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Goat nutrition and feeding

Goetsch, A. L., and R. C. Merkel

In: R. O. Kellems, and D. C. Church (Editors) Livestock Feeds and Feeding. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. 2007 (Book Chapter; In Press)

Goats have been selected for different purposes, such as milk production, mohair or cashmere fiber yield, and average daily gain or meat production, resulting in different physiological conditions that affect nutrient requirements and most appropriate feeding methods. Nutrient requirements and dietary management practices are also unique for indigenous or local genotypes of goats that may not have been intensively selected by many for a particular type of production, but that have adapted to survive under specific and often harsh environmental conditions. Goats differ from other domesticated ruminant livestock species, namely beef and dairy cattle and sheep, in numerous ways; however, most notable are unique feeding behaviors. Goats generally consume a wider variety of plants when available, especially browse and foliage of woody plant species. Moreover, because of factors including mobile lips and precise tongue actions, goats exert considerable selection in the particular plant fragments and feed particles consumed. Another difference between goats vs cattle and sheep is the ingestion of relatively greater levels of many plants containing 'anti-nutritional factors' such as tannins that can influence nutrient absorption and utilization. In addition to effects of selection on nutrient requirements and desired feeding management practices, previous plane of nutrition has impact. This can be assessed by body condition score as practiced with other ruminant species. Knowledge of body condition score and other factors influencing nutrient requirements, such as breed, gender, desired levels of production including pregnancy status, and grazing and environmental conditions, are necessary to assess specific needs for energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins. Then dietary means of meeting these requirements can be devised. For animals in confinement this might be considered a bit easier than for grazing goats, since all nutrients are provided by feedstuffs offered. Although, many times in confinement forage is fed free-choice as the basal diet, similar to forage consumed when grazing. In both cases nutrients provided by the basal diet must be projected in order to formulate a supplement to satisfy any nutrient deficits at the lowest cost. Total mixed rations are frequently used as well, particularly for dairy goats, in which case least-cost formulation procedures considering different available forage and concentrate feedstuffs will yield greatest profitability.


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