Many goat owners like to experiment with what they feed their goats.
Goats are known for eating various things, but in reality, they have tricky digestive systems.
As long as it’s not toxic and plant-based, just about anything is food for domestic goats.
A goat can eat horse feed if it isn’t their regular diet. Eating horse feed only would cause a nutritional deficiency in goats. Most of what goats eat should be dry hay and pasture. Goats should be fed a limited amount of grains so their rumens remain balanced.
Horse feed is made from many grains such as oats, barley, corn, wheat, or rice.
Treating your goats with horse feed is OK; feeding it to them as their regular diet is unhealthy.
To learn more about how to feed your goat, keep reading!
Is Horse Feed Good for Goats?
Goats can eat horse feed but should they?
Horse feed is formulated quite differently from goat feed but is a good snack or treat from time to time.
Goats are herbivores and eat brushy, woody, and weedy plants.
Their complex, four-stomached digestive system as ruminants can handle different kinds of fiber and roughage.
Too much rich food, such as horse grain, can cause a serious condition called ruminal acidosis.
The starchy grain ingredients in horse feed can cause ruminal acidosis or urinary calculi in goats, both of which are painful.
Different horse feeds are made with different proportions of ingredients, but all include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Look to see what the nutrition label says and get the one most closely matching goat feed.
Horse grain is often cheaper than goat grain but does not have the same protein content and other balanced ingredients.
It is not worth the savings in money if you end up with a big vet bill from a sick goat.
What Should Goats Eat?
Good quality forage is the best diet for goats as it is closer to their natural eating habits.
Goats will eat weeds, woody plants, tree bark, and grasses when foraging.
If they have not been foraging as much, introduce lush pasture slowly and supplement with plenty of hay.
Feed your goats dehydrated legume alfalfa hay, clover, or grass hay such as timothy, brome, orchard grass (or a mixture of these) in addition to their foraging.
Legume hay is more expensive but also more nutritious and has a higher protein level, making it a good choice for goats.
The protein in alfalfa makes it possible for a goat to thrive on just alfalfa and pasture without grain.
Some goat keepers feed chaffhaye (made with alfalfa and a smidge of sweet molasses), which ferments in the bag and adds the bacteria bacillus subtillis, making it easily digestible and good for your goat’s rumen.
Chaffhaye also has more nutrients than regular dried hay, making it easier to keep your goat healthy and is a good choice for goats.
Or, feed alfalfa pellets supplemented with a grain blend for goats or grain pellets.
Make sure adequate pasture is available.
Feeding alfalfa pellets alone are not recommended because the goats will not chew them enough to make bicarbonate for their digestion.
Another option, goat chow, is an all-around food for goats with 16% protein and balanced nutrition.
Animals making goat products will have different requirements than dairy and fiber goats.
Meat goats will need higher protein.
Dairy goat feed is specialized for the needs of lactating goats; look for a dairy goat pellet to supplement foraging.
Fiber goats also require more grain and healthy fats, such as black oil sunflower seeds.
Baby goats (kids) need a lot of calcium and energy, so grain with alfalfa is a good feed for them as long as the grain is limited to 3 cups or fewer.
Pregnant goats will require more careful nutrition and more calories and, like all goats, need adequate pasture.
Dietary Supplements For Goats
Goat owners need to provide loose minerals so goats can eat what they need to supplement their regular diet.
Loose minerals should be kept in the goat barn, away from other livestock.
Some good goat supplements besides loose minerals are:
- Baking soda to aid digestion. Goats produce their bicarbonate by chewing their cud, but baking soda helps.
- Beet pulp is high in fiber and beneficial starches.
- Black oil sunflower seeds are high in fiber, have good fat content, and have high protein content.
- Kelp meal is an excellent source of iodine to help regulate metabolism.
- Apple cider vinegar, in small quantities, helps with the absorption of minerals.
Keep treats to about 5% of your goat’s diet.
Further reading: Nutritional value of beet pulp for goats
Other Foods and Snacks
Other food for goats includes:
Fruits such as:
- Pitted Apricots
- Pitted Peaches
Some people feed their goats citrus, and some do not because of the risk to the balance in the rumen.
Check out our complete list of fruits for goats.
Vegetables such as:
- Bell Peppers
Tree barks and leaves are good, such as elm, apple, rose bushes, and lilac.
Edible weeds such as dandelion and lamb’s quarter are other good food for goats.
Whole grains, including barley, wheat, and oats, should be used in moderation.
Healthy goats can have extra snacks and treats, such as sweet feed, weeds, fruits, and veggies, if their regular diet is good quality hay and feed.
Kitchen waste such as banana peels and vegetable skins (except for green potato skins because of the solanine) makes great goat snacks.
Your goats must have clean water daily.
Water flushes out toxins, keeps their digestion running smoothly, and will keep lactating goats’ milk supply strong.
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