Goats are ruminants that have a unique digestive system that contains four-chambered stomachs. Their digestive system is similar to sheep and other livestock, deer, bison, and giraffes. When it comes to caring for goats, providing them with the right diet is crucial.
While goats are known for their ability to graze on pasture, they also need hay to supplement their nutritional needs. Goats cannot always live on grass alone, even if this happens in some months of the year due to lack of hay.
However, goats need to browse on a variety of feeds to get more nutrients to maintain a healthy body weight and to produce a large amount of milk. Therefore they need hay in reasonable amounts with their feeding system.
Choosing the right food for goats may not be easy for some, as many questions related to feeding goats have already been frequently asked by many, such as: do goats need hay year round, do goats need hay every day? Can goats live on hay alone?
Let’s explore more about the importance of hay for goats and answer the most important questions related to this topic.
Do Goats Need Hay?
Yes, goats need hay. It is one of the basic nutrients for them. Goats are herbivores that depend mainly on fodder such as grass and hay, to meet their nutritional needs.
Hay contains many of the nutrients that goats need to grow and thrive. Therefore, it is important to provide high-quality hay that is free of mold or dust. In addition, freshwater should always be available to ensure that the goats stay hydrated.
The Importance of Hay For Goats
Here is why you should add Hay to your goats diet:
1. Aids Digestion
Goats have a unique four-chambered digestive system that requires an adequate amount of fiber to function properly. Coarse hay helps complete food digestion properly.
2. Source of Nutrients
Some may think that straw is a rich source of fiber only, but this is not true. Straw is not only rich in fiber. It also contains the essential nutrients for goats such as carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Goats need these nutrients to be healthy as they support strong bones and a healthy immune system.
3. Increased Water Intake
When a goat eats hay it increases the goat’s water intake, promoting proper hydration and preventing urinary tract infections.
4. Control Feed Consumption
Hay fills the rumen and takes time to digest, which helps keep goats full for longer and helps prevent overeating.
5. Prevent Boredom
Goats are curious and curious animals that need constant mental stimulation and often sit still, but are always on the lookout.
Hay can be used as fodder, allowing the goats to forage for food and spend their time productively and engagingly. Chewing hay can keep them busy for a while, reduce destructive behaviors, and boost mental stimulation.
How Much Hay Do Goats Need a Day?
Adult goats usually need about 2 to 4 pounds of high-quality hay per day. Pregnant or lactating goats may consume a larger amount of hay, needing up to 5 pounds. Many types of hay can be fed to goats. Let’s explore the different types of hay that are suitable for goats.
Different Types of Hay Are Suitable for Goats
There are the 5 main types of Hay that are suitable for goats:
This popular cucumber is high in protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients. It provides goats with needed energy and helps produce milk for lactation.
2. Grass Straw
Timothy grass, Bermuda grass, and orchard grass are commonly used as lawn mowing choices.
3. Weed Straw
It contains less protein than alfalfa but still provides the roughage needed for proper digestion.
4. Alfalfa Hay
Alfalfa is a nutrient-dense option that goats often enjoy. It has a high percentage of protein, which makes it a good choice for growing children or animals that need higher energy.
5. Mixed Hay
Mixed hay combines different grasses or legumes to provide a balanced nutritional profile for goats.
Some Tips for Feeding Goats with Hay
When it comes to keeping goats healthy fed, hay plays a vital role in their diet. However, there must be appropriate practices in place to ensure that the goats get the most benefit from the hay and do not get any harm from it.
1. The Right Amount of Hay
Goats must have continuous access to high-quality hay. On average, adult goats should consume about 2 to 4 pounds of hay per day, while pregnant or lactating goats may require up to 5 pounds.
2. High-Quality Hay
It is essential to provide goats with fresh, dust-free hay. Avoid moldy or wet hay, as it can cause respiratory problems and digestive problems.
Variety: Offering different types of hay, such as alfalfa, alfalfa, or grass hay, can provide a variety of nutrients and meet goats’ specific nutritional needs. Proper storage of hay is essential to maintain its quality. Store it in a dry place where it is protected from moisture and pests.
Use hay feeders or racks to prevent waste and keep hay clean. Avoid feeding directly on the ground, as this can lead to contamination.
4. Supplementing the Diet with Other Nutrients
Hay should supplement a balanced diet consisting of pasture grazing, fresh water, and appropriate goat forage.
5. Not Making Drastic Changes to the Goat’s Diet
Take it as a general rule not to make a drastic change in the type of hay or any of the goat feeds at once. But you have to get in the new hay slowly and watch how much they fluctuate on it to avoid major digestive upset for them, so change their diet slowly.
By following these best practices, you can ensure that your goats receive a nutritious and sufficient amount of hay to support their overall health and well-being. To reach the best results, you can consult your veterinarian about the types and quantities that your herd needs.
Consulting a veterinarian or an experienced goat farmer can provide more detailed guidance based on your goats’ specific needs.
Do Goats Need Hay in the Summer?
No, goats often do not need hay in the summer. It is better if it is available, but if it is not available, goats can achieve good results without it. Goats are browsers that can feed on a wide variety of food.
They can feed on hay and grass as well as other plant materials throughout the year. In the summer goats resort to eating grass and other various plants available during the summer instead of hay.
Do Goats Need Hay if They have Grass?
No, goats may not need hay if they have grass. They can be content with grass as long as it is sufficient for their needs. Although hay is an important food item for goats, it may not be available during all months of the year.
Hay is usually plentiful during the spring, as farmers tend to produce more of it during this period. But it may be scarce at other times. Even if the farmer provides some hay, its quantity is not sufficient for large herds or groups of goats, especially that they eat a lot throughout the day.
You can supplement their diet with green plants and shrubs where it is possible to rely on any type of available grass that the goats can feed on, such as fern or any other available green plant.
In summary, do goats need hay year round, do goats need hay every day? Can goats live on hay alone?
We found out that goats need hay daily by 2 to 4 pounds per day, and the amount may increase in cases of lactating and milking goats to 5 pounds. This is because hay is a major food ingredient for goats because of its benefits which we mentioned above in detail.
However, goats cannot depend on hay only, but rather they need a varied diet to get all their nutritional needs from grass and grains to thrive and be healthy. We explained that hay may not be available during some months and that during this period the goats can rely more on grass and grains until hay becomes available.
Should I leave Hay Out for Goats?
You should give the goats enough hay according to your nutritional plan for them. If you put hay twice a day for them, you should put enough for them in the morning until you come back again in the evening.
It is better if they can eat enough hay as much as possible so that they do not go hungry while you are away. But, on the other hand, do not put large quantities so that the goats do not waste them and have to add something new.
Do Goats Need Hay at Night?
Yes, Goats need hay at night as they don’t have access to any grass or plants. So the hay is the source of food that satisfies its hunger if they feel hungry during the night, especially on the long cold winter nights, when the weather is cold, the rumen acts as an oven that helps the goats obtain energy and heat.
Do Goats Need Hay in the Winter?
Yes, goats need hay in the winter, but rather they need it in more quantities than in other seasons. During the winter months, goats consume more hay because they cannot reach pastures most of the time during the cold months.
Goats also need more energy, which they expend trying to keep warm and which they get from eating hay.
Do Goats Need Hay When on Pasture?
Yes, goats need hay when on pasture to get a balanced diet. Although the pasture and grass provide the goats with useful nutrients, they still need hay to enjoy a healthy stomach and a healthy digestive system.
The fiber in the hay helps in improving the digestion process, and the hay contains a high percentage of other beneficial nutrients that are beneficial to the general health of the goats.