Anyone have GRAIN FREE dairy goats?

D and L Meadows

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I would love to try feeding just chaffahaye and see what happens to the milk production. Since we do DHI we could make a good comparison. but it’s sooo expensive. We use to feed it and the goats loved it! Made the butterfat higher and we also got more multiples. Got our first set of quints that year. Another alternative would be fodder. We used to grow that as well, it it didn’t work out because we had too many mold issues. But that was really nice too.
 

misfitmorgan

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If you have full size diary goats that are high producers, I dont think you could do grain free. Even with grain they are as mentioned skeletons for at least 4-6 weeks and even after then only a slightly filled out skeleton. Our goats are free to roam 12 acres and eat anything they like, they have a hay feeder with 1st cut alfalfa and a round bale of 1st cut grass hay, raspberry bushes, acorns, clover, trefoil, 3 acres of bush popular to browse, grass, rhubarb, apple leaves/trees, loose minerals, etc and when in milk they still need grain.

Also for your animal feed you might as well skip the non-GMO part. Non-GMO is just marketing, just like putting gluten free labels on food that is naturally gluten free like oats, rice, beans, eggs, etc. or cage-free/free range on eggs/meat.

FDA and USDA have no real rules against marking any carton "Cage-free" or "Free Range" with no certification for either as long as you dont add the word eggs into either. E.g. "Cage Free Eggs".

For GMO or Non-GMO plants grown commercially...sorry your getting ripped off most of the time. Plants cross pollinate either by wind or insects, so field A is Non-GMO and Field B is GMO which can be literally planted 6 inches apart. They cross pollinate and what do you think they make? Bingo
Yes that just an easy way to say it but go drive anyplace growing row crops that not much different. Fields are often only separated by a road, farm drive, hedge row, tree line, or ditch. Bees alone will travel 2 miles and cross pollinate.
Add the fact that Field A farmer just has to show his receipt that he planted non-gmo seed, so his product is non-gmo no matter what pollinated it.

Dont get to carried away with the fads or labels on things. Also most of the northern states dont actually use Soy for soy because we can't grow it...still labeled and sold as soy though :lol:

The food industry is crazy.
 

Ridgetop

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If you have high yielding dairy animals, you are going to have to feed some form of grain.

Remember that in the wild a doe will produce her kids and nurse them for about 2-3 months, with her milk production tapering off as the kids switch to solid food and wean themselves. The remainder of the year she is building her body back up for the next round of breeding and gestating a new set of kids. Wild goats are not high yield milkers. Humans have bred dairy animals to produce more milk than normal for longer than normal in dairy animals for our benefit.

When you are milking for your home (or raising calves or other animals on the milk), you want to keep the amount of yield up as high as possible. After all, why feed and milk a dozen goats that are each giving about 8 ounces a day when you can milk one high yielder that is giving a gallon a day? To get that amount of milk you need to feed grain.

Hay, forage, etc. are all roughage feeds. The goat converts them to energy and calories through the action of her 4 chambered stomach and regurgitating her stomach content to chew again (cud) and remove more nutrition from it. They need roughage for a healthy rumen and healthy goat, BUT they cannot produce enough nutrition, calories, thus energy, from roughage alone IF you are milking them for a 10 month lactation.

You need to grain a milker if you want a steady milk supply for any length of time. Farmerjan is exactly on point with her description of necessary nutrition for dairy animals.

Also, like MisfitMorgan so wisely said, those "non GMA" and "gluten free" labels are mostly for fad labeling. Right now everyone is concerned about "Gluten Free". Very few people actually have a real problem with gluten or even know what it is. For a while it was "red meat will kill you", and eating bacon and eggs was a death wish! Now eggs are healthy again, bacon is not a killer when a part of a healthy varied diet, and even coffee is deemed to be healthy for something or other. LOL

Frankly, as a person who used to milk 12-15 high yield standard size dairy goats every day on test for a 10 month lactation each, let me just say this. Dairy animals are already very labor intensive. You want the most milk for the least amount of labor and cost. Instead of worrying about trying to come up with some fancy feed mixture, a standard goat or dairy cow grain mix will do the trick easily when combined with free feed forage or hay.

"Challenge" feeding on the milk stand will get you the best results when comparing cost to yield. Goats only have trouble with grain and bloating when they don't have the need for the extra protein, or gorge themselves on it.

Thus most cases of bloat occur when a buck, wether, dry doe or kid is fed grain. Those animals do not need any grain at all. Dairy goats only need grain when milking. Small amounts of grain can be used to finish off meat goats. Many owners of pet goats feed grain because they think they have to do it, not because it is necessary. In fact, too much grain and not enough roughage is dangerous.

In male animals, the calcium in alfalfa can cause urinary calculi if the phosphorus ratio is off. This can be avoided by the addition of ammonium chloride to their drinking water if they have problems. I have kept goats and sheep for 30 years now and have never had one instance of urinary calculi although the only hay I feed is alfalfa. I do not add ammonium chloride to their water at all. Perhaps I have been lucky, or it may be that the breeds of goats and sheep I raise have a higher tolerance to excess calcium in the feed.
 

WildersMilkMaid

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I have Nigerian Dwarf goats and I usually feed them Timothy grass. I know you can’t feed a castrated males alfalfa due to risk of urinary tract infection. I usually supplement with high milk producing grain when they’re bred and for 2 months after they kid. My girls do produce good quality milk but will usually not milk them until babies start weaning.
Do you feed them a pelleted Timothy or just the hay? And for the grains, is that pellets or whole grains?

I think the Nigerians might do better on less grain since they’re “newer”..... but I don’t know that to be true for sure. Just a hunch based on my goats.
 

misfitmorgan

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Do you feed them a pelleted Timothy or just the hay? And for the grains, is that pellets or whole grains?

I think the Nigerians might do better on less grain since they’re “newer”..... but I don’t know that to be true for sure. Just a hunch based on my goats.
We have fed pellets, powder and whole grains, our goats are not picky on the form.

Be careful trying to do grain-free, goats as with most prey animals will exhibit little to no symptoms anything is wrong until it is to late. If they are already on the borderline for calorie conversion and anything throw them off it can be a disaster. Whether they get pnemonia, a parasite load, cocci, milk fever, etc having them a little over-conditioned is safer. Make sure you have a good parasite management plan in place.

Also if your goal is milk realize your goats will produce far less and dry off quicker without grain usually. Even a "new" breed.
 

WildersMilkMaid

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I have a confession, you guys. I didn’t disclose this before cuz I was a little worried you’d all be angry. But hopefully you’ll forgive me for this :)



Part of my herd is actually GRAIN FREE. Before I decided to start milking my goats, I never fed grain except a few handfuls of oats on very rare occasion. I’ve recently added some new goats who have different diets which I’ll discuss below. As for my grain-free herd members, I have 3 Nigerians Dwarf does with free choice hay (whatever grasses are available locally, currently orchard mix I believe) & minerals, plus they get a ration of alfalfa pellets and sunflower seeds (is that a grain? Hmm...) twice daily, on the stand or in the stall, depending if they’re in milk or not.



They are from okay-but-not-amazing dairy lines, and I have a first freshener who had quads and is giving me 1/2 gallon of the creamiest milk ever. She is my most robust goat. She nursed her mom for 17 months 😳😆A second (2F, Twins then triplets) gives me a little less, but even creamier. I’m thinking about getting the milk tested because it’s out of this world. The third (2F, triplets then twins) had a kid on her for 3 months before I began milking her so she gives me about 5 cups daily.



Until very recently, I never had any health issues with these girls. If you saw another thread of mine, I have had a mastitis issue in my herd and these 3 were affected (plus myself!). The “new” goats were not being milked until after the problem was identified so I haven’t had any more spread. As someone kindly said, we all start somewhere, and I learned a big lesson on sanitation and have cleaned things up in a major way. 2 of my grain free girls, I was able to clear up naturally. The third is working her way through a round of antibiotics.



Now onto my “new” Goats, I have a mini LaMancha (pregnant), a 3*M Nigerian Dwarf, an Oberhasli, and a full size La Mancha. All acquired in the last month or so, all in milk except the mini. I thought I would try grain free with them since my original 3 seem to be thriving on it. Slowly weaned them off the grain over the course of 2 weeks just to see how they did.



My mini LaMancha has fattened up (of course, she’s pregnant!) but has also improved her coat. She was not fed much grain by her previous owner and seems to be adjusting fine.



My new Nigerian Dwarf (3F) is only 1.5 weeks fresh but is producing about 10 cups a day. Body and coat have not changed, both were in great condition. She is not thrilled to get up on the stand, but stays there fine. I suspect that has more to do with her not trusting me yet.



The full La Mancha (2F) seems to be adjusting poorly and I have added back grain slowly over the past few days. She had an increase in production but got skinny (and quick!). Probably as many of you were saying, the bigger producers certainly seem to need more calories than what grasses and legumes can provide.



My biggest surprise so far is my Oberhasli (1F). She was near her “peak” when I bought her according to her former owner. She was only producing about 4 pounds a day, approx. 1/2 gallon. Which is why they were getting rid of her. She was not their best Milker. She also had very flaky skin and was quite thin. She was from a quality herd known for taking good care of their animals but the other goats there were pretty thin as well, and I had assumed this was just the body shape of the breed. I switched her over before I did the others, and what a difference! She has fattened up nicely, not “fat” just healthy looking, and stays that way all day! Her skin flakes have disappeared completely and some missing hair on her head has grown back in (I think it was rubbed off on her feed bowl at the previous home). She looks great, but her production increase has been really impressive. From a “near-peak” of 4 pounds a day, she is now producing close to 8 pounds, just under a gallon a day.



I’m obviously going to keep an eye on them to make sure they maintain healthy form and skin, poop, appetites etc. Not afraid to re-introduce grain as needed, as was the case with the LaMancha (her production has dropped now that she is back on grain, by the way!) as their health is my biggest priority. I’ll be switching their grain ration off of pelleted form, however, as my family does not consume soy or commercially processed foods, and we don’t want our animals to either.



As a homesteader/farmer/milk maid etc it is always a learning experience, and I’m open to experimentation and figuring out what works for our family and our animals. Probably the dietary needs change based on breed, as well as the production and season of life as many of you have pointed out. I’ll be sure to share the progress as it goes along for anyone who cares to read :)
 

WildersMilkMaid

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We have fed pellets, powder and whole grains, our goats are not picky on the form.

Be careful trying to do grain-free, goats as with most prey animals will exhibit little to no symptoms anything is wrong until it is to late. If they are already on the borderline for calorie conversion and anything throw them off it can be a disaster. Whether they get pnemonia, a parasite load, cocci, milk fever, etc having them a little over-conditioned is safer. Make sure you have a good parasite management plan in place.

Also if your goal is milk realize your goats will produce far less and dry off quicker without grain usually. Even a "new" breed.
Definitely interested to see how long they maintain production. Thank you!
 

misfitmorgan

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I would say coat improvement is from the BOSS, a lot of people feed it just for that reason. Alfalfa pellets would be considered "grain" I would say. Most local (ruminant)grain here includes alfalfa pellets in the mix, the sweet feed we use is mostly alfalfa pellets with a tiny bit of cracked corn and molasses.

I wouldnt worry about making people here mad, we have pretty thick skin. If your semi-grain free herd is working for you that's awesome. Keep in mind to, anyone that recently freshened won't be showing their true calorie needs for a couple weeks, then a couple more weeks before it's really noticeable. Least thats how our goats do it, they look good for a few weeks after they kid but then suddenly your looking at them going wait why are you skinny?? :barnie I would think it would take the same amount of time to see the full effects from taking them off a commercial grain.

We never had a problem with our nigerians or minis but we didnt milk them either. i have heard several people say their nigerians get fat on nothing but grass so maybe their needs are different.

I do know some people with just a dairy cow or two feed nothing on the stand but straight alfalfa pellets and have great results. They are also not demanding top production and pushing for more milk though.

We also only give our goats 1 cup of grain a day. I'm not milking them atm though.

Dont forget loose minerals. That will make a huge different in appearance and milk, as well as they need it.
 
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Ridgetop

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It looks like whatever you are feeding you are doing it right. What works for one person might not work for another. Also, depending on what part of the country you are in hay has different nutritional components. Hay in some areas has good minerals and protein content, in other areas different minerals and protein content. That is why feeding differs in different parts of the country.

Also, remember that dairy animals differ completely from meat production animals in body type. You want your meat goats to carry more flesh on them, their rib bones are round, not flat and wide. Dairy animals, particularly the better yielding specimens, are much more angular in appearance, their hip bones and pin bones are more pronounced, their empty udders are soft and pliable like empty sacks. If you are used to a meat animal, you might think they are too skinny. Dairy goats in milk do not carry as much extra flesh on them, especially if they are heavy milkers, but should not be emaciated looking either, A slight cover on the ribs is desirable, along with a glossy coat and bright eye. The expression "She puts it all in the pail" was coined for dairy animals because of their angular, sometimes bony appearance. There is a difference between angularity and starvation of course!

The change in your Oberhasli's appearance and milk yield shows that you are on a good feeding program. You are an able dairywoman as shown by the fact that you judge your animal by appearance, yield, and appetite. An old saying is "The eye of the master fattens the flock". You now your animals and how to adjust to keep them healthy and productive. In ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder said "The eye of the farmer is the best fertilizer". Both mean that you know your flock and land, and by being on top of things will keep everything healthy and productive.

Keep it up - looks like yu are doing everything right!
 
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