Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
Onion Creek Ranch "Chevon, cabrito, goat... No matter what you call it, it is the HEALTHY red meat™
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The belief that goats can live off anything remains widespread,  both by the general public and within in the livestock industry.     It is one of the major reasons why so many people have such a difficult time raising goats successfully.   The belief  that goats can eat everything and survive on anything more accurately applies to  cattle.

A goat must have  high quality hay and forage.   Rumen passage rates directly affect what the goat   can digest to obtain nutrition. Goats, like the deer with which I often  compare them,  have very fast rumen passage rates, which great affects what goats can and cannot eat.  Cattle have extremely slow rumen passage rates that allow  them to eat and digest coarse and dormant plant materials.

The goat rumen passage rate is about 11 hours. Cattle take  up to three (3)  days to digest their food.   Because of their fast rumen passage rate,  goats have less time to break down complex compounds. They need to consume plants that can be processed  more rapidly by  rumen micro-organisms.

Goat raisers tend to focus on percentage of protein, but energy  and especially fiber  are important.   Goats instinctively know  to focus on  the fiber content of forages that they select to eat. The  more easily digestible plants require less energy from the micro-organisms to break down the complex compounds, leaving more energy for the goat  to use for its body's requirements for maintenance and growth.

Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF) is a measurement used in analyzing forages. The ADF number represents an estimation of the digestibility  of plant materials. Goat raisers are primarily concerned with Acid Detergent Fiber's measurement of an indigestible fiber called lignin. Lignin is the material that gives plants the structural ability to stand upright to receive sunlight for growth. We refer to these plants and grasses as stemmy and coarse. Taller and older plants are less digestible and are lower in energy. This is why you should mow your pastures to a height that will stimulate new growth. An additional benefit of a low Acid Detergent Fiber measurement is that the plant material is usually higher in energy  (calories).   Tall mature pastures are not  quality forage for goats.

A high ADF measurement means that the plant material has a lot of indigestible material in it. For goats, an Acid Detergent Fiber measurement of 39 or higher is too high for them to digest. Because of the goat's fast rumen passage rate, there isn't enough time to process nutrients from coarse, fibrous, and  dormant plant materials.  Because cattle  take much longer to pass plant materials, their rumens have extra time  to break down the complex plant compounds into useable nutrition.

Another nutritional measurement that is critical to goats is NON-FIBROUS CARBOHYDRATES (NFC).     A high Non-Fibrous Carbohydrate  value means that the plant materials have good levels of starch, simple sugars, and soluble fiber. High NFC numbers also indicate that the plants have higher amounts of cell contents which are more readily digestible than the fibrous cell walls, plus they also provide many vital nutrients and energy (calories).

Hay testing is critical and  inexpensive. I use Dairy One Forage Lab in New York. Call 1-800-344-2697 and request their kit that includes a quart ziplock bag for hay sample and a pre-paid mailer. Follow the instructions and put in your outgoing mail.  Current total  cost of "Package 325 testing" is $23.00 (August 2020).   If you are testing native or improved pastures (which by definition have multiple species of plants), then call and ask if a different test is more appropriate to provide the information you need. Turnaround is about one week. They will even call you with the results. You can't beat the service or the price.

My thanks to Kent Mills, goat nutritionist, Hi Pro Feeds, Texas, for his assistance with and review of this article for accuracy. Kent has been my goat nutritionist for over  20 years and teaches Goat Nutrition   at GoatCamp™ every year.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas        8.1.20

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All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

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