Grazing and Forages for
North Carolina State University Extension
Jean-Marie Luginbuhl, Extension Meat Goat Specialist, James T. Green, Jr., Extension Pastures & Forage Systems Specialist, J. Paul Mueller, Extension Pastures & Forage Systems Specialist, Matthew H. Poore, Extension Animal Husbandry Specialist, North Carolina State University 05/07/2004
Forages For Goats
Goats offer an opportunity to more effectively convert pasture nutrients to animal products as milk, meat and fiber which are currently marketable and in demand by a growing segment of the US population. In addition, goats selectively graze unwanted vegetation in pastures and forests, thus providing biological control which will reduce dependence on certain pesticides.
Goats consume only the most nutritious parts of a wide range of grasses, legumes, and browse plants. Browse plants include brambles, shrubs, trees, and vines with woody stems. The quality of feed on offer will depend on many things, but it is usually most directly related to the age or stage of growth at the time of grazing. The nutrient composition for several common feed types found on many farms is shown in
Goats are very active foragers, able to cover a wide area in search of scarce plant materials. Their small mouths and split upper lips enable them to pick small leaves, flowers, fruits and other plant parts, thus choosing only the most nutritious available feed.
The ability to utilize browse species, which often have thorns and an upright growth habit with small leaves tucked among woody stems, is a unique characteristic of the goat compared to heavier, less agile ruminants. Goats have been observed to stand on their hind legs and stretch up to browse tree leaves or throw their bodies against saplings to bring the tops within reach.
The feeding strategy of goats appears to be to select grasses when the protein content and digestibility are high, but to switch to browse when the latter overall nutritive value may be higher. This ability is best utilized under conditions where there is a broad range in the digestibility of the available feeds, giving an advantage to an animal which is able to select highly digestible parts and reject those materials which are low in quality.
Grazing goats have been observed to:
|•||Select grass over clover.|
|•||prefer browsing over grazing pastures.|
|•||prefer foraging on rough and steep land over flat, smooth land.|
|•||graze along fence lines before grazing the center of a pasture.|
|•||graze the top of pasture canopy fairly uniformly before grazing close to the soil level.|
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