Does anyone browse feed their meat goats?

Discussion in 'Goat Management' started by goatsrcute, Apr 28, 2009.

  1. goatsrcute

    goatsrcute New Member

    21
    Apr 24, 2009
    I read somewhere that most meat goats are raised on browse. It didn't mention if they are also fed hay or grain, but gave the impression that they aren't. I have a few questions...
    1. Do you raise your goats on only browse, or do you also feed hay/grain?
    2. What breed to you raise?
    3. If you raise your goats on only browse, how many acres does it take?
    4. Did you plant specific plant species for your goats? If so, what are they?
    5. Why did you choose the way you feed your goats?
    6. Do you think it's more economical to raise meat goats in a smaller pen and use the pasture to grow hay/grain to feed them, divide it between pasture and field, or have the whole thing be pasture?

    This is something I've been curious of for a while now and I would really like some answers from experienced goat people.


    I'm sorry if this is in the wrong section, I had a hard time choosing between this and the meat goat section.
    *edited to add a question


    *edited again to add following questions:
    7. Do you have separate paddocks or one big pasture?
    8. If you have separate paddocks, how big is each paddock?
    9. Does your stocking rate include the babies or only the does/buck?
     
  2. keren

    keren owned by goats

    Oct 26, 2008
    Australia
    Hi and welcome to TGS!

    1. Do you raise your goats on only browse, or do you also feed hay/grain?

    This is a difficult question to answer definitively.

    In a 'good' year, my goats are pastured and so have access to browse and also pasture (grass). They only receive hay a few times a year - over summer, when we dont have any grass growth - and sometimes during the year when I move them to a new, very lush pasture, to buffer their bellies a little bit. Breeding stock are given a small grain supplement 4 weeks before joining and during the joining period (this increases numbers of multiple births) and the preggo does get another small grain supplement 4 weeks before kidding and 2 weeks after kidding (this helps prevent ketosis). In a 'good' year, normally, the pasture is good enough to be their main diet, good enough to grow out kids and goatlings, maintain the does and bucks year round, and allow the does to lactate and raise their kids without supplementation on the spring flush.

    Buuuut, the last 7 or 8 years havent been 'good' years. We've been in drought for all that time. So for the last two years I've been solely pen feeding. All animals get hay and grain daily. Bucks get less grain and more hay (to prevent urinary calculi). Preggo and lactating does get more than empty does. Young growing stock get more than mature stock.

    There are two exceptions to this feeding program: my dairy does get pen fed grain and hay even in a good year, just to keep the yield up. But they get a little grazing and browse as well. And my wethers - the ones that dont quite make the weight at four months weaning straight off mum to slaughter, go onto a feedlot.

    2. What breed to you raise?

    Bit of everything, angoras, boers and commercial meat goats, dairy goats, working goats, Damara and crossbred sheep lol

    3. If you raise your goats on only browse, how many acres does it take?

    That really depends on your area, around here in a 'good' year we should manage between 4 and 6 goats to the acre, the way things are at the moment its more like 1-2 goats per acre. If your local ag extension agency they can advise you for sheep, its pretty similar, or even just talk to farmers around you about what they do.

    Its important to recognise that goats are actually mixed feeders, not true browsers. Its one of the big myths of goat raising. Goats do BEST on 50:50 browse (trees, shrubs, woody weeds) and pasture (conventional grasses etc.). They will do fine on 100% browse or 100% pasture or 100% pen feeding even, but they do best with a mix. People expect goats to thrive on pretty poor country, and scrub goats (your spanish and kiko breeds, our rangeland breeds) will do so. But once you get into higher production stock, fibre goats, boer or percentage boer meat goats, milk goats, these really do need access to good pasture similar to what you would have for cattle or sheep, if you want them to produce well.

    4. Did you plant specific plant species for your goats? If so, what are they?

    My pastures (when they grow lol) are a mix of native grasses and improved pastures. My improved pastures are generally phalaris dominated, with some ryegrass and a tiny touch of clover. I have found the goats wont eat the clover so its there for the sheep and sometimes cattle that I have. But then I know some people's goats do eat clover. Go figure. The unimproved pastures are mainly native grasses and lots of weeds - the goats love em. Pattersons curse and capeweed are my summer dominant weeds, and marshmallow, barley grass and calthrope in the winter and spring. I also try to sow down some annual pastures each year, either grazing wheat or grazing oats. These are sown in the autumn, the grow over winter and can be grazed once or twice on the green growth during winter, then over spring they dry off and go to head. I either graze them again in spring right down, or I cut them for hay.

    I'm currently looking into fodder crops and have some tree lucerne I am going to establish, some sulla, and funnily enough I'm trialling turnips, parsnips, lettuce and jerusalem artichokes as fodder crops to use in conjunction with pen feeding.

    5. Why did you choose the way you feed your goats?

    Think I sort of already explained that. The season basically determines it for me.

    6. Do you think it's more economical to raise meat goats in a smaller pen and use the pasture to grow hay/grain to feed them, divide it between pasture and field, or have the whole thing be pasture?

    Definitely more economical to grow them out on the pasture. In the other scenario you have the time and effort costs to attribute to harvesting, plus machinery maintenance etc. I do however, recommend setting aside one or two paddocks to sow down like I do, to cut for hay each year. Its just a safety blanket type thing - in my case it often gets me through the summer without having to buy hay in. And any extra is stacked and stored for tough times later on, or depending on hay prices I sometimes sell it if its bringing good money, and put the money aside in a 'drought feeding' bank account.

    PS. I think this is a good section to put this in, because I think if other non-meat goat people respond you can adapt their systems to meat goats.
     

  3. GoatGirl

    GoatGirl New Member

    58
    Mar 23, 2009
    Portland, TN
    I read somewhere that most meat goats are raised on browse. It didn't mention if they are also fed hay or grain, but gave the impression that they aren't. I have a few questions...
    1. Do you raise your goats on only browse, or do you also feed hay/grain?

    My goats are fed only on browse, unless they are unable to get out to eat (long periods of rain. . . snow. . . ) and maybe a few bales here and there during the worst part of the winter



    2. What breed to you raise?

    My goats are mostly boer, but I don't like full blood boers. . . too many health problems. Mine have nubian and kiko mixed in. We also have a random Sanaan, one lamancha, and 3 pygmies


    3. If you raise your goats on only browse, how many acres does it take?

    We have 36 acres and 50 goats. . . and they will never eat it all. Other than that, no idea.



    4. Did you plant specific plant species for your goats? If so, what are they?

    No, but they do like to escape into the garden every now and then. I don't think it is really all that good for them though.


    5. Why did you choose the way you feed your goats? We live in a wet enviroment and feeding grain causes their feet to grow to quickly and we seemed to have a lot more problems with foot rot when we fed grain.

    6. Do you think it's more economical to raise meat goats in a smaller pen and use the pasture to grow hay/grain to feed them, divide it between pasture and field, or have the whole thing be pasture?
    Depends on how much land, how many goats, etc. I just lets em eat it without me having to cut, bale and store it :bday:
     
  4. goatsrcute

    goatsrcute New Member

    21
    Apr 24, 2009
    Thank you both for your great answers! I hope to raise meat goats someday and this will really help me in my decision on how to raise them. Of course, I'm always up for more information if anyone has it :)
     
  5. goatsrcute

    goatsrcute New Member

    21
    Apr 24, 2009
    I just edited the first post to include a few more questions (sorry for all the questions), if you would be so kind as to go back and answer them I would be most grateful :pray: .
     
  6. keren

    keren owned by goats

    Oct 26, 2008
    Australia
    If you want to KISS (keep it simple stupid) then yes, you only count the animals over 6 mths.

    But if you want to get into it in a bit more detail, then there is something called a dry sheep equivalent (DSE)

    So a mature sheep, not lactating and dry (within the first 3 and a half months of pregnancy) is roughly 1 DSE.

    Once she hits the last 6 weeks of pregnancy she is between 1.5 and 2.0 DSE (depending on whether she is carrying single or twins).

    Once she is lactating she is between 3 and 3.5 DSE (again depending on if she is suckling twins or single)

    Mature dry beef cows are about 9 DSE, in the last trimester of pregnancy 11 DSE, when lactating between 18 and 25 DSE depending on age of calf.

    Dairy cows are the same but can get up to 28 in peak milk production.

    Goats are a grey area because not much research has been done on them. Its generally accepted for fibre and high producing meat goats, to add 0.5 onto the equivalent sheep value. For dairy goats the value will be even greater. For scrub meat goats it will be roughly equivalent.
     
  7. GoatGirl

    GoatGirl New Member

    58
    Mar 23, 2009
    Portland, TN
    7. Do you have separate paddocks or one big pasture?

    We have our land devided into 4 lots

    8. If you have separate paddocks, how big is each paddock?

    Each one is at least large enough for my goats to eat on for 6-8 months without rotation. We don't usually let them go this long, but it does come in handy when we find ourselves temporarily with way more goats than our normal herd.

    9. Does your stocking rate include the babies or only the does/buck?

    :shrug: This one is a bit over my head actually. . . If you mean how many "head" you have, I count all the ones over weaning. . . but it probably isn't what you mean
     
  8. GoatGirl

    GoatGirl New Member

    58
    Mar 23, 2009
    Portland, TN
    [quote="keren

    If you want to KISS (keep it simple stupid) then yes, you only count the animals over 6 mths.

    [/quote]

    I'll go with that answer to #7 for my own personal reference
    :shades:
     
  9. goatsrcute

    goatsrcute New Member

    21
    Apr 24, 2009
    Thank you both sooo much! This is really going to be handy information to have when I can finally get my own property and goats :) .

    That's exactly what I wanted to know, thanks :thumb: .
     
  10. BeeLady

    BeeLady New Member

    Your extension agent should know the definition of stocking rate in your area; for cows, for instance, a "cow" for stocking purposes is a cow with a calf on her.

    The "ideal" situation for any stocker operation, as opposed to a breeding operation where you make money mainly from selling registered or commerical stock, would be enough pasture to keep your goats putting on weight just off of pasture. This saves a lot of money because baling hay is expensive and work intensive whereas your goats can eat the grass with no labor from you.

    I plan on having brush goats on no more than one pasture every two months for a week at a time. Then I have to figure out with my acrearage, how large the paddocks have to be to accomplish that. I am picking two months because of parasite issues. But that means that I would have to have grass /forbes/browse growing (down here that can be 12 months a year), otherwise I have to supplement, feeding hay and a bit of grain to make sure their protein intake is adequate to process the roughage (hay) most efficiently.

    Right now I only have 2 dairy goats but am planning on soon having brush/meat goats. It is all a matter of economics unless you just want pets. Hay and grain are expensive and I don't believe anyone can even break even trying to put weight on a goat or a cow out of a feed sack. Labor is expensive, even if it is your own, so all the times you have to move fences (electric), build fences, feed hay, buy and feed grain add up to more cost and less profit.

    The land-grant universities have analyzed all this to death and your extension agent could point you in the right direction for your area.
     
  11. goatsrcute

    goatsrcute New Member

    21
    Apr 24, 2009
    Ok thank you very much!