Known for the distinctive beards on their chins, domesticated goats are some of the most important farm animals in many parts of the world, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. They were domesticated about 10,000 years ago in the Euphrates Valley due to their hardiness and multiple uses.
It’s a cliché today that goats will eat whatever is lying near them, but it’s not that far from the truth.
Goats can survive
on tiny amounts of vegetation, and are thus often raised on land that isn’t fertile enough to support cattle or sheep. They are also more efficient with using water, so they are better suited for dry climates than cows.
Like cows, goats are considered ruminants, which are animals with multiple compartments in their stomach that help them digest rough plants like grasses and hay. Domesticated goats can eat fresh or dried grass, tree foliage, shrubs, bushes and various other plants. They are also adapted to many different habitats like the savanna, desert, scrub and mountain ranges.
Goats also offer humans many different products to make their lives easier. Goats are raised around the world for milk, cheese, wool, meat and leather. Because goat milk is easier to digest than cow’s milk, it can be better for infants and for the ill.
Dairy goats are the breeds of goats that are mainly used to produce milk. Some common breeds of dairy goats in the United States are Alpine, La Mancha, Saanen and Nubian. Goats are ruminants. A ruminant is an animal with four stomach compartments: a reticulum, omasum, abomasum, and rumen. Goats are fed differently depending on their age and stage in their life. The stage of their life when they produce milk is the production stage. Dairy goats must be fed appropriately to get wholesome milk.
Dairy goats need to eat about five percent of their body weight every day. Dairy goats put much of their energy into milk production, so their diets must be high in energy. This energy is provided through the concentrate and hay. The concentrate is the feedstuff that is usually cereal-based. It is high in energy, protein and digestibility. Minerals are also a very important part of the diet. Calcium, phosphorous and sodium are the main minerals needed. These are added into the concentrate portion of the goat diet. The concentrate is mainly the grain that is fed to the goats daily. The grain includes protein, fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Goats are fed roughages. Roughages are feedstuffs that are high in fiber and low in digestible energy. Along with the grain, goats should be fed hay. This is given once to twice a day depending on their living situation. Goats usually like weedy hay.
Goats are also “browsers” and “grazers.” They should be provided a pasture to browse and graze through. A diverse pasture with grasses, herbs, trees, and weeds is a good choice. This way the goat will get a variety of vitamins and minerals from the different plants.
One of the most important nutrients in a goat’s diet is water. Water should be provided all of the time. Milking goats will drink a lot of water because it is used in the milk production process.
Through the Jr. Animal Scientist magazine and special online resources, kids can learn about pets, farm animals and zoo animals. Scientific information is tailored for kids ages 5 to 9 (K-3rd grades). Eye-catching photos and exciting animal activities add to the fun! Plus, all Jr. Animal Scientists get special prizes just for joining.