomes.

During this preliminary phase, if the goat is looking fairly comfortable, your veterinarian may choose to sedate him and give an anti-inflammatory agent such as Banamine™ to counteract spasm of the urethra. Hopefully, he will pass the stone that is causing the immediate obstruction and pain. This is also a good time to examine the urethral process for a stone. The urethral process can be easily excised in an attempt to restore urine flow. At the University of California, Davis, 40% of the cases in one study had obstruction at the urethral process and amputation of the process may temporarily restore urine flow. This surgery alone will not affect breeding ability in the buck. It is very important to remember, however, multiple calculi are usually present. A thorough assessment of the state of the animal, palpation of the remainder of the urethra and attempts to pass a catheter to find other stones are critical diagnostic methods in understanding the scope of the problem. X-rays are most useful for detecting calculi along the urethra, and they are most commonly seen at the neck of the bladder and the ischial arch. Occasionally the task may involve only flushing sandy crystalline material from the distal urethra.

Depending on the goat's condition, the veterinarian may want to observe him in the hospital for 24 hours. More invasive procedures will need to be discussed and decided upon at that time.

Surgical Options

Once the extent of the stones has been determined, one or more surgical procedures may be required. Further treatment will depend on the stage of disease in the animal, the intended long term use of the animal and financial constraints.

Stones in the bladder definitely indicate a need for abdominal surgery, opening into the bladder (cystotomy) for stone removal as well as possibly making an incision into the urethra (urethrotomy) for complete removal of all stones. A urethrotomy alone has resulted in a stone recurrence rate of 45% within 8 months of surgery at the University of Davis. The importance of the removal and identification of all stones along the urethral tract and in the bladder cannot be overemphasized for the best long-term results.

Even with the best surgical outcome there can be many frustrations and potential postoperative complications owners may be forced to address. Strictures (closing) at the urethral incision may occur and a permanent opening site may be required (urethrostomy). This will cause loss of breeding capability and potential management problems of urine scald on the hind legs and perineum. There can be a fair amount of pain and spasm involved which leads to a failure of eating and drinking and a need for extended hospitalization and treatment. There is potential for infection and hemorrhage, and always a risk of new stones and reobstruction. In some cases, I have had to operate and establish patency three times to create a permanent opening into the urethra below the anus. In others I have only removee stones and the animal healed, urinating normally from the penis. Some have lived 8 or more years with a permanent urethrostomy site, and some have blocked again a year or two after surgery.

As you can see, there is much to consider. There needs to be a tremendous amount of communication, trust and understanding of the problem each step of the way in order for you to make the appropriate decisions. Cost is certainly a big factor. You may spend a great deal of money and still lose your favorite pet.

Summary

Urinary calculi formation has a complex etiology. Because we cannot control all the physiological factors which can cause the problem, we cannot follow a set protocol to prevent it. Understanding that there are certain management, nutritional and anatomical considerations which predispose the male goat to the condition is helpful. Certain mineral imbalances, dietary extremes, water consumption and behavior must be carefully evaluated.

If the problem does arise in your herd, I feel it is critical to have individual stones analyzed for their mineral content in order to help define the problem. Feeling comfortable and confident in your veterinarian is certainly a benefit when it comes to making some very important decisions. Each situation is unique, and the extent of the condition must be assessed before any prognosis can be given. Remember, frequently there are multiple stones, not just one isolated stone.

References:

1) Blood, Radostitis, Henderson, Veterinary Medicine (6th ed) 360-366. 1983
2) Garrett PD. Urethra recess in male goats, sheep, cattle and swine, Journal of Am. Vet. Med. Assoc, 191:689-691. 1987
3) Pasquini, Atlas of Ruminant Anatomy 180-186, 1982
4) Smith MC, Sherman DM, Goat Medicine 388-402, 1994
5) VanMetre, DC, Smith BP. Clinical Management of Urolithiasis in Small Ruminants, UCD

Related Reading
Urinary Calculi
Castration & Urinary Calculi - Cornell University
Don't Let Urinary Stones Get Your Goat
Urolithiasis in Small Ruminants - The Ohio State University
 

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So... you've had a goat of yours bloat on alfalfa and die?
Oh yeah! Not only me, either. Depending on the hay producer, ANY alfalfa can be too hot to feed to goats. Even if the hay producer is only mediocre, 3rd and 4th cuttings - especially 4th - can absolutely cause bloat and death. I do not usually feed straight alfalfa to anything but my lactating does, and even then I will not feed it without test results. An RFV above about 155 is too hot to feed to goats.
 

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My goats get alfalfa all the time. Sometimes I've given it to them free choice, and other times I give them a little to go along with their grass hay. It's never made them bloat, no matter how much of it they ate. I've had more bloat trouble with local grass hay with a lot of clover in it than I have with alfalfa.

Edit: I wasn't finished with what I was saying when I posted that lol. What I was going to say was I agree with you it probably has to do with the hay producer. The alfalfa I get is usually pretty dried out and stemmy, so it's not likely as hot as some others that are available out there.
 

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O An RFV above about 155 is too hot to feed to goats.
That's bull. Alfalfa has to be allowed to cure after being baled. Maybe that's where the problems occurred. If it was fed too soon, it would be just like turning a hungry goat out into a field of standing alfalfa. I bought some fourth cutting right out of the field last year. I never fed a flake for at least a month. There is another thread going on right now about "the smell of hay". If it's super stinky sweet smelling alfalfa, it's not ready yet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
That's bull. Alfalfa has to be allowed to cure after being baled. Maybe that's where the problems occurred. If it was fed too soon, it would be just like turning a hungry goat out into a field of standing alfalfa. I bought some fourth cutting right out of the field last year. I never fed a flake for at least a month.
That's like what I have we cut 4 acres of alfalfa last month it has dried out for about a month now Dry just like regular grass hay
 

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Why will it make them bloat?
Because it is too easy to digest and the quality is too good. Alfalfa is a hay that blooms. It literally produces small flowers. The higher the bloom percentage, the lower the quality, and the safer it is to feed. If you get hay from a producer that allows his alfalfa to reach 100% bloom before he cuts and bales it, then the protein and relative food value is low enough it won't cause problems for your goats. If, however, you buy from a producer that understands alfalfa and he cuts it before it blooms at all, you're looking at a protein content of around 20% and a relative food value of around 180. That is way too hot for anything except dairy cows, and I have no idea how they keep them from bloating and dying. There is also the fact that you don't want to feed straight alfalfa to all of your goats because 1) they don't all need that amount of protein - dry does, short-bred does, bucks, and mature wethers only need good quality grass hay. Feeding a higher amount of protein than is necessary is a waste of money as it ends up on the ground in the form of urine or feces. 2) Alfalfa contains a high amount of calcium and can be hard on the kidneys. 3) If you live in a cold climate, grass or grass/alfalfa will help keep your animals warmer on cold nights because it is harder to digest and digestion is what produces heat. 4) Depending on where you live, you may pay a premium price for alfalfa hay, and why pay it if your animals don't need it. Do your homework, find out what you need to be feeding and why. I'm not saying anyone is going to deliberately steer you astray, but they are your animals and, therefore, your responsibility. Find out how to take care of them correctly.
 

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That's bull. Alfalfa has to be allowed to cure after being baled. Maybe that's where the problems occurred. If it was fed too soon, it would be just like turning a hungry goat out into a field of standing alfalfa. I bought some fourth cutting right out of the field last year. I never fed a flake for at least a month. There is another thread going on right now about "the smell of hay". If it's super stinky sweet smelling alfalfa, it's not ready yet.
Fine, go buy yourself a ton or two of RFV of 180, feed it to your goats and see what happens. Better yet, look up RFV - relative food value - and educate yourself. You're talking about something entirely different. I'm not going to argue with a idiot.
 

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Timothy and Orchard grass hay costs the same per ton here as alfalfa. Goats are ruminants just like cows. I've heard the same thing about alfalfa for horses too. I've fed it to horses everyday for years. My favorite hay is orchard grass/ alfalfa mix, but the main reason I like it is because they eat it better with less waste. I've seen orchard grass that was too hot to feed when first baled.
 

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Fine, go buy yourself a ton or two of RFV of 180, feed it to your goats and see what happens. Better yet, look up RFV - relative food value - and educate yourself. You're talking about something entirely different. I'm not going to argue with a idiot.
I only buy dairy quality alfalfa when it's available. What you say is not true. I've been feeding hay for thirty years. I grew my own alfalfa hay for five years.
 

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Fine, go buy yourself a ton or two of RFV of 180, feed it to your goats and see what happens. Better yet, look up RFV - relative food value - and educate yourself. You're talking about something entirely different. I'm not going to argue with a idiot.
WOW!

Completely uncalled for. Seriously.

On a side note, we feed top shelf top of the line "green gold" we call it. It's a gorgeous alfalfa, super rich. The milking girls get this each morning, and everybody else during the winter as well. Their normal hay is also alfalfa. 2-3rd crop top shelf. Fed alfalfa for years. No complications. The goats get the same top quality as my dairy show heifers. Why settle for less than the best?

Also wanted an edit to add our last month's purchase of 3rd crop was sitting at 186 RFV and 21 protein. Just checked the slip.
 

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Ok I am reading this thread and between freaking out about the urinary calculi and getting confused as to what I need to be feeding my 6 pygmys (2 lactating does, 3 wethers, 1 doeling). I may be the goat spot idiot here. I feel like all I do is read read read about how to best care for my goats.

This is what I feed them-FEEL FREE to give me advice-any please.
*High quality grain with a small amount of alfalfa pellets, and black sunflower seeds mixed in. I also include a bit of beet pulp shreds and a teaspoon of Yeast . I feed this 2 day
*I also give alfalfa hay from Standlee hay (2nd or 3rd cutting) free choice.
*They also get free choice mineral from Goat Manna and free choice kelp.
*I also let them out to forage/browse for about 4 hours a day on 2 acres. They like the honeysuckle and photinia, love my roses.
*I give them Mollys herbals weekly.
*I have bolused with Jeffers Copasure Copper both of my does and 2 of my wethers that were copper deficient. I plan to do this yearly or every 6 months as we are very copper deficient in this area.
*I also give my 2 does who are lactating Magic Balls (vit b mixture balls recipie I got from goathiker)
A few roasted peanuts in the shell.
Also they have lots of fresh water with raw organic apple cider vinegar (about 1 tablespoon to the gallon) mixed in.
Any suggestions?
Should I do a bit of BoSe?

Trying to do my best.
 
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