Anyone have GRAIN FREE dairy goats?

WildersMilkMaid

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I’m just curious if anyone raises their dairy goats without grain, and why/why not?

I keep hearing that Goats need grain, but also to limit/cut grain because of bloat. Is there an alternative? Alfalfa perhaps? Is that too expensive or ineffective? Doesn’t it increase milk production? What are the perks to grain versus alfalfa, forage, hay, etc.?
 

Baymule

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I don't have dairy goats, but I have "absorbed" some goat wisdom by virtue of being on BYH. :love :love I have sheep. A lactating animal needs proper nutrition to produce milk, more nutrition to produce more milk. Just my observation, if you expect a goat to provide you with delicious fresh milk, you have to provide the goat with the means to produce that milk.
 

WildersMilkMaid

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I don't have dairy goats, but I have "absorbed" some goat wisdom by virtue of being on BYH. :love :love I have sheep. A lactating animal needs proper nutrition to produce milk, more nutrition to produce more milk. Just my observation, if you expect a goat to provide you with delicious fresh milk, you have to provide the goat with the means to produce that milk.
Yes, totally agree. Mostly wondering what nutrition they’re getting from grain that they wouldn’t from forage, hay, and alfalfa, etc. Maybe it is just a calorie thing? I’ve always been curious!
 

farmerjan

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If you are diligent, you can do dairy animals without grain. You have to have the forages tested for protein levels and should also have other things figured in. By feeding a specific amount of grain, you can control the amount of protein, and other nutrients more easily than constant testing forages. If you buy hay from Joe, then go buy some from Bill, then get a deal from John, each different hay should be tested. The amounts and kinds of fertilizers they use will change the nutritional value of the hay/forage. How it is made, the quality of the hay, getting cut at optimal nutrition levels, getting made without getting wet, not over mature.....all factor in.
Dairy farmers nearly all have nutritionists that take forage samples of each crop after it is put in the silo, the hay, the corn silage, the wheatledge, the rye haylage..... everything. Then they will come up with a formula of what needs to be added to produce an AVERAGE X lbs of milk. You are looking at vitamins and mineral packs that are added to the mixers that mix all the forages together for them to feed a blended and NUTRITIONALLY BALANCED product.

What I am trying to show by example..... is that the dairy animals today have been bred to "way over produce" for their own offspring. For someone wanting to milk them, that is great so you get the milk. As @Baymule said, if you want more milk, they need the nutrients to not only produce the milk, but to also feed their own body so they stay in good flesh, so their reproductive systems get back in a healthy state so they will breed back. Granted a cows longer gestation will make it more critical because she needs to have a calf every year and carries for 9 months, so she only has 3 months to get back into the swing of it and get bred back..... a goat having a shorter gestation, she can have a little more time to put on weight if you are only going to have her kid once a year.

Most GOOD grain rations, that are for lactating animals, have added vitamins and minerals..... they have been balanced to provide the basics so that the animal is not mal-nourished. Quantities will help with the body being able to put some of that feed to just milk and not body maintainance.

Alfalfa is great protein, has many micro minerals due to the root systems that go down much deeper than many of the normal hay crops...... BUT it is something that they can bloat on very easily.... if it is grazed, especially in the spring/lush growth time..... as well as clovers.... It is very stemmy if allowed to grow too long. We don't grow it because we just don't have the time to devote to making it right. 1st cutting of alfalfa is nearly always chopped for haylage here and then later cuttings the stems aren't near as stemmy and make better hay. Less waste.

Grain is a cheaper and easier way to balance a ration if everything else isn't real good. @Mike CHS does a phenomenal job with rotating his pastures and gets exceptional growth on his lambs off his ewes. Most do not and can not do that good. And I do believe that he fees some grain to his lambs early on.
If your pastures are limited, then grain will provide what you cannot because you do not have the space/area to be able to grow sufficient grass/forage to keep it in a vegetative state that is optimal for growth.

It is also a great training tool..... our cows come to a bucket when called and the calves (lambs, kids, pigs etc.) learn right along with them. We are the good guys, they get treats that come in those buckets.....Makes catching/loading even having to get an animal caught that is injured or has a problem,,,, soooooo much easier.
 

CntryBoy777

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It would be the % of protien....there is much more protien in grain than in forage.....dairy goats need extra protien to produce milk and stay healthy....even meat goats need some while nursing young....goats are also sensitive to excessive protien in their diet and it can cause issues too.....such as ya mentioned "bloat"......grain is not a bad thing, but a very necessary thing for most livestock to be healthy and productive....... :)
 

WildersMilkMaid

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If you are diligent, you can do dairy animals without grain. You have to have the forages tested for protein levels and should also have other things figured in. By feeding a specific amount of grain, you can control the amount of protein, and other nutrients more easily than constant testing forages. If you buy hay from Joe, then go buy some from Bill, then get a deal from John, each different hay should be tested. The amounts and kinds of fertilizers they use will change the nutritional value of the hay/forage. How it is made, the quality of the hay, getting cut at optimal nutrition levels, getting made without getting wet, not over mature.....all factor in.
Dairy farmers nearly all have nutritionists that take forage samples of each crop after it is put in the silo, the hay, the corn silage, the wheatledge, the rye haylage..... everything. Then they will come up with a formula of what needs to be added to produce an AVERAGE X lbs of milk. You are looking at vitamins and mineral packs that are added to the mixers that mix all the forages together for them to feed a blended and NUTRITIONALLY BALANCED product.

What I am trying to show by example..... is that the dairy animals today have been bred to "way over produce" for their own offspring. For someone wanting to milk them, that is great so you get the milk. As @Baymule said, if you want more milk, they need the nutrients to not only produce the milk, but to also feed their own body so they stay in good flesh, so their reproductive systems get back in a healthy state so they will breed back. Granted a cows longer gestation will make it more critical because she needs to have a calf every year and carries for 9 months, so she only has 3 months to get back into the swing of it and get bred back..... a goat having a shorter gestation, she can have a little more time to put on weight if you are only going to have her kid once a year.

Most GOOD grain rations, that are for lactating animals, have added vitamins and minerals..... they have been balanced to provide the basics so that the animal is not mal-nourished. Quantities will help with the body being able to put some of that feed to just milk and not body maintainance.

Alfalfa is great protein, has many micro minerals due to the root systems that go down much deeper than many of the normal hay crops...... BUT it is something that they can bloat on very easily.... if it is grazed, especially in the spring/lush growth time..... as well as clovers.... It is very stemmy if allowed to grow too long. We don't grow it because we just don't have the time to devote to making it right. 1st cutting of alfalfa is nearly always chopped for haylage here and then later cuttings the stems aren't near as stemmy and make better hay. Less waste.

Grain is a cheaper and easier way to balance a ration if everything else isn't real good. @Mike CHS does a phenomenal job with rotating his pastures and gets exceptional growth on his lambs off his ewes. Most do not and can not do that good. And I do believe that he fees some grain to his lambs early on.
If your pastures are limited, then grain will provide what you cannot because you do not have the space/area to be able to grow sufficient grass/forage to keep it in a vegetative state that is optimal for growth.

It is also a great training tool..... our cows come to a bucket when called and the calves (lambs, kids, pigs etc.) learn right along with them. We are the good guys, they get treats that come in those buckets.....Makes catching/loading even having to get an animal caught that is injured or has a problem,,,, soooooo much easier.
Thank you. This is definitely the kind of information I was looking for.

If I am understanding you correctly, and don’t let me put words in your mouth, it sounds like it *can* be done, likely on a small scale. Perhaps with alfalfa pellets versus fresh hay or pastures, and a careful eye on hay quality and other supplements?

I’ve been considering experimenting with a grain free herd. We do not feed our animals soy, which makes buying commercial grain almost impossible. We have to source it locally and get a custom blend, which is fine. Recently had someone approach me about feeding “gluten free” for sensitivities and it got me curious. Not sure I’m up for it but the wheels in my head are turning!
 

WildersMilkMaid

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It would be the % of protien....there is much more protien in grain than in forage.....dairy goats need extra protien to produce milk and stay healthy....even meat goats need some while nursing young....goats are also sensitive to excessive protien in their diet and it can cause issues too.....such as ya mentioned "bloat"......grain is not a bad thing, but a very necessary thing for most livestock to be healthy and productive....... :)
Makes sense. I have often thought about the fact that goats in the wild don’t eat grain besides some seed heads in the Fall, and instead stick more to broadleaf grasses and leaves of trees & bushes. Not much grain to be had, yet they produce healthy young. On the other hand, none of us raise wild goats! We have domesticated ones that have been bred to accommodate grain as part of their diet. And wild goats aren’t on demanding milk schedules, of course! Very interesting discussion, thank you.
 

farmerjan

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I am not sure that the gluten in grain is actually translated into the milk but I am not one to say that with authority. It would be something good to look at. There is a grazing magazine(paper) called Stockman Grass Farmer. It is all about growing grass, as pastures/hay you name it. It might be something you want to look at. TSC used to carry it for someone who might want to try it.... they might send a single issue for a price. I am not a goat person.....

I have my "grain" mixtures made custom at a local mill. They use very little "by products" using more all grain type rations. I get the DE put in it, I get the kelp for micronutrients,. Get all our feeds done pretty much custom. We feed a "calf feed: that is a sweet feed 14%, and I get a custom blend of 17% protein pellets and I mix both for the dairy cows that I milk or have calves on the nurse cows. I get the layer mixed custom also because I want the DE in it. 16% layer and they stay fat and sassy and lay good. The meat birds grow good on it without all the leg problems from the higher protein, growing rations that puts the meat on them. The sheep get the same pellets and sweet feed , but again I don't have goats.
 
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