Market goats & sheep need high quality hay to complement their grain ration. A diet of grain alone can potentially cause digestive and health issues. Because goats & sheep have a unique physiology, they do not gain weight like other market animals or other ruminants without hay. Goats & Sheep need to keep a balance of nutrients, fiber and other minerals to keep their stomachs working properly.
HAY NEEDS FOR GOATS & SHEEP
THE STORY OF A RUMINANT
Cattle, goats & sheep are ruminant animals, and each requires different types of hay and forage to develop and gain weight. Hay can give a natural bloom to the animal’s growth rate. The reason that goats & sheep need high quality hay with their quality grain is that they are not able to digest the cell walls of plants. This means that it does not stay in the rumen for long. I can attest that my goats would always eat the leaves and sweet part of the alfalfa, but they always left the stems which they would use as bedding! Goats & sheep by nature are browsers, which means they nibble on leaves, small branches & shrubs. They have the ability to use the high proteins found in leaves to grow. This would never work for cattle that need more of the stems to gain weight. Hay also gives the goat or lamb a chance to chew their cud on the hay. This is important in preventing urinary calculi.
With Goats, the average weight gain is roughly 0.1 to 0.8 lbs. per day. Because of this low daily weight gain, it’s important that the feeding strategy is right. 3-4 months of feeding a market goat does not give you a long time to make major feed changes or corrections. So starting with a little hay along with a quality grain will help them develop at a good pace. Try feeding a 3 quart scoop of alfalfa hay each feeding. Your goat or lamb should still finish their grain ration with this amount of hay. If they don’t finish the grain, reduce the hay amount or feed it after the grain is finished.
Calcium % in Hay & Grain
Most green hays are relatively high in calcium so the grain that you select to feed should have a low percentage of calcium. Also, the ratio of calcium to phosphorous in the diet must be at 2:1 to 3:1. This low ratio will prevent urinary calculi in market wethers. (Reference Article Urinary Calculi Symptoms and Treatment).
Fat % in Grain
In evaluating your feeding plan of grain and hay, fat should not represent more than 5% of a diet. Excess fat can depress the ruminant’s digestive process & fermentation which slows down weight gain.
Goats & Sheep require minerals for basic body function. An easy way to meet these needs is to set out a salt block for them to lick. Goats can be given the brown or white salt block but SHEEP CAN ONLY HAVE THE WHITE BLOCK! The brown trace mineral block contains copper and sheep are sensitive to copper – they will immediately get the scours (diarrhea). Major minerals that may be deficient in the diet are; salt (sodium chloride), calcium, phosphorous and magnesium. Trace minerals likely to be low in the diet are selenium copper, and zinc.
Hay Storage Tips
With Hay, you’ll need a few tips for handling and storing hay to keep it fresh and edible for your goat or lamb. Hay cannot be stored directly on concrete because it will wick up moisture and mold the hay. Pallets and wood plywood are good choices for hay.
Wood Platform Flooring
Build a wood platform to stack and store your hay. This keeps it clean and is easy to sweep up. Here the platform was built using plywood sheets attached to 4×4 posts (Even 2×4 boards could be used as a base). Careful attention was taken to make it as tight as possible to keep the little mouse critters from building nests! The white boards were to close any gaps. In 8+ years, there have not been any mice or rats under this flooring, which reduced the places they could hide & breed!
Installation Note: Place the rough side up on the plywood to make it more slip resistant. The smooth side is really slick with loose hay on top! If you are only storing one bale of hay, it can be sectioned off and place in trash bags. This will keep it tidy, clean and easy to grab.
Pallets may provide good ventilation under the hay bales, but they also allow mice and rats to build nests! Loose hay also falls between the slats and gets gross and moldy. The plywood sheets are worth the extra dollars for the cleanup factor.