How Do You Decide How Much Supplementation To Give Your Goats?


My column last month about supplementing growing kids with a 37% range cube generated a large number of inquiries.

Most producers who responded wanted to know who made the range cubes I referred to and where they could obtain them. The product I use is made and sold locally by Palmer Feed and Supply ( 915-653-6765). It uses all natural protein sources (no urea or other forms of nonprotein nitrogen which are toxic to goats), and comes in 1/2" and 3/4" diameter pellets. The 1/2" pellets are roughly 1.5" long. You do not want to use the 3/4" size with goats, because they are much too large for the goats to easily and safely consume. You will probably have to locate a feed mill in your area that can produce this product for you.

The cubes also come in 30% and 20% protein versions which can be useful in situations where such a "hot" supplement is neither necessary or desirable, such as, supplementing dry, open does or pregnant does early in pregnancy on poor pasture.

Keep in mind that unless they are lactating most mature commercial type does only require about .25 lbs per day of protein to maintain their body condition. They may have more eye appeal, but over conditioned does are not a good thing, so don't waste your money on a supplemental feeding program unless the protein content of the forage your mature does that are not lactating have access to is under 4%. Even then be careful that you don't over supplement them. If your does have access to grass that is 2% protein, they will only require about 1/2 lb of 20% supplement per head per day to maintain their condition.

Over supplementing pregnant does can cause major problems. During the first part of pregnancy the growing kids require the doe to take in little extra nutrition, so over supplementing at this time will cause the doe to become fat. Fat does are at increased risk for ketosis and other pregnancy related problems.

Over supplementing late in pregnancy will cause the kids to grow too large, and the doe may have problems delivering. As a starting point figure that the average commercial doe during late pregnancy requires about .4 lbs of protein per day, but use the average birth weights of your twin kids to decide if you are providing the does with proper nutrition during late pregnancy.

Our twin kids usually average between 7.5 to 8 lbs at birth, and it is rare for a doe to have problems delivering a kid of that size. If your kids are significantly larger than that, you may want to cut back on the amount of feed or supplement you are providing during late pregnancy. If your kids are significantly smaller than that, than you may want to consider increasing the amount of feed or supplement you give your does during late pregnancy.

Lactating does have a dramatically increased need for protein. Your commercial does that could get by on .25 lbs per day of protein when they were dry will require almost three times that much protein to maintain their body condition and produce enough good quality milk for two growing kids.

If your pasture is 11% or more protein, you probably do not need to supplement your does. Remember though, that is 11% or more protein growing in your pasture complete with all the moisture growing plants contain, not 11% or more protein as a percentage of the dry matter. If your forage is 50% dry matter, then it needs to be at least 22% protein as a percentage of the dry matter for your lactating does to get adequate protein from it growing in the pasture.

If your weaning (90 day) weights are low across the board (under 60 lbs average for buck kids raised as twins), and your does are in really poor condition by the time they wean their kids, you should probably consider supplementing your does during lactation. If you are trying to raise three kid crops in two years you should definitely plan on supplementing during lactation, or your does may not breed back immediately after weaning.

If your weaning weights are low across the board, but your does produce plenty of milk and are in good condition when they wean their kids, you need to invest in bucks from fast growing bloodlines. Buck kids from the best bloodlines will average over .7 lbs/day of gain (average weaning weight of over 70 lbs) if provided with a diet that allows them to attain their potential. Buck kids from average sires will average about .57 lbs/day of gain (average weaning weight of 60 lbs) with proper nutrition, and buck kids from the worst sires may average only .35 lbs/day of gain (average weaning weight of 40 lbs) on that same diet.

A top end buck from proven, fast growing bloodlines (not show goat bloodlines) used on 35 does with good mothering ability and adequate nutrition will result in 1,000 to 1,500 lbs of additional kids every kidding season for the producer versus a poor quality buck. The top end buck may cost $350.00 to $600.00 more than the poor quality buck, but the first kidding season (and every kidding season after that) he will produce $1,000.00 to $1,500.00 of additional profit for the producer. Which buck is the better buy?

Finally, is it cost effective to supplement your goats in this manner? This is a difficult question to answer because there are so many variables including; rate of gain, feed efficiency, sale price per lb for the kids, cost of the feed, etc. For instance, if you can obtain $1.00 per lb for an 80 lb kid, and that same kid will bring only $.80 per lb when he weighs 100 lbs, then obviously it would not be cost effective to supplement the kid's growth from 80 lbs to 100 lbs since you will not obtain anymore for him at the larger size (you will get $80.00 for the kid at 80 lbs or at 100 lbs).

If you could still get $1.00 per lb for him at the larger size, however, then you would need to figure out whether you could supplement his growth to that size for less than $20.00. Feed efficiency for goats that size suggest that it will take less than 3 lbs of 37% supplement for every pound of gain. If the supplement costs $.11 per lb, then each additional pound of gain will cost you $.33 or less and your total cost for the extra 20 lbs is $6.60 at most. Therefore, it would be cost effective to supplement the kid in this case.

As always you need to run the numbers for your own situation to see if supplementing will be cost effective, but my experience with it has been very positive.

Herd Sires

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This page updated 10/13/02