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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

I am still learning as I go. All of the books that I read prior to bringing my goats home in February said that they needed to have a good quality hay, free choice. We had some nice grass hay, and that is what they ate. As my does' pregnancies progressed, we moved to alfalfa hay, and they powered through it, leaving nothing in the feeder. Post-pregnancy, there was no alfalfa available at the feed store, and we moved on to orchard grass. Same thing - they absolutely inhale the stuff, and then there is nothing left in the feeder. I recently bought another bale of regular valley grass hay, and the girls won't even touch the stuff.

To me, "free choice" means there should be hay available in the hay rack for whenever they want it. Just wondering how to keep the edible and nutritious stuff in there all the time. Or do you not worry about it??? :confused:

We are bringing our first buck home this weekend, and he has been eating alfalfa. The breeder said this is the way to go - more nutrition for the money. She showed me how she spreads one flake of hay among her whole hay rack, and this is what all of her goats (ten? of them) get for the day. If this is the proper way to do it, mine are going to be SO disappointed at the way things change around here. How do you feed hay to your goats, how much, how often, what type?

Thank you!
 

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Except for the wether who gets grass hay, all does & the buck get 3rd cut alfalfa 24/7.
His is balanced out with Boer Goat Developer.
One flake for 10 goats doesn't sound like much unless they get lots & lots of browse.
They all; 7 does & two young ones including the buck go through almost a bale of it a day. They don't have access to browse.

Good for you to give alfalfa to your pre kidding does.
 

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When I feed hay they get oat hay and I also put protein tubs out for them. Bred does get alfalfa till their kids start to nibble on their own feed in the creep feeder then the does slowly go back to oat hay and with alfalfa pellets mixed in the grain. Right now they are getting hay and 71 does and a buck get 2 bales but the hay I get is awesome hay and weighs about 120-130lbs. I think there is many factors to take in on how much. How much brows they have and also how big their pen is. My pen is fairly large so maybe they burn more fat. A lady I know has 60 does and very small pen and she feeds a bale every other day and her goats are grossly fat.
 

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I do not free choice feed hay, nor do I feed straight alfalfa except to the weaning kids and lactating does. I don't free choice feed hay because the girls pick out the best parts and waste the rest. Couple that with the fact that they do not need free choice hay, factor in the high cost of hay and I can see no reason to do it. I do not feed straight alfalfa because the protein content - unless it is really bad hay - exceeds what an open or short bred doe, non-breeding buck, or wether requires. Feeding straight alfalfa also carries a risk of causing milk fever with heavy breds due to the calcium content of the hay. I feed my does 5-6 lbs of a good quality grass/alfalfa mix and adjust the amount of alfalfa as I can. I would feed open/short-bred does good quality straight grass if I had access to that much grass hay, but I don't.
 

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It depends on your definition of free choice. My goats always have hay in front of them. However, they don't constantly have the good stuff. I do keep turning the hay until they eat everything except the worst of the stems. I consider myself feeding free choice hay.
 

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My goats have the 'free-choice' to eat what we provide them with and what they can get out of the the woods.
For all 13, they get a bale in the morning to eat as much as they want off of and then they get turned out.
They come back a couple hours before dark to the leftovers from the same bale and clean up what they want.
By the time they get a new bale in the morning, they've picked clean everything except the super small and dusty pieces.
They never really go without hay, some of my goats won't eat hay in the evening though, they'd rather fill up on lots of browse and wait until the next bale.
We get 2nd cutting hay from a field of mixed grasses and legumes. It's better than grass hay but not as good as pure alfalfa.
We like to get our goats eating large quantities of fiber, we find that they get too fat on alfalfa and it isn't suitable for our bucks anyway so this way we don't buy multiple types of hay, we put it up once, etc.
We feed more hay in winter too, depending on how fast they empty the feeders, since there's no browse and my goats don't like snow!
Days when it rains we keep them in and give more hay to make up for lost browse too.
 

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Dave (TDG Farms) S.E. Washington State
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Free choice hay is a bad idea. Goat will get fat and your wallet will get thin :) 1 flake of high quality alfalfa per goat per day for standard size goats is all you need for them to maintain an good weight. The lesser quality the hay the more you may need to feed.
 

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Western Oregon valley grass hay is pretty much a waste of money. Low protein selenium/copper/iodine/lysine deficient filler is all it is and this years hay is mostly way over ripe and over dried.
My goats get eastern Oregon orchard grass and either alfalfa pellets or alfalfa hay depending on how the quality is. They do get pretty much free choice and never get fat. The moisture here is very hard on the animals and they eat more then they do in the high desert.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Goathiker, since you're in my neck of the woods, I think ... how much do you pay per bale of your orchard grass? I'm paying $15.50 a bale at my feed store in Corvallis.

I know that alfalfa pellets go in Happy Bleats' grain mix (that I have yet to make). If these were part of the goats' daily feed, would this cut down on the amount of hay required?

With your goats getting that delicious orchard grass, do they actually walk away from the feed while there is still hay in it?

Thanks!
 

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I am paying $18.98 a bale in McMinnville. Yes the alfalfa pellets do fill them up as well reducing their hay consumption. They are $10.49 for 40lbs.
I do not feed alfalfa pellets mixed with my grain. I put enough out twice a day that there is barely any left over, basically free choice.
My grain mix is fed individually.

They will leave the orchard grass eventually. To begin with just put out 3lbs. per full sized goat daily with their alfalfa pellets or 5lbs. per goat by itself.
 

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Dave (TDG Farms) S.E. Washington State
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OUCH!!! Those are feed store prices for sure! We get our alfalfa from eastern Oregon as well. Dairy quality. First load of the year was decent at 185.00 a ton + 25 a ton for transport, making it 10.50 a bale delivered. Then again, we also buy 25 tons at a time... twice a year.
 

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Second cutting alfalfa is $280 to $320 a ton here. For the first year ever I'm getting a better deal from the feed store than from my hay dealer. 1 feed store bale is lasting me 5 days. His at $14.00 a bale were only lasting 2 to 3 days.
 

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1 flake of high quality alfalfa per goat per day for standard size goats is all you need for them to maintain an good weight.
Given the fact that the pounds per flake tends to vary depending on how much the bale weighs, the weight of the bale in this particular scenario would probably be helpful here. :roll:
 

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Wow that's pricey. We feed 2nd or third cut fine grass hay with a little alfalfa in it. We found a guy with 3rd cut left over from last year and bought it all. The goats love it and they have milked well and grown well on it. We got it cheap as he needed the room for his new stuff for his heifers. This summer we traded bucklings for hay as he wanted brush cutters. It has worked well for all involved. And you should see the bucklings!! one is so nice double registered nd that is silver in color. amazing!!
 

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Makes me thankful for what I pay. I paid $3.75 per 50 lb bale of grass mixed with a little clover and alfalfa.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Wow. Well, I was wondering how some of you managed (afforded) to feed so much hay. Thanks for all of the great advice. I wish I had some of those great prices available here.

I believe I may be able to purchase alfalfa at close to my feed-store orchard grass price, if I get a deal from a grower I have heard of. Isn't there a little concern about feeding too much alfalfa (besides weight gain)? I understand that it is more nutritious, but if I did work towards free-choice, would free-choice alfalfa cause bloat or other issues if my goats are part pigs? Just wondering if I should stick with the orchard grass...
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Sorry, I just saw in the earlier reply that milk fever is a problem with over-feeding alfalfa. Is there anything else?
 

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It depends on your definition of free choice. My goats always have hay in front of them. However, they don't constantly have the good stuff. I do keep turning the hay until they eat everything except the worst of the stems. I consider myself feeding free choice hay.
This is exactly what I do because I hate them wasting my moey but stepping on it and leaving it on the floor. 1 flake doesn't sound quite right but if you want to save money maybe you should only give them a smaller amount in a free choice feeder.
 
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