Brrrrr, who left the refrigerator door open!
AS I sit here wrapped in my blankie with my bunny booties on Iím formulating my grand scheme about what to feed the goats for winter. I need to get off of my lazy gluteus maximus and get the old all-purpose cow trailer ready to go to the cotton gin to pick up a load of cotton seed but the chilly weather has me in a funk. When it warms up to about 68 degrees Iíll become inspired to get with it and go to work but right now I canít undonkey my chair when the temp is in the 50s and that cold north wind is blowing!
I have polled the membership to find out their various winter feeding strategies and the general consensus is to plant winter pasture and feed hay along with pelleted feed or grain mixtures. Some members use mineral blocks and I reckon this is good as long as you use enough of them so that all of the goats can get some. Itís the same old story of the bully goats not allowing the others to get to the supplement.
I realize that itís costly initially, but I try to get several of a product (likkum buckets, protein blocks, etc.) and put them out spaced widely apart so that the bully goats will get tired and frustrated trying to hoard the product. I use the Crystalyx goat tubs and try to put two of them out if the goats are all together. Right now, since the herd is split up, each group of 20-25 has one tub.
I use regular cow mineral feeders to give them their mineral. The babies will jump into them and sometimes soil the mineral with pellets but I use my handy-dandy kitty litter scooper to screen them out and break up the clumps that form when the mineral gets wet. Replace the mineral about every month if you care to. You can use cow mineral, but the goat mineral is better for your goats because it is formulated for them.
As far as the protein blocks and likkum buckets go, I guess you could go with some other block or tub that is less expensive, but watch what you get because some are soft and the goats will chew it out of the tub faster than you anticipate. When some tubs are cool they get as hard as a rock and the goats canít chew them, which is what you want.
Protein tubs are designed to be a supplement, not a primary feed source. The yeasts and sugars are supposed to work in the rumen stomach to help it process the forage and feeds better. AS far as minerals go, I use Sweetlyx loose mineral. During kidding season Gwen and I use the mineral with rumensin to try to keep the scours down, but it is a little bit pricey, so use your own judgment.
Keep in mind that these are what my personal preferences are. If you are concerned with cost or have your own preferences, then by all means then use them. The same can be said about what type of feed you use. Gwen and I prefer to use a pelleted feed that is medicated with decoquinate, which is a preventative medication for coccidiosis.
These feeds are a blend of various feedstuffs, vitamins, and minerals. One mineral that is included is ammonium chloride, which helps prevent bladder stones. If you have ever lost a Billie or a wether due to urinary calculi, then you know that this is important. We went to a less expensive feed that was high in corn and lost one of the yearling bucks this year to urinary calculi. If you have your bucks penned separately, then get some powdered ammonium chloride and sprinkle a bit on their feed to help prevent this.
Some breeders use loose grains and corn for feed. Some will mix various blends and this works for them. We use the pelleted feeds because of convenience. When you are trying to juggle your time between work, family, and livestock, then you know what I mean. Gwen says Iím world famous for being a cheapskate, so I go out of my way to make old Lincoln scream when I pinch my pennies. Sometimes this can be a good thing and sometimes not so good. I will admit that I probably was the cause of the loss of the yearling buck because I insisted on going to a less expensive feed. I will also admit that Iím willing to try things instead of going by ďthe bookĒ. Iím not saying to throw ďthe bookĒ out, just try to keep an open mind and look at your options.
If you are fortunate enough to get some good hay then hurray for you! Some hay that is out there is of poor quality and low in protein. Unfortunately, the hay that John Blackwell and I baled off my place was the latter. If you have poor hay then you can use supplements to enhance your goatís use of it nutritionally. Try to avoid using moldy or wet hay because many times the goats just refuse to eat it. Gwen and I plan on buying a bale holder to keep the round bales off the ground and prevent the goats from climbing in the bales and soiling them. You can also get some cattle panels and fashion yourself a barrier to accomplish this.
Goats love to climb and will use the hay bales as a piece of playground equipment. After a while they turn the bale into a pile of worthless fodder that they will not eat because it smells bad to them. If you use the cattle panels, make sure you cut holes so that the goats can get to the hay. Cut them big enough so they donít get their horns caught and their heads stuck but not so big that they crawl through them to get inside. Last year I lost a goat for a day because she crawled inside the barrier AND the bale. All that you could see was her muzzle and her eyes in the bale. She kept crying for help but I just could not find her!
AS I said previously, Iím planning a trip to the cotton gin when the rain lets up in a few days. Whole cotton seed is an animal feed that I advocate. Itís high in protein and fiber. The only drawback is that it takes a whole lot of scooping and bucketing. It wouldnít be so inexpensive if they sacked it up! Many people are of the opinion that whole cottonseed will cause the scours because of the high protein content, but I havenít found this to be true with goats. If you have any doubts, then consult your Veterinarian. Make sure you keep it dry. The moldy and wet condition applies to this feed also.
Whichever route you go with your feeding plan, keep your thoughts on the economics of what you are doing but donít scrimp on herd health just to make old Lincoln scream. Keep an open mind and donít forget to ask questions of the people who know about such stuff! They say experience is the best teacher, but if you can learn from other peoples experience then you will stay ahead of the game.
If you fine Folks have any suggestions, by all means contact me and Iíll try to get the word out. Even though we have been getting some rains, that doesnít mean we are out of the woods yet. The weather Gurus say that weíre ďentering a wet periodĒ. Unfortunately, our Higher Power may have a different idea.
The T.D.A. has done it again!
If you canít get any government drought grant money you can thank Susan Combs and her cow cronies. The only livestock producers eligible for these monies are cow-calf producers and sheep raisers. I guess the $70 a bale we pay for hay is not as important as the amount the eligibles pay! I would jump up on my soap box and tell everyone to cause an outcry but Iím feeling worn thin and disgusted by the actions of politicians now days. I guess it is their intentions to keep at their shenanigans until we cry uncle. It is my belief that they did the distribution of these funds this way so as to distract us from the paltry amount that it really is. People have lost millions of dollars, and the livestock industry is in shambles because of this drought and the Politicians are throwing pennies at it. You canít use that cow, nanny, or ewe to breed once she goes through the slaughter house door.
Speaking of the slaughter house door, I would like to address the lack of a reliable market for selling the goats we are raising here in the eastern region of our great state. Even us goat ranchers in the trans-tweener region between Waco and Palestine have to drive all of the way to Hamilton or Goldthwaite to get a half-way decent price for our goats. From what I have heard, if you take goats to any of the sale barns anywhere east of I-35, they are looked on as a novelty and you wonít get any decent price for them. Most goat sales are cobbled onto the cattle sales. Sale barn operators act as though they are being put upon by having to sell the goats. The order buyers act as though they want to get it over with and bid on goats because they have to. With two of the largest ethnic markets in the nation within a morningís drive of us you would think people would be clambering for our chevon products. If something smells like a fish, then it must be swimming! Listen up! By now, we pretty much know how to keep a goat alive until it grows to market age; we just donít realize that there is a growing market for that goat. They all canít be sold as show wethers or breeding nannies. I feel that the order buyers at the sale barns realize it and are taking advantage of our ignorance! These fine members of the Livestock Marketing Association arenít going to speak up or pay us a fair price as long as we raisers are willing to remain blissfully unaware of this. As goat ranchers, we need to work on growing our awareness of various marketing options. Come on Folks, get on the band wagon! Arenít you tired of driving hundreds of miles to sell your stock when you could sell them close to home for a decent price? We need to work on these sale barn operators and get them to attract buyers in that will pay a good price for the well muscled, plump goats we are willing to sell. I feel that the industry is ready to go past the novelty, pet stage! Does anyone want to second the motion?
Watching the new Billie, Matthew, introduce himself to the young nannies was a hoot last week. He got himself so worked up Gwen and I thought he was going to give himself a heart attack! We farmed out the other new Billie, Phillip, to our fellow F.C.G.B.A. member Lupe Gonzalez to breed her does. Ms Lupe reports that Phillip is doing an admirable job. The only thing she reported was that he likes to do his work at night and it was disturbing her sleep. The only reply that I have to that dilemma is that itís sure quiet in the country!