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Farming with goats – Part 6: Housing and feeding your goats successfully

Goats need proper housing to ensure that they are guarded against the elements and theft.

Shelter

Goats need to be confined at night for a number of reasons:

• To provide shelter from bad weather

• To prevent theft

• To prevent predation

If animals are kraaled but are not provided with a shelter, they will be exposed to the weather and will not be able to choose a place that is more protected from rain or wind. For this reason, it is important that the kraal owner provides the necessary shelter and protection.

In building such a structure it is important to consider the following aspects:

• A roof to protect the animals from rain

• Walls/sides to protect them from wind

• Drainage or a cement floor to prevent the ground from being too muddy after rain

• Provision of raised areas (preferably slatted to allow droppings to fall through) where goats can escape from wet, muddy conditions.

It is also important that it must be possible to clean the kraal to prevent the build-up of disease-causing bacteria and parasites in the dung and dust.

Managing the overnight shed

The following recommendations are made regarding management of the shed:

• Make sure that the goats are not crowded (keep to minimum density of 1 m2 /goat)

• Remove manure on a monthly basis and spray the house to kill fleas

• Provide feed in feeders or in hay racks to prevent trampling

• Ensure that goats have access to clean water

• Separate rams from ewes to prevent injuries and bullying

• Separate ewes with kids from other goats to prevent trampling

Goats must not be kept in longer than necessary as it reduces the number of hours available for feeding.

Goats need good quality feed to ensure good health and a profitable growth rate.

Equipment for feed and water

Goats should be provided with some form of feeders and water troughs. The feeders should keep food off the ground so that it is not trampled and soiled by the goats. Suitable containers also need to be provided for licks. Make sure the kids can reach the water without a danger of drowning.

Handling facilities

It is desirable to have proper handling facilities that allow efficient handling of goats without causing stress to either goat or person.

Handling facilities should consist of:

• A crowding pen/gathering pen that feeds into the race

• A race/crush (a passage) where you can dose or vaccinate goats

• A foot bath in the race so you can dip hooves to control foot rot and ticks

Other useful components include sorting gates at the end of the race so you can divide the flock into different groups and a loading ramp to load goats into vehicles for transportation, a scale for weighing, and a head gate/ clamp that allows you to restrain a goat.

Basics of nutrition and feeding

Goats are mainly browsers (eat leaves off trees and bushes) although they will also graze (eat grass). They are ruminants. This means that they regurgitate feed and ruminate or ‘chew the cud’. In order for goats to grow well, it is necessary to develop a year-round forage programme allowing for enough feed throughout the year.

Feed requirement

Maintenance requirement is the minimum feed required by an animal that is not growing, pregnant or lactating to keep warm, and to maintain its body weight. A mature, dry ewe (that is not pregnant or feeding a kid) or a mature castrate are examples of animals having maintenance requirements only. All other physiological functions increase the feed requirement of the goat.

Additional requirements above those needed for maintenance are required for growth, pregnancy, lactation, and hair production. Ewes feeding twins or triplets have greater nutritional requirements than ewes feeding 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 use more energy while out browsing. The feed requirements are also linked to the weight of the goat and the weather conditions (they need more feed during cold periods).

Feed components

Goats need water, protein, energy, and a range of vitamins and minerals.

Access to water is essential for healthy, productive goats. One goat will drink 3 to 20 litres per day, depending on the stage of lactation and environmental temperatures. Ewes that are feeding kids have very high water requirements. During hot weather, all goats will have high water requirements. It is also important that the water is clean – this is especially important for kids.

During certain times, such as pregnancy, the goats will need special nutrition. Make sure that the feed contains the right minerals to ensure good health.

Protein

Protein is required for maintenance, growth, reproduction, lactation, and hair production. Protein forms a major component of blood, anti-bodies, muscle, and milk and is therefore required to produce these. Protein deficiencies in the diet can lead to goats becoming sick and even dying. Examples of protein feeds are acacia pods, beans, cowpeas, lucerne, soya bean meal, green pastures, and high protein concentrates (HPC).

Energy

Goats also need sufficient energy in their diet to allow them to grow, reproduce and produce milk. Body condition scoring can be used to see whether the goats are getting enough energy – or too much. Examples of energy rich feeds are maize grain, oats, sorghum, and molasses.

Minerals (calcium, phosphorus, salt)

Goats also need to be given access to minerals if they are deficient in their diet. The addition of specific minerals (phosphorus for dry winter forages, selenium in deficient areas et cetera), and salt (sodium chloride), preferably in granular form and offered free choice, helps prevent most mineral deficiencies and improves performance. Major minerals likely to be deficient in the diet are salt (sodium chloride), calcium, phosphorous and magnesium.

The minerals can be given in a block or a loose lick. The requirements of goats vary according to the age of the goat and whether it is pregnant or feeding a kid. Thus, you need to buy the correct type of feed depending on which goats you are feeding.

Critical feeding times

Critical periods when you need to ensure your goats are properly fed are:

•Before mating (ewes and rams)

•Late pregnancy (last 6 to 8 weeks) to avoid small, weak kids – but do not overfeed or there will be kidding difficulties from large kids

•Early lactation (to make sure the ewe has enough milk for her kids)

The information in this article is credited to Mdukatshani, Heifer International South Africa and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development who published the Goat Production Handbook in 2015.

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