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Understanding the Eating Habits of Goats

Shruti Bhat
Goats are reared for their milk, meat, and coat. Therefore, a good product requires a good goat, which obviously requires good feed to produce these products. So, what do goats eat?

Goats Discovered Coffee?!

Story has it that in Ethiopia, a goat herd observed goats behaving more active and energetic than usual after eating a particular type of bush. He took the hint and tried it on himself after which he got his first caffeine high, thus discovering the mystical powers of coffee.
Contrary to popular belief that goats eat anything and everything in their path, they are picky eaters. They despise wet and unclean fodder, especially if it has a foul odor to it. They also require clean water to drink every day. Old or stale water is just not acceptable.
A goat's nutrition depends on the purpose of their breeding, whether they are bred for their milk, meat, or hair/hide. It also varies if the doe is pregnant or if it is a kid. Quality goats require quality feed that will ensure quality products out of these goats.
The next sections will brief goat owners on what do these ruminants eat, what to feed them to gain weight, how often to feed, and a gist of the dietary needs and eating habits.

Eating Habits of Goats

Goats require diversity in their diet. If you observe their eating, you will notice that they will eat a plant's leaves and flowers but not the stem and/or roots.
Goats often choose the right plants to nibble on; however, if you have kept them as pets or if you are herding them, you would like to keep them away from Lily of the Valley, yew trees, cabbages, castor beans, wilted leaves of wild cherries and avocado leaves.
You may also want to keep them away from foxglove, black walnut, holly tree/bushes, lilacs, mountain laurel, nightshades, oleander, rhubarb leaves, azalea, red maples, rhododendron, silage or green corn, forage that is cut and fermented, hydrangea, etc., which can be quite toxic.
Apart from poisoning, it is safer to keep an eye on what they eat as the milk of doe, who has eaten plant toxins, can cause the milk to be contaminated with the same toxins. Plants such as buttercup, mustard, chamomile, cow parsley, onion, garlic, bitterweed can taint the milk.
You can provide your goats with legume hay such as alfalfa, lespedeza, clover along with ryegrass, timothy, bluegrass, orchard grass, etc. Do keep in mind that the hay should be chemical-free.

Classification of a Goat's Feed

A goat requires a balanced diet containing adequate minerals, vitamins, fats, proteins, and of course, clean water to drink. Even though they drink less water, it is necessary to provide them with ample clean and fresh water to drink.

Grainy Feed

Feed mixes or grainy feed are easy on their stomach and provide the goats with their daily dose of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. This is provided to them through agricultural byproducts, grams, corn, mustard cakes, molasses, pea, pulses, rice, sesame cakes, oats, barley, wheat, etc.

Feed Additives

Natural foods lack certain essential types of nutrients. You need to mix different vitamins and minerals in their grainy feed. This will improve the quality of their products like milk, meat and coat. But, this can't be substituted for their daily roughage and grainy feed. This type of food will increase their taste of food and improve the digestive system.


Goats can consume 3 - 5% of their body weight in dry matter. However, consuming this type of food is quite difficult. Their daily quota of roughage contains around 18% of fiber and less than 60% of digestible nutrients, which contain 70 - 95% water. They get this from grasses, guava leaves, jackfruit leaves, corn, mango leaves, pulses, etc.

Dietary Needs

Each stage of a goat's life requires different food requirements in processes to aid it. A particular diet will help a pregnant goat, but will not help a dairy goat, meat goat, or a kid.
For instance, a meat goat requires 2.5 - 3% of their body weight in dry material, whereas a milk goat requires 4 - 8% of dry material, 300 grams of energy, and 70 grams of crude protein to provide 1 liter of milk.
A kid requires 3 grams (per kg of body weight) of energy to grow and 7 - 8 grams per kg of body weight for daily survival. Goats require little water in comparison to their food. One that weighs around 18 - 20 kg will require around a liter of water every day. Following is an estimate of what a goat's diet should ideally consist of.


As a growing body, a kid requires around 20% of grams, 22% of corn, 2.5% of minerals, 35% of nuts or sesame cake, 0.5% of salt, and 20% of wheat powder for it to grow healthy.

Pregnant Goat

Like any pregnancy, a goat's body requires some extra nutrients to support both the bodies. Thus, a pregnant doe will require around 50% of grams, 20% of corn, 2.5% of minerals, 20% of nuts or sesame cake, 0.5% of salt, and 7% of wheat powder.

Dairy Goat

It takes a good amount of nutritious feed to produce good-quality milk. A healthy goat provides with healthy milk; thus, she requires 15% of grams, 37% of corn, 2.5% of minerals, 25% of nuts or sesame cake, 0.5% of salt, and 20% of wheat powder.

Meat Goat

A goat's meat has less fat content, and it is thus easier to digest. Goats that are bred specially for its meat require 20% of grams, 23% of corn, 2.5% of minerals, 30% of nuts or sesame cake, 0.5% of salt, and 20% of wheat powder.

A Few Points to Remember

► Goats need to be fed at least 3 times a day.
► Place some feed on a rack or hang it somewhere for them to nibble on at night.
► If you are feeding molasses to your goats, it is advisable not to add a lot of molasses to the feed as it will get sticky very quickly and ultimately go to waste as they are finicky eaters.
► Provide the goats with mineral lick, to provide them with extra nutrition.
You also need to know that a goat's diet intake varies from breed to breed. Larger breeds will require higher intake. Therefore, it is advisable that you consult a veterinary doctor for their ideal feed requirement.