Dairy goats should be fed similarly to dairy cattle (see Nutrition: Goats and see Nutrition: Cattle: Nutritional Requirements of Dairy Cattle). A good-quality hay, preferably alfalfa, should be the basis of the ration, and a 14–16% protein concentrate should be fed as a supplement during lactation. Silage is not a common dietary constituent because most goats are kept in small groups, which does not justify the equipment. A common problem is overfeeding grain to does in late lactation. Goats store fat preferentially in the abdominal cavity, and by the time fat is grossly obvious, the internal deposits are substantial; this can lead to problems at parturition and to pregnancy toxemia.
Loose trace mineral salt (TMS) should be fed rather than block salt; its composition varies with the area of the country (eg, iodine and selenium supplements are necessary in some regions of the USA). Goats are highly susceptible to copper deficiency and, unlike sheep, fairly resistant to copper toxicity. Therefore, cattle TMS, rather than sheep salt with no copper, should be offered. Goats raised for fiber may require supplementation of sulfur for proper fiber production.
Pet wethers fed on substantial amounts of grain are prone to develop urinary calculi. Reducing grain consumption, adding ammonium chloride to the diet, keeping the calcium:phosphorus ratio ~2:1, and keeping the magnesium level low helps. Perineal urethrostomy can be used as a salvage operation for commercial goats with urolithiasis but is not recommended for pet goats because recurrences of obstruction and urethral scarring necessitate euthanasia for many. The surgical interventions of choice for pet goats are surgical tube cystotomy or bladder marsupialization. To encourage water consumption, clean, loose TMS should be fed and clean, fresh water available ad lib. To increase water consumption, especially for high-yielding does, their water should be fresh and warm in winter, and fresh and cool in summer.
Last full review/revision July 2011 by David M. Sherman, DVM, MS, DACVIM