Do Goats Need Grain? Your Goat Grain Questions Answered!

do goats need grain

Do goats need grain? This is a question that is hotly debated among goat owners and goat farmers. If you have ever had goats, you know that your life will never be the same again. Whether you use them for meat, milk, or take advantage of their natural inclination to cut down weeds, these hilarious ruminants are always finding new ways to get into trouble while still making you laugh at their antics. They can make a meal out of almost anything, including your prize rose bush or whatever is currently in season in your garden. Since goats seem to be able to find food on their own with no help from us, do they really need to be fed supplemental grain? If so, what do you need to know about feeding goats grain on a regular basis?

Do goats need grain?

Ancestors of the goats we have today would have spent their days making delicious meals out of rough plant matter like blackberry brambles, tree leaves, and weeds. They ate this way because they needed to consume heaps of this roughage in order to get enough energy to be healthy and grow properly. Their digestive system actually went through an evolution that made it require these high levels of bulk fiber.

When it comes to feeding goats, grain is a relatively recent addition to their diet. It can be used to keep the weight on a doe who is producing oodles of milk, but it can also be hard on their stomachs. Since they are not particularly adapted to eating grain, this supplemental feeding can do more harm than good. As an example, if you switch your dog from his regular food to a premium fancy diet, you will be their best friend for life. But with goats, having more grain can actually make them sick.

Now you are probably wondering why you would bother to feed them any grain at all, right? Right or wrong, people want to get the most production out of their livestock that they can. For example, dairy goats have now been bred to produce greater quantities of milk than what a goat in the wild would generate. In order for a goat to produce milk, they need plenty of extra protein and energy. If you had a goat that only grazed on your pastureland, but you milked it hard, your poor goat would become extremely skinny and look ill. It can be simply put like this – grain will help does put back on weight that they have lost, but it possibly may not be the best thing for her in the long run. This is also a good time to point out that supplements do not replace their food.

You can easily find alternatives to grain that will still provide your does with the concentrated nutrition that they need if you choose to do so. Rutabagas, beets, parsnips, and carrots that you have prepared to store for the winter can give goats a wonderful little boost over the winter. However, even with other options available, at certain times, most people do end up giving their goats at least a small amount of grain.

There is also plenty of controversy when it comes to the question of when the does actually need extra nutrition. Is it when they are pregnant, or is it when they are milking heavily? If you do some research into the subject, you will find that most answers to this question tend to focus on pregnant does. However, a doe should be healthy before they get pregnant to give the kid(s) in their womb a good start on growing. If you are feeding her grain while she is pregnant, your doe will gain weight but so will the unborn kid(s). Where this becomes a problem is when complications arise during the birth because they have grown too large to easily pass through the birth canal.

If your goats get the chance to forage and you are also feeding hay, you may decide not to feed your goats any grain at all. Or you may add in little portions of grain during the colder weather when they are unable to forage. This extra protein will help them to stay toasty warm if they are not acclimated to the outdoor conditions. Some people let their goats out all year long, and then there are some who only let them out to pasture during the mild weather.

How much grain should I feed my goat per day?

Adults and kids do not get the same amount of goat grain. An adult should not get more than 1.5 pounds of grain per day and a kid should get about half that amount. You can give it to them all at the same time, or you can break it down into two servings.

The exception to that could be bucks that are in rut or does that are milking heavily. Kids should still never eat more than half a pound of grain each day.

If you are concerned about your goats having too much grain in a single day because of build up of feedings, removing any grain that has not been eaten after 30 minutes will ensure you keep control.

When feeding time rolls around on the homestead, it is critical that you know how much to feed your goats, how often they should be fed, what they should be eating, and what the proper equipment for feeding is. They can have free access to hay and never have any issues, but grain is another story. Goats should never be given free access to eat all the grain they can handle. It can kill them.

What feeding equipment do I need?

Thankfully, the equipment that you need to feed your goats won’t send you to the poorhouse. There are a few essentials that you will need, however.

Feed storage containers

It is important for you to store your grain where it is safe from both moisture and rodents looking for an easy meal. You also want to ensure that your goats are unable to access it freely.

Water buckets

Whether you use plastic pails or a stainless-steel tub is a personal choice. Your only real considerations should be that it is easily accessible to the goats and that it is not too big for you to clean and disinfect easily.

Feed buckets

Buckets that you can carry feed in are handy, especially if you are out in the enclosure spreading feed, or if you are hand feeding one of your goats. You can also let your goats use the buckets as their food bowls. Just remember to clean them out after each use.

Feed bowls

Black rubber feed bowls are a staple around most homesteads. They can be purchased at any farm supply store and are easy to move around and simple to clean. They can be used as food and water bowls for all types of homestead animals and birds, including chickens, ducks, and turkeys. Goats also tend to waste grain when it is not in a bowl that is easily accessible to them. Once it falls onto the ground, goats just refuse to touch it.

A hay manger

You can easily make a hay manager yourself if you have some wood lying around. Make sure not to use treated or painted wood. Or you can purchase one from your local farm supply store, of course. There are tons of different types of hay feeders available for sale. Expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $500. You can also make one using fence wire if you are feeling crafty.

When you are feeding hay, the recommended ratio is 2 to 4 pounds per goat every day. Make sure that your feeder will hold the amount of hay you will need to put it. If you happen to be feeding Chaffhaye, a premium non-GMO alfalfa hay, the proper amount per goat is 2 pounds for every 100 pounds of body weight. As a point of interest, you do need some type of feeder to put your hay in. Goats will eat almost anything, but they will not forage through food that has been trampled on. You will also see less waste if you are using a feeder.

Mineral feeder

Just like humans, goats require a certain amount of vitamins and minerals to be optimally healthy. A mineral feeder is usually in a square shape and fits a mineral block nicely. Just keep it out of the rain and it will last for quite some time. You can also make your own if you care to. There are many recipes for goat mineral feeders. The other form that you can get minerals in is either liquid or powder. These are convenient because you can simply add them to food or water for goats who are more finicky.

What is the best grain to feed goats?

Everyone has their own opinion when it comes to what the best grain to feed goats is. To break it down simply, there are four different types of grains that you can choose from. Your options are whole, rolled, texturized, and pelleted grains.

  • Whole grains: This type of grains are the regular, unprocessed type. There are no additives at all.
  • Rolled grains: The only difference between rolled grains and whole grains is that they have been rolled. For example, you could choose to feed rolled oats. Many goats absolutely loved rolled oats.
  • Texturized grains: These are basically the same thing as rolled grains. The only difference is that they have added ingredients for extra nutrition. Sweet feed is an example of texturized grain.
  • Pelleted grains: There is great debate among goat owners over whether you should feed pelleted grains. What most people do not like is the fact that they are comprised of grain byproducts or milled grains. These are held together with a binding agent of some type. You can also get medicated pelleted grains. If you want to be 100% sure of what you are feeding your goats, maybe avoid pelleted grains.

Is Purina goat feed worth buying?

Purina is a popular animal feed brand and they have several different formulations for their goat feed. You can buy feed specifically made for meat goats, for show goats, and a general feed for all goats, just to name a few. None of these are expensive, but are they really necessary? Or are they even worth the price you will pay?

Some goat owners will give you an emphatic yes, while others will turn up their nose at the very thought. This is where you should consider Coccidiosis, an intestinal parasitic disease caused by the Coccidia parasite. It can quickly be fatal to young kids and can even kill adult goats. This disease is highly contagious and is much better prevented then left to be treated. Purina does provide a pelleted formula that has a small amount of coccidiostat added to prevent Coccidiosis.

If you have ever had a goat gone through bouts of Coccidiosis, you likely will prefer to do everything you can to make sure they do not get it again. Infections during the winter are especially bad, when the goats are usually at their least healthy simply because they do not spend time outside on the pasture like they do in the warmer weather.

What are the best goat grain feeders?

This again will come down to personal preference. Some people prefer to use buckets or dishes, while others don’t care about the waste and will simply put it on the ground. However, if you are feeding your goats strictly on the ground, you are only asking for your entire herd to get worms. Goat feed absolutely must be kept clean at all times.

So, when it comes to goat feeders, there are several that you can choose from. There are hanging feeders, creep feeders, and feed mangers. There is no best one that will fit every situation. If you are planning on purchasing one instead of practicing some DIY, Tractor Supply is a great resource for you to check out. You can also check your local farm supply store to see what they have available. There is also the option of checking out local classifieds. Farmers are constantly looking to get rid of items that you can repurpose into goat grain feeders.

Making a DIY goat grain feeder

Source: Pinterest

There is no need to spend the money on premade grain feeders for goats when you can make your own from things you likely already have lying around the homestead. They also do not have to be fancy. All you require for a goat grain feeder is something simple they can stick their head in. Easy right?

For the materials that you will need to build your grain feeders, the following should be on your shopping list:

  • Wire
  • Cinder blocks (if using)
  • A marker
  • A tape measure
  • A utility knife
  • A bunch of 5-gallon plastic buckets (with the lids)

1: Getting supplies

Once you have gathered all your supplies together, it will only take a few minutes to make each feeder. Start by measuring and marking where the opening of the feeder is going to be. You want your opening to start about 3 inches from the bottom of the bucket and to be about 8 inches high. When it comes to width, you are going to have your feeder opening taking up the entire front side of the bucket.

2: Cutting an opening

Use the utility knife to cut out the area that you have marked.

3: Fastening the feeder

Put two small holes in the back side of the bucket. Run the wire through the holes and securely attach them to the fence (or whatever apparatus that you are using). Just make sure that it is not too high for your goats to reach.

4: Providing access blocks

Underneath each feeder you will lay down a cinder block. This is what your goats will step on to gain access to the feeder. If you choose to not use cinder blocks, you will need to adjust the height at which you attach the feeders.

5: Adding grain

Very simply, add grain to your feeders and watch your goats go crazy!

The good thing about using this type of feeder is that they are easy to clean, and this should be done on a regular basis. All you need to do is unsecure the wire, wash out the feeders, and hang them up again to dry. If you have grain in the feeders that has gotten wet, remove it right away and replace it with fresh grain. Grain molds quickly and this is something you never want your goats to eat.

Do goats eat grain on your homestead?

So, is grain something that you want to feed your goats? Do goats need grain? It really depends on your personal situation and what you are comfortable with. There are many options for foods and supplements that you can add to their hay that will give the same benefits as what you would get from grain. When it comes down to it, they are your goats and you need to do what you feel is best for your herd!


Alice is a writer who grew up on a beautiful homestead in rural Old England. She now lives in New England with her fur babies and is on a mission to return to the land for a simpler, greener, and all-round kinder existence.

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