Feed your dairy goats well to be productive

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Dairy goats are popular with many small-scale farmers. They are relatively easy to feed and do not require a lot of space to rear. However, most farmers with dairy goats do not manage them well, so they cannot be healthy and productive enough to give good returns.

Like all other animals, goats require a balanced diet that has all the required nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates (energy) and vitamins to maintain a good body condition. Below we give some important information on goat feeding which should help farmers to keep highly productive dairy goats.

Space for a run

In formulating a ration for dairy goats, it is important to note the best way to feed goats and that the rations will be presented to the animals in the stalls. However, goats should have sufficient space to exercise and stretch. It is a pity to see how small the cages of goats usually are - they are kept like prisoners!

A sample ration

Dairy goats rations are formulated from roughages mainly sourced from forages, water, minerals and concentrates. They should be fed according to body weight and physiological requirements. Dry matter amount is critical in feeding dairy goats. The dry matter requirement is 6% of the body weight. A goat weighing 30 kg will require 1.8 kg of dry matter.

Here is an example of an ideal daily ration for dairy goat:

5kg of Napier

0.5kg of sweet potato vines

0.7 kg calliandra

0.5 kg desmodium

40gms of high phosphorous lick.

8 litres of clean water

Good feeding enhances the fertility of dairy goats

Good feeding is important as it determines the state of animal at maturity, lifetime production, age at maturity and fertility of the animal. Before animals are mated, flushing is done. About 0.5kg dairy meal is given daily for 2 weeks before mating to improve the body condition. After successful mating, adequate feed should be given to avoid embryonic wastage such as abortion.

For female goats, the aim is to attain the earliest age at first mating. About 7 to 9 months is ideal. At this time, the females should be 60% of their mature weight. This will enable milk production by the age of one year.

Provide concentrates at 300–400 grams per day when they are 3 – 4 months old. At 6–7 months of age when mating time is approaching feed at about 100– 200g per day to trim down over fattening during mating. Feeding bucks Increase feed by 15–20% during mating. Start introducing concentrates 6–7 weeks before mating at a rate of 200–300g per day. This diet should be continued up to the 6th or 7th week after mating.

Feeding during pregnancy

During the first phase (1 month) the foetus (unborn kid) grows undisturbed. Just feed slightly above maintenance. The second phase (2–3 months) is also called mid-pregnancy. The foetus changes slightly. If protein in the feed is low, feed intake will be low resulting in protein deficiency. Protein requirements are not high but deficiency can be detrimental to the foetus. Third Phase (3–5 months) or late pregnancy is the most critical stage of the foetus development. Although the feed intake is low good quality feeding is needed to meet the requirements of the animal. Underfeeding will result in low birth weight, low production of colostrum and reduction in milk production. Steaming up is done during the last 60 days of pregnancy. This is important for building stores for use in early lactation. Feed up to 400–500 grams per day of concentrates.

Feeding for Lactation

Protein is required at around 56g digestible crude protein per day for milk synthesis. Energy is the most sensitive nutrient and is required in the diet which should be balanced. Minerals especially calcium and phosphorous must be in the ration in larger amounts than other minerals. Most diets have enough of vitamins A and D.

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