What to Do When Your Goat Won’t Eat
When you notice that your goat has left food in the feed trough, this is what we call “Off Feed”. The term “Off Feed” is basically losing an appetite. Animals can lose their appetite due to a variety of reasons. The steps below are organized to identify what may be causing the lack of appetite.
A simple reason can be attributed to the high quantities of protein in their grain which causes too much energy that burns out their appetite. It would be like you eating too much meat or candy. After a while, you would most likely lose your appetite. Most goats will clean up their feed ration in 12-18 minutes. If your goat is eating slowly or leaving too much food, perform the checklist below. Start with the easy to fix environmental checks and then move into the health checks. Goats do not gain a lot of weight every day, so each day of off feed can really add up to missed weight goals!
EVALUATE THE BASICS
- Amount – Check to see that the correct amount of feed is being fed. Overfeeding will not cause your goat to eat more. Overfeeding will cause the leftover feed to sit in the bucket and dry out and loose its freshness.
- Quality – Check to see that the feed is fresh and good quality. Feed should not smell rancid or stinky and it should not be moldy or dirty.
- Water – Check to see that the water is good, clean and cool. It should not be dirty, smelly or moldy. Check to make sure no rodents or trash is in the bottom of the bucket. Sometimes birds of prey will drop pieces of their lunch in the water bucket.
- Illness – Check for fever, injury, bloat, straining to urinate or grinding teeth. Review the Health Check List to make sure there isn’t an illness that is the cause for the eating change (like Enterotoxaemia – Overeating disease, Acidosis, Urinary Calculi, Coccidiosis or bloat).
RE-ENERGIZE THE FEED
If your goat is healthy and shows no signs of illness or stress and the feed and water is good, it may be that the goat is over stimulated with the high energy feed and has lost interest. To re-energize feed is to change the feed to get your goat interested in eating again. Goats naturally are very curious and energetic eaters.
A first step is to:
Lower the Protein Level
Try feeding another feed with a lower protein level and simplify the feed ration. Even changing the protein from 18% to 16% can help to identify the issue.
Add a Top Dress
If your feed is a green pelleted feed, try adding a cup of sweet feed as a top dress. This can sometimes be enough to get them eating again. Watch them eat the new feed. If they are still slow to eat or do not finish eating or show enthusiasm for their standard ration of food, perform the following steps:
Day 1 – Probiotic Paste, Baking Soda & Sweet Feed Top Dress
- Give Probiotic Paste per listed weight & dosage instructions. See “Probiotic Therapies“
- Feed ½ portion of feed with ½ tsp Baking Soda & 1 cup sweet feed mixed in.
Day 2 – Re-Evaluate Eating Attitude
- On Day 2 feeding, evaluate health for any new symptoms. If no change or improvement of eating:
- Give 2nd dose of probiotic paste.
- Mix into feed ration, ½ tsp Ammonium Chloride, ½ tsp Baking Soda, ½ portion of feed with 1 cup sweet feed.
- Scoop Out Feed – Once they have had 20 minutes to eat, scoop out and bag any remaining feed. The remaining feed can be added into the next feeding. This prevents the feed from getting rancid or infested with flies.
Day 3 – Re-Evaluate Eating Attitude
On Day 3 feeding, evaluate health for any new symptoms. If no change or improvement of eating:
- Give 3rd dose of probiotic paste.
- Mix into feed ration, ½ tsp Ammonium Chloride & ½ tsp baking soda into ½ portion of feed with 3 cups sweet feed. Remove any fat supplements from the feed ration. Sometimes high fat supplements and protein will burn out appetites.
- Hay – Give a 3 quart scoop of Alfalfa or Grass hay each feeding. Once they have had 20 minutes to eat, scoop out and bag any remaining feed (grain). Leave the hay to nibble on.
- Vitamin B Crumbles – May be mixed in the fee to stimulate appetite. Apply per manufacturer feeding instructions.
If they clean up the feed in 12-20 minutes, things are most likely back on track and supplements can be slowly added back into the ration at ½ the supplement dosage and increase over the next two days. Sometimes the digestion track gets sluggish with all of the rich grain and the goat loses their appetite. If the goat has lost interest in the basic feed, there are many good quality feeds that smell and taste better than what they are eating. Don’t be afraid to switch feeds to increase their appetite. Reference “How to Safely Switch Feeds”.
- Probiotic Paste (Give every feeding for 3 days)
- Top Dress with Textured Sweet Feed
- Baking Soda
- ½ tsp mixed in feed
- Or 2 tsp in 2 oz. water using Drench Gun for Bloat
- Ammonium Chloride – 1/2 tsp mixed in feed for Urinary Calculi or bloat
- Vitamin-B Complex (crumbles, powder, paste or injectable)
Contact your adviser and let them know what’s been going on. They may want to come out and evaluate your feeding program. Your local feed dealer can be a great resource for other feed suggestions or methods. If they are still not cleaning up their feed, contact your adviser for a health evaluation. After three days of being off feed, your goat may become sick or lose its weight gaining program.