Factors influencing nutrient requirements of meat goats

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A certain amount of various nutrients are requirements for meat goats i.e. to keep warm, and to maintain its body weight. A mature dry doe is an example of an animal having maintenance requirements only. Additional requirements above those needed for maintenance are needed for growth, pregnancy, lactation and hair production. As the productivity of meat goats is increased through selection and breeding of goats  with higher production potential, nutritional requirements will also increase. Therefore, the more productive goats should be fed high quality feed, especially weaned kids being prepared for market, young replacement does and does in late gestation and early lactation. Does with lactating twins or triplets have grater nutritional requirements than does lactating a single kid.

Goats grazing very hilly pastures will have higher nutritional requirements than goats on level pastures of the same quality because they will expend more energy to gather feed on difficult terrain.

In some situations where brush control in rough areas is the primary purpose of keeping goats, less productive animals can be roughed through and forced to work on brushy areas. If their body condition deteriorates, these animals can then be grazed on better quality pastures. Once desirable body condition is achieved, the same animals can again be used to control brush.

Nutritional management of meat goats

Nutrition of Newborn Kids

Colostrum is the first milk produced after parturition. Colostrum contains a high content of immunoglobulin (antibodies), vitamin A, minerals, fat and other sources of energy. Antibodies are proteins which help the goat kid fight diseases.

The ability of kids to resist diseases is greatly affected by the timing of colostrum intake and the quantity and quality of the colostrum fed. Colostrum should be ingested or bottle-fed (in case of weak kids) as soon as kids have a suckling reflex. In cases of extremely weak kids, they should be tube-fed. The goat keeper must be certain that all newborn kids get colostrum soon after birth (within the first hour after birth, and certainly within the first 6 hours) because the percentage of antibodies found in colostrum decreases rapidly after parturition.

It is crucial that the antibodies in colostrum be consumed before the kids suck on dirty, pathogen-loaded parts of its mother or stall. In addition, the ability of the newborn kid to absorb antibodies also decreases rapidly 24 hours after birth. Newborn kids should ingest 10% of their body weight in colostrum during the first 24 hours of life for optimum immunity.

The extra colostrum produced by high lactating does during the first 24 hours following kidding can be frozen for later use when needed. Only first milking from healthy animals should be frozen for later feeding. It is recommended to thaw colostrum either at room temperature or at a fairly low temperature and should never be overcooked during the thawing process.

Colostrum from older animals that have been on the premises for several years is typically higher in antibody content against endemic pathogens than is colostrum from first timers. Vaccination against tetanus and enterotoxaemia 2 to 4 weeks before the kidding date is commonly used to improve the protective value of the colostrum against these conditions.

Nutrition of Replacement Does

Doe kids needed for replacement should be grazed with their mothers during as much of the lactation period as possible and not weaned early. Following weaning, doe kids should be separated from the main herd and have access to high quality forage and receive good nutrition through first kidding at 1-2 years of age, depending on the nutritional plane. Leaving doe kids with the main herd will result in undernourished does that are bred too young and too small; these animals will never reach their production potential. A yearly supply of replacement does that are healthy, of good size, and free of internal and external parasites, is essential to the success of any meat goat enterprise.

Pregnancy Disease (Ketosis)

During late pregnancy, does require a relatively high level of nutrients. In fact, nutritional requirements are as high during late pregnancy as they are during lactation, especially if the pregnant doe is carrying more than one fetus. Not only are extra nutrients needed by the developing fetuses, but they also crowd the abdominal cavity and reduce ruminal volume. As a result, large amounts of feed cannot be consumed. Because of this, does fed on a poor quality diet (especially if they are fat) can develop ketosis and die due to inadequate energy intake. Grain and protein meal and to a lesser extent whole cottonseed are the preferred feeds to overcome this problem.

Inadequate nutrition during late pregnancy will also result in small, weak kids at birth, and high early death losses, especially in twin and triplets. When forage or browse is low in quality, (40 to 55% TDN; 10% protein or less), does in late pregnancy and early lactation should be provided with about 0.5kg/day of a 16% protein concentrate.

Urinary Calculi

In goats, clinical obstruction of the urinary tract is most frequently seen in young, castrated males. The calculi are usually comprised of calcium phosphate salts. Castrated goats fed on excessive grain in the diet are at high risk of developing the condition.

Body Condition

The term body condition refers to the fleshing of an animal. Does should not be allowed to become too thin or too fat. Failure in reproduction, low twinning rates and low weaning rates will result if does are too thin. Overly fat does can suffer pregnancy toxemia, but fat does are rarely a problem.

If you can easily see the backbone and ribs, the goats are most probably undernourished. When body condition starts to decrease, it is a sign that supplemental feed is needed or that animals should be moved to a higher quality pasture. Waiting until goats become thin to start improving their feeding regime may lead to large production losses.

Bucks will have reduced fertility if they are too thin. On the other hand, if bucks are overfed and become too fat, they may have no desire to breed does.


Flushing means increasing the level of feed offered to breeding does, mostly energy, starting about one month prior to the introduction of the bucks, to increase body weight, ovulation rate and hopefully litter size. Increasing the level of energy offered to does should continue throughout the breeding season and for approximately 30 to 40 days after removing the bucks, for adequate implantation of the fetuses in the uterus.

Body condition is used to determine whether flushing will be of benefit to breeding does. Does in extremely good body condition will tend not to respond to flushing. On the other hand, does that are in relatively poor condition as a result of pastures of poor quality, high worm loads, late kidding of twins or triplets, will respond favorably to flushing by improving their body condition.

Flushing can be accomplished by moving breeding does to a lush nutritious pasture 3 to 4 weeks prior to the introduction of the bucks. Another method is feeding ¼ kg/day of a high energy supplement. Maize is the grain of choice for flushing. The goal is to increase the intake and body weight. Breeding does should be grouped according to their body condition and fed accordingly to first improve their body condition, then to maintain it.

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