Nutrition for Pregnant Does & Kids

Pregnant or lactating does require two to four pounds of good quality hay and half a pound of grain such as corn daily as well as a source of fresh water and mineral supplement. Sometimes it is better to use loose minerals as trace mineral salt blocks are not consumed sufficiently to meet minimum requirements. Mineral supplements should be tailored to meet the specific needs of your area. For example, on the Laramie Plains (an area with sulfur rich soils) a goat mineral supplement might contain up to 4000ppm copper, a very high amount which would be lethal to sheep. In some areas of the far west, high levels of molybdenum also tie up copper necessitating supplemental copper in the trace mineral mix. Other areas may need to supplement selenium, another potentially lethal mineral when eaten in excess. Selenium deficient goats are prone to blindness and white muscle disease. Supplemental calcium or phosphorus may be needed if the soils in the area are deficient or out-of-balance. Calcium-Phosphorus balance is actually more important than individual amounts. Does that are phosphorus unbalanced may be more susceptible to birthing problems and may require cesarean section. As the kids are weaned, feed should be gradually reduced to 5 percent of body weight of grass hay or green pasture.

Kids should have a high protein (14-20 percent) creep feed available at 6 weeks of age as well as fresh water and hay. Barley makes a good starter grain as it is less likely to cause overeating disease. Continue creep feeding a good quality grain or protein pellet (14 percent) until after weaning to reduce weaning stress. Dry does should fare well on open pastures at a stocking rate of 1/acre on meadows and 1/8 acres on uplands.

Flushing the does with increased feed grains three weeks before breeding will increase the kidding percentage as will delaying conception until the second estrous cycle. Does on an increasing plane of nutrition will release more eggs and conceive more triplets and twins. During the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, a maintenance diet is indicated as the fetus is placing very little demand upon the doe. However, during the last trimester of pregnancy, increased fetal development indicates a higher plane of nutrition for the doe. Feed these does two to four pounds of good quality hay daily and increase the grain supplement slowly from one eighth to one half a pound daily to prevent overeating problems. In areas with acid soils, a source of bicarbonate of soda may be required. Does experiencing mild acidosis will help themselves when necessary. Areas with high calcium levels in the soil may never experience milk fever problems. Unlike sheep, goats are not susceptible to copper toxicity. Trace levels of copper are necessary in the diet for metabolism and no special precautions need be taken against excessive copper intake. Knowledge of local soil levels of potassium, selenium, calcium, copper and pH is necessary to formulate a diet that will insure good nutrition

Goat Note F2/1, published by the Australian Cashmere Goat Society has the following supplementary cautions about copper in goats “Toxicity can be induced in three ways:

  • Overdosing with copper supplements
  • Prolonged grazing on clover-dominant pastures
  • Prolonged grazing on heliotrope (contains a liver -toxic alkaloid).”

Extreme caution should be used with copper supplementation and any producer who suspects that stock are suffering from copper deficiency should seek specialist advice from a veterinarian.

The most practicable means of control of copper deficiency in goats is by top dressing pastures with fertilizers that are fortified with copper oxide. Copper is normally applied at from half to two kg per hectare every one to seven years respectively on all or part of the farm.

An organic copper injection (Cujec) which lasts for some months used to be available for sheep, but its safety in goats is uncertain. Problems associated with injectable copper compounds have included abscesses at the injection site due to poor technique and toxicity. Injectable copper therapy is suitable for both primary and secondary forms of copper deficiency and a single injection provides adequate copper for two to three months.

Oral drenching with an aqueous solution containing copper sulfate is useful in primary copper deficiency only. Copper sulfate may be mixed with levamisole based and oxfenbendazole anthelminthic drenches, and should not be used within 24 hours. Copper is not compatible with many other drenches. With primary copper deficiency, a single oral treatment is adequate for one to four weeks. However, for copper deficiency due to excess molybdenum, weekly treatments may be required. Copper containing salt licks may be used where individual animal treatment is impractical.

Treatment over the period from midwinter to spring is usually sufficient for all but the most severely deficient animals. Treatment should be aimed at providing adequate copper nutrition for at least six weeks prior to kidding.

Copyright 1994 Capricorn Press. Not to be reproduced without express written consent of Capricorn Press..

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