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What can I reasonably expect my Standard dairy does to eat per year in hay? We have lush, weedy pasture most of the year. What about a buck? What type of hay do you typically feed? And whats the consensus on alfalfa? Thanks!
 

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My does don't have pasture. I don't keep exact track of how much hay they eat, but I think my two eat 1-1.5 bales of coastal bermuda hay a week when I am milking them. I supplement them with 4 cups of alfalfa pellets a day each. I believe the consensus on alfalfa is that it is good for lactating goats. It is too expensive for me to use here. I did find some locally grown, but it made my milk taste terrible. My buck eats a flake or two daily.
 

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Alfalfa is great if it is readily available in your area! "Bales" greatly vary in size based on the equipment, cutting, etc.

I would recommend a second cut grass/alfalfa mix if you can find it. Hay should be provided nearly "free choice" (as much as they want). If you have acres of good pasture and browse then subtract the grazing months (may through Sept here in my area).

Pasture & Browse during peak grazing season: 3-4 goats per acre if you feed no hay

Full size goats: 4-6 pounds of hay per day during winter (I use 5 lbs to per head per day to estimate a winter's worth)

Don't go by bales, go by pounds. Most farmer should be able to tell you what their bales weigh.

I recommend second cut as the stems are much coarser in first cut and you end up with more waste
 

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Alfalfa is excellent for milkers. If I have an OK hay, and then I get a good batch of alfalfa, I get a bump on my milk production as a result. It is also one of those things that does influence milk taste; normally it imparts a mild, sweet flavor, although because alfalfa is so effective at pulling up nutrients from the soil it'll pull up whatever minerals are down there, so that can be unpredictable.

What you can find regionally varies a lot from area to area, and from year to year. Salteylove mentioned that second cut is better than first cut, and most years that's true, BUT... in my particular area the rains fell in such regularity at the time second cut is normally taken off, that all second cut around here is coarse and stemmy. :(. So nothing substitutes for going & looking. Generally the higher the cut, the better quality it is. I'm usually spoiled by a very nice 3rd cut, and sometimes by an excellent 4th cut, but again, each area is very different. Alfalfa pellets are a good way to go; I have three choices in my area that are all without any kind of binder, grains, or fillers, just dehydrated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
My does don't have pasture. I don't keep exact track of how much hay they eat, but I think my two eat 1-1.5 bales of coastal bermuda hay a week when I am milking them. I supplement them with 4 cups of alfalfa pellets a day each. I believe the consensus on alfalfa is that it is good for lactating goats. It is too expensive for me to use here. I did find some locally grown, but it made my milk taste terrible. My buck eats a flake or two daily.
Im hoping youre meaning square bales?
Alfalfa is great if it is readily available in your area! "Bales" greatly vary in size based on the equipment, cutting, etc.

I would recommend a second cut grass/alfalfa mix if you can find it. Hay should be provided nearly "free choice" (as much as they want). If you have acres of good pasture and browse then subtract the grazing months (may through Sept here in my area).

Pasture & Browse during peak grazing season: 3-4 goats per acre if you feed no hay

Full size goats: 4-6 pounds of hay per day during winter (I use 5 lbs to per head per day to estimate a winter's worth)

Don't go by bales, go by pounds. Most farmer should be able to tell you what their bales weigh.

I recommend second cut as the stems are much coarser in first cut and you end up with more waste
In my area a 1000lb bale of bermuda costs $60-$90. Alfalfa is about twice that. Its worth it though for the protein, right?
 

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It's not just the protein, it overall (generally) has much more nutrients across the board. So your goats need to eat less of it, *and* less other supplements, compared to bermuda for the same calories. As an example, I feed very little grain even to my milkers; I could never do that feeding any kind of grass hay, they just don't carry enough nutrition to support milk production. A goat can only eat so much, if what they're eating is poor on nutrients they won't be able to eat enough to support a high-energy demand like making milk. Does that all make sense? :)

Some hay is tested so you can compare the nutrients, but alfalfa is hard to beat.
 

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" It's not just the protein, it overall (generally) has much more nutrients across the board. So your goats need to eat less of it, *and* less other supplements, compared to Bermuda for the same calories. As an example, I feed very little grain even to my milkers; I could never do that feeding any kind of grass hay, they just don't carry enough nutrition to support milk production. A goat can only eat so much, if what they're eating is poor on nutrients they won't be able to eat enough to support a high-energy demand like making milk. Does that all make sense? :) "
Kath G. All of what you said is true and I agree but how much protein can a doe in milk consume with out having problems like feet foundering or bloating by over eating high protein or other issues ? I am asking because I honestly don't know about goats. I do know about horses and cattle. Too much of a good thing is terrible for those animals !! Please address this issue and others members do also. Thank you.
 

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I don't think founder is such a concern with does in milk. It's more of a problem for dry does, wethers, bucks not in rut, and meat or fiber breeds. A good milk doe puts so much into the bucket that it's hard to overfeed her or give her too much protein while she's lactating. However, the "too much of a good thing" still applies.

I just wrote on another thread that we fed primarily alfalfa last year, and while I liked what it did for our milk production, it caused secondary selenium and copper deficiencies. Alfalfa tends to be high in molybdenum, and molybdenum binds copper and selenium, preventing the goat from absorbing them. Since I also live on molybdenum-rich soil, my goats were getting a double-whammy by eating alfalfa at night and browsing on our molybdenum-laden pasture during the day. We did not encounter copper or selenium deficiencies when I fed grass hay. This year I cut out the alfalfa and I'm going to be very careful how much I feed from now on. Secondary selenium and copper deficiencies caused by feeding too much alfalfa are better documented among cattle people than goat people.
 

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Thanks Damfino. Glad for your post.
 

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Alfalfa is excellent for milkers. If I have an OK hay, and then I get a good batch of alfalfa, I get a bump on my milk production as a result. It is also one of those things that does influence milk taste; normally it imparts a mild, sweet flavor, although because alfalfa is so effective at pulling up nutrients from the soil it'll pull up whatever minerals are down there, so that can be unpredictable.

What you can find regionally varies a lot from area to area, and from year to year. Salteylove mentioned that second cut is better than first cut, and most years that's true, BUT... in my particular area the rains fell in such regularity at the time second cut is normally taken off, that all second cut around here is coarse and stemmy. :(. So nothing substitutes for going & looking. Generally the higher the cut, the better quality it is. I'm usually spoiled by a very nice 3rd cut, and sometimes by an excellent 4th cut, but again, each area is very different. Alfalfa pellets are a good way to go; I have three choices in my area that are all without any kind of binder, grains, or fillers, just dehydrated.
Oh my goodness you have answered something I have been seriously confused about!
My parents are new Hay farmers lol their first cutting always makes dairy quality after that it kinda goes down. I have heard so many times that second is much better and have never understood this because usually by the last cutting I can see such a huge difference between each cutting. Usually the last cutting they don't even test it because you can look at it and tell it's not even going to come close.
Thank you so much for explaining that and putting wording it where I actually understood lol
 

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how much protein can a doe in milk consume with out having problems like feet foundering or bloating by over eating high protein or other issues
I wish I had a great body of research to quote here for feeding milkers alfalfa, but I don't. I'm very open to new facts, new studies, new research coming in, but in the meantime what I have (as with many things goat) is anecdotal. I'm surrounded by dairies, many of them goat dairies, and to a tee they all feed high quality alfalfa; I personally know a couple of families that own goat dairies, and they say they haven't experienced any bloat or laminitis due to alfalfa (grain is much more suspect there). Quite a bit of my stock comes from a farm that has fed their goats exclusively alfalfa hay for 20+ years. Exceptions are close or milking does, who get grain added; not a single case of founder or unexplained bloat, ever. I've not yet experienced founder or bloat either.

Goats are browsers; they're more similar in their digestive system to deer and other small ungulates than to other ruminants that graze, and certainly yet less similar to hind gut fermenting monogasts like horses. Whitetail deer does are estimated to need between 14-22% protein during lactation; while my does aren't living wild, they're also giving a whole lot more milk than the deer produce. Alfalfa is also a dicot, which again is closer to the feed a browser would naturally consume; goats seldom choose to consume monocots on their own.

I can see that alfalfa's rich nutrition might not be what you want unless you're asking a lot of your goats, i.e. milking them. @Damfino brings up good points regarding molybdenum and it's interplay with copper and selenium... still doing homework on that area.
 

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@Jessica84, might it be because of when rains fall in your area? Normally here the first cutting is the most mature, so even if it's good it's very stemmy... second cutting is okay, but it does't grow like crazy because we're too warm for it in July/early August... third cutting is usually early August to mid-September, where you have intense leaf growth because it likes the cooler weather and isn't being crowded by the grasses, and so it's leafy, soft, short.... if you can get off a fourth cutting the challenge is getting it dry before baling it (because limited sunlight & heat), but if it's available it's magnificently rich.
 

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@Jessica84, might it be because of when rains fall in your area? Normally here the first cutting is the most mature, so even if it's good it's very stemmy... second cutting is okay, but it does't grow like crazy because we're too warm for it in July/early August... third cutting is usually early August to mid-September, where you have intense leaf growth because it likes the cooler weather and isn't being crowded by the grasses, and so it's leafy, soft, short.... if you can get off a fourth cutting the challenge is getting it dry before baling it (because limited sunlight & heat), but if it's available it's magnificently rich.
I honestly have no idea! We pretty much do not get any rain after may first and it will usually start back up in November so the first cutting is off of rain I believe and after that it's watered from a well. Honestly that's their thing and I can't say I know even part of anything to do with plants, I'm more on the animal side of things lol but they are still learning but it does make sense to me that the first cutting would be the best because it has all the "goodies" in the ground. I know they have to change fields and what they grow. Again it kinda goes in one ear and out the other though for me :/
 

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Just for some clarification - protein does not contribute to founder. Sugar/starch does. I come from the land of hay analysis...I breed horses. You can learn a lot from a $40 hay test
 
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