Do you have enough hay for your goats?

Late summer is a good time to evaluate your feed needs for the coming winter. If you have not already evaluated your winter feed supplies vs. your goat requirements and developed a plan of action, now is the time. If your requirements exceed your supplies, either additional feed must be acquired or your goat numbers must be reduced.

A quick and dirty way to estimate feed requirements is on the basis of animal units. Assuming that a mature meat doe weighs 125 pounds, one doe is equal to one-eighth of an animal unit. Therefore, eight adult does equal one animal unit. Yearling goats that are not grain-fed may weigh 50 to 80 pounds and are equal to roughly one-half of that figure, so 14 yearlings would roughly equal one animal unit and around 40 kids are equal to one animal unit. Each animal unit will require approximately 50 pounds of hay per day, assuming average- to good-quality hay (and by that, I mean hay with more than 10% crude protein and 55% TDN. A forage analysis will tell you the quality of your hay). When provided low-quality feeds, goats will eat more, up to a point, to try to compensate.

For example, a herd of 35 adult does, one buck, 10 replacement doelings and 16 kids with a feeding period of 100 days (roughly 3 months) will require the following:

35 does × 1/7 animal unit = 5.00 animal units
1 buck × 1/7 animal unit = 0.14 animal units
10 doelings × 1/14 animal unit = 0.71 animal units
16 kids × 1/40 animal unit = 0.40 animal units
Total = 6.25 animal units

6.25 animal units x 50 lbs. of hay per day x 100 days = 31,250 lbs. or 15.6 tons or 625 square bales (50 lbs. each).

Next, you should consider your estimated amount of waste. Each feeding system is unique; a very efficient feeding system may allow for as little as 10% waste, while inefficient systems may produce more than 50% wastage. Using a hay feeder that prevents goats from lying in the hay and that keeps the hay reasonably above the ground should result in 10–20% waste. (Remember that no system can be 100% efficient).

In this example, let’s assume that our feeding system results in 15% waste. Our herd would require 719 square bales ([625 x 0.15] + 625 = 718.75) to sustain them through a 100-day feeding period, so that is the amount of hay that you would need to buy.

You may also estimate your hay needs by using the percentage method. Estimate that your animals will eat roughly 4–5% of their body weight in hay per day (as fed). The percentage method is the most accurate method, as it requires you to know the average size of your goats. For example, a 200-pound Boer doe will eat roughly 8 to 10 pounds per day. A herd of 25 will require 200 to 250 pounds of hay per day — or 10 to 12.5 tons total — to sustain them through a 100-day feeding period (before waste). Taking waste into account (assuming 15% waste), you would need at least 11.5 to 14.4 tons of hay.

Now that you have estimated your feed requirements, you need to evaluate your feed supply. It is best to do this by multiplying the average weight of your hay bales by the total number of bales. The average square bale weighs around 50 pounds, and the average round bale weighs about 500 pounds. However, it is important to remember that outside bales can sustain substantial losses. If bales appear moldy or otherwise spoiled, you must take these losses into account when estimating your feed supply.

Using animal units or percentages to estimate feed requirements is just a quick tool. To be more accurate, you must consider the dry matter content as well as the exact nutritional requirements for the size of the animal and the stage of production. Also, feed supply is more accurately estimated if you conduct a forage analysis to determine the exact nutrient content of your hay. See your local feed dealer or extension agent for more information about hay analysis.

Remember that it is more vital than ever to provide a complete mineral supplement for goats during the winter months. Their mineral needs are increased due to pregnancy or lactation at this time, and goats are also more likely to be deficient in minerals such as phosphorus, selenium and copper. ULTRALYX® supplements for goats provide minerals for meat goats in highly palatable forms.

Visit your local ULTRALYX dealer for more information on our available ULTRALYX products or call 1-888-718-3493 to speak to an ULTRALYX representative.