Feeding alfalfa....how to prevent diarrhea

Discussion in 'Goat Management' started by cyanne, May 13, 2010.

  1. cyanne

    cyanne Senior Member

    So, I have been trying to change my feed program to where my goats are getting very little grain (for the ones not in milk, anyway) and have free-choice access to alfalfa. Problem is that they seem to pig out on the alfalfa and then some of them get diarrhea. So, I thought I would try feeding a mix of alfalfa and grass hay...but the darn goats will go through the feeder and eat ALL of the alfalfa before touching the grass hay. :hair:

    The ones that get the runs have just been getting dosed with probiotics and kaolin pectin (it says it helps with non-infectious cases of diarrhea). It works until the next time I fill the feeders with alfalfa and the goats gorge themselves.

    None of them have gotten bad enough that they are dehydrating or anything, just messy and gross.

    Is this just something where they will eventually adjust to having the alfalfa free choice, or is there something I can do differently? I thought I might try keeping the feeder full of the grass hay (coastal bermuda is what I have available in my area) and then just dropping in a couple flakes of the alfalfa per day to limit how much they get. It would be do-able, but a pain in the butt to carry hay out there every day instead of being able to just drop a bale in the feeder once or twice a week.
  2. crocee

    crocee New Member

    Jul 25, 2008
    Northeast Arkansas
    I would give them grass hay first and then some alfalfa. Every couple days give a little more alfalfa but always have the grass hay available. Its just like any feed change, gotta do it slowly so the rumen gets used to it.

  3. OhCee

    OhCee Yak Lady

    Feb 26, 2010
    Western MT
    Alfalfa is probably too protein rich. Try exactly what crocee said... Why are you switching?

    My goats have free choice alfalfa at all times, and they don't have any diarrhea. But they were moved straight off milk to alfalfa.. so they're acclimated. You've just shocked the microbes with the new feed. They'll come around, but it's better to do much slower if you can :)
  4. cyanne

    cyanne Senior Member

    Well, the switch is for a couple of reasons, first, I was spending WAY too much on feed, so I decided to re-evaluate my feeding program and second, because the other show breeders recommended it to keep the show girls in top production.

    Before, I was feeding free choice grass hay, plus 2 cups of alfalfa pellets and 2 cups of grain per goat per day for my dry goats, and like another 3 to 6 cups of grain each for the milkers on top of that.

    I figured if I switched to mainly alfalfa, I could eliminate the alfalfa pellets (I did not like the ones I had been buying anyway as they always had random bits of dirt and clumps of weirdness showing up in the bags, yuck!) and reduce the grain down to 1 cup a day for each of the dry goats.

    With the milkers, I let them out into the milk run (a fenced area by my milkstand) and they get as much grain as they want in the morning, which is usually around 3 cups each since I started feeding the alfalfa.

    Now, as far as the expense part, it was an instant improvement (even though the premium alfalfa is more expensive per bale it is still less than feeding the grain AND alfalfa pellets AND grass hay) and I noticed I was wasting a lot less feed as, before, they would eat some feed and then leave the rest in the pans all day so that a lot of it would get spoiled in one way or another (somebody would dump it over, pee in it, or it would rain) so I would always have a bunch to dump out the next day. Now, they finish their feed within about 15 minutes and they eat it all. The rest of the day they munch on the hay and have even started mowing down the weeds in their pasture. Before, they wouldn't touch any of the weeds and they had grown taller than the goats in some places!

    My milkers have always been allowed to eat as much grain as they wanted while in the milk pen and on the stand, but I have noticed that they want to eat a lot less grain now but are producing more milk.

    Now, if I could just get them all used to the alfalfa so that a) nobody gets diarrhea and b) they don't eat it so quickly. I guess I am going to try loading up the hay feeder with grass hay and then just tossing in a little bit of alfalfa on top each day and see how that works.

  5. crocee

    crocee New Member

    Jul 25, 2008
    Northeast Arkansas
    You could load the feeder up with grass hay and feed the alfalfa at milk time only. My girls would inhale alfalfa if I let them, have to buy T-N-T Chops so this is not possible. They only get the alfalfa on the stand and its mixed with their grain. This is only for the bred girls since they will be milking soon. The other goats only get grass hay.
  6. cyanne

    cyanne Senior Member

    Oh, and forgot to mention, these are nigis. Which means they are little, but like to eat ALOT and are prone to getting plump like little beach balls with legs!

    I was talking with some other breeders at the last show who raise both standards and Nigis and they said it was tough keeping the two kinds together because the Nigis would eat faster and gobble up all the food whereas their standard-sized goats were not as food obsessed so they would eat slower and let the Nigi's eat most of the feed. So, unless they are careful, they end up with overweight Nigis and underweight standards.

    Now, I don't have any experience with the big goats, but I can vouch for the part about Nigis being pigs! I could easily feed them 2 or 3 times as much and they would still beg and scream for more food every time they saw me. The only way to really tell is to watch their body condition and how healthy their coat looks.

    Oh, and speaking of which, I do also have free-choice loose minerals and baking soda out there for them as well, and there is a creep feeder for the babies where they have free access to a coccidia-preventative grain mix.
  7. crocee

    crocee New Member

    Jul 25, 2008
    Northeast Arkansas
    I have both standards and a single Nigerian. The Nigerian can out eat all the standards, but then she is built like a tank.
  8. cyanne

    cyanne Senior Member

    Crocee, do you feed grain to the dry goats in addition to the grass hay?

    I was worried that the grass hay would not have enough nutrition for the dry goats if I was just feeding that and the 1 cup of grain per day.

    I also have access to chaffhaye and have used that in the past...thought about feeding free-choice grass hay and then offering some chaffhaye once a day, in the evening instead of the dry alfalfa bales. The only problem I have with chaffhaye is that I still have not found a good way to feed it to them. I mean, I can't put it in the regular hay feeder because the pieces are too small so it would fall out everywhere. I was putting it in the black rubber feed pans, but a lot gets wasted that way because they step in it. I thought I might try to build or buy some sort of trough feeder, but I know they will climb into that as well.

    Need to come up with a design that will hold the chaffhaye while preventing them from climbing up on top of it....
  9. GotmygoatMTJ

    GotmygoatMTJ New Member

    We have Nigerians and each of our adults get 2 1/2 cups grain when pregnant or nursing. When not we usually give them 1 1/2 cups instead. Bucks get about 2 cups in the winter time and 1 to 1 1/2 cups in the spring and summer.

    We are feeding alfalfa hay right now. We got alfalfa hay a while back that was really green and rich. The goats loved it, but it was very dusty and they just seemed to devour it. We got a new load of alfalfa hay this time and it isnt as green or dusty. They eat it slower but they love it just the same! We have never had a case of diahrea with this alfalfa, not even in our boers.

    Did you switch over your feeding regimen quickly or slowly? Quick changes can bring on diahrea and sometimes polio.
  10. crocee

    crocee New Member

    Jul 25, 2008
    Northeast Arkansas
    The only time the dry doe's get grain is in the winter and only a little in the evening then. Right now there is enough forage for them to eat to stay healthy.
  11. cyanne

    cyanne Senior Member

    Yep, I think the problem is that I made the switch too quickly. Now, the ones in the main pasture seemed to have settled in okay, some clumpy poos here and there, especially on the day right after I refill the hay feeder because that is when they dig in and eat a lot AND they go for mostly the softer, leafy bits. Later, when most of that is gone, they will finally start eating the stems and tougher parts with more fiber.

    The ones that aggravate me the most are the bucks in their pen and the two does I have in a stall to work on taming them down...in those pens I have a hay feeder that is a piece of livestock panel attached at an angle to the fence, making a 'V' shape. I don't know why they do this, but the ones in there will pick and pull and fuss with the hay until it is all either eaten or thrown all over the floor. I have to refill almost every other day. I know it is probably a boredom thing for the two girls in the stall (it is 8 ft by 8ft and they are in there because they are WILD and I wanted to work on handling them daily to tame them down), but I don't know why the boys do it because they have a descent amount of room between the 8ft by 8ft covered/enclosed area that connects to a much larger outside area with stuff to climb around on and whatnot. The boys just seem more glutton-y, I guess.

    Either way, if I put alfalfa in either of those pens, they inhale it ALL in one sitting. If I try putting in mostly grass hay with a little alfalfa, they will eat the alfalfa and then scatter the grass hay all onto the floor LOOKING FOR MORE ALFALFA!!! Bad goats! Makes it tough to try to ease them into eating it a little at a time.

    @Crocee: ah, see that is another thing, my goats don't currently have access to much browse as they are currently in a small pasture that is about 60ft by 120ft. Once we get the rest of the 5 acres fenced appropriately, they will have LOTS of stuff to eat and then the bucks will get to use the little pasture as their pen. For now, they have some weeds in their pasture, but have to get most of their nutrition from grain and hay.
  12. crocee

    crocee New Member

    Jul 25, 2008
    Northeast Arkansas
    This will be a pain in the backside, but for the bucks I would only give grass hay as they don't need anything else unless in rut.

    For the ornery wild doe's I would let them go hungry for most of the day. Then offer grass hay. If their hungry they will eat it. After they eat the grass hay I would give a little alfalfa for the extra nutrition. The next day I would offer the grass hay again, after they eat that, offer the alfalfa but a little more this time. Each day up the amount of alfalfa they get until a week has gone by. By this time they should be able to eat the alfalfa without the tummy upset. This is all assuming they are not in milk or pregnant.

    For the does in milk, its hard to say since a decrease in alfalfa will mean a decrease in milk. Grain I would only offer on the milk stand. The last part goes for all the goats so they associate the grain with the job of getting on the stand and being good.