Nutrition Issues at Weaning

Goats June 29, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

Nutrition Issues: Nutrition of the doe and kids changes at weaning. The kids become totally dependent on the nutrition available from forage and supplement. They are growing rapidly, so the energy and protein requirements are very high. Because of this, the kids need to be placed on high quality pastures. Good hay and concentrate supplements are often continued for a time when they are rapidly growing to insure the kids are getting their nutritional needs met. Buck and doe kids will also have different nutrient requirements. Buck kids grow faster and are heaver muscled than does or wethers. This increases their energey requirements under the same production conditions. Table 1 lists the total digestible nutrients (TDN) and crude protein (CP) requirements of a 60 pound Boer or Boer cross growing kid expected to gain 0.5 pounds per day.

Table 1. Nutrient requirements of 60 pound Boer or Boer Cross Kid
Nutrient Buck Wether Doe
TDN (lb) 1.81 1.67 1.67
CP  (lb) 0.44 0.44 0.44

As can be seen from the table, the protein requirements are the same, but there is a difference in energy need for the buck to gain the same as the doe or wether. Because of this, we need to manage the different sexes differently to achieve optimum growth.

Mature does also have a great change in their nutritional requirements at weaning. At weaning lactation stops and nutritional demand on the doe is greatly reduced. Their nutritional needs are reduced to maintenance levels at this time unless additional nutrients are needed to increase body condition when the doe is too skinny. We must, however, evaluate the body condition of the does and feed as needed to insure that they regain lost condition before breeding season starts. This is generally not a problem. The protein and energy requirements are reduced by almost one-third between lactation and dry/open status. Table 2 lists the protein and energy needs of the same doe near the end of lactation and then after weaning. This would be considered maintenance level when no weight gain is needed or expected.

Table 2. Nutrient requirements of a 120 lb doe at Week 10 of laction or dry/open.
Nutrient Dry/Open  Week 10 of Lactation
TDN (lb) 1.60 2.63
CP (lb) 0.22 0.45

As you can see in Table 2, the energy need of a dry doe drops by 1 pound of TDN and  protein need by 0.23 pound compared to when she is at Week 10 of lactation. If we do not make adjustments for this change in nutrient demand, the doe will gain condition rapidly and may be over-conditioned at breeding, possibly reducing fertility and resulting in kidding problems.

At weaning, you should consider moving the does to low quality pastures and supplement only if forage availability is very low and/or quality is very poor. If you have does that are very thin, be sure to feed them to gain condition at a slow pace so they can recover and be ready to breed. If possible, manage them with the yearling replacement does so the older does will recover body condition or flesh properly.

It is always important to have a good quality mineral mix available to your animals. The kids and does need to have access to free choice minerals unless you are feeding a total mixed ration. Then be sure that the diet will meet the animal’s needs at the level you are feeding it. There are many types of mineral feeders available, and plans are also available if you wish to construct your own. Make sure that the kids can reach the mineral and it is kept clean. Read the ingredient tag and check for issues related to mineral sources. Do not feed a mineral and feed that both contain the same medication. Be sure to follow the label feeding directions. If you do use a medicated feed or mineral, follow the withdrawal times for the product and make sure it is labeled for goats. You also may need to talk to your veterinarian before using it.