Goats are known as picky or adventurous eaters by turns, and since they are browsers that means they usually subsist on a variety of foraged plant matter.
But no matter how lush and varied your pasture is, goats will rarely be able to get all the nutrients they need on their own.
This means you’ll need to supplement their diet, and one of the best supplemental foods is good, old-fashioned hay.
Goats generally like hay, but if you know anything about them you already know that you can’t let them eat too much of any one thing. So, how much hay can, or should, a goat have?
Adult goats can eat 2 to 4 pounds of hay per day, depending on their size and dietary needs. Goats will need more hay when pasturage is thin or during the winter, and less when they have more and varied pasturage to eat in the summer.
Hay is always an important part of a goat’s diet, even when they have access to good pasturage for browsing, but as always you must not let them eat too much and also take care to give them the right kinds of hay.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about how much hay goats should have, and what kinds of hay are best for them…
Understanding Goat Eating Behavior
Goats are browsers, not to be confused with grazers. This means that they love variety, and usually don’t stick to one type of plant while foraging unless forced to.
This allows them to get the best nutrition from their environment, but it can also be problematic since not all plants are good for goats.
So, in order to make sure your goat gets balanced nutrition you should provide hay as a supplement to whatever they can find while out eating in the pasture.
How Much Hay Does a Goat Need?
Broadly, an adult goat will eat between 2 and 4 pounds of hay per day, but when it comes to feeding hay, the precise answer is more complicated.
Their diet depends largely on their age and activity level, the season, and the availability of other nutrients in other parts of their diet.
Nursing mothers will also need more hay than ones without kids. So two adult goats could require different amounts of hay day in and day out.
Since this varies case by case, it is important for goat owners to monitor how much hay their animals eat.
How Much Hay do Goats Need for the Winter?
Goats need a surprising amount of hay to survive the winter, but generally no more than the maximum of the normal adult portion: 4 pounds.
Do Goats Still Need Hay in the Summer?
Goats undoubtedly appreciate summer when the days are longer, the forage is lush, and they have more to choose from.
That being said, hay shouldn’t be removed from their diet during the warm months, because hay remains essential for goats year-round. Just remember: they will need less hay when they have more of other food to eat, from any source.
What Kinds of Hay do Goats Eat?
There are all kinds of hay available for feeding livestock, and goats can eat many of them safely but not all.
Goats are partial to legume hays like alfalfa, clover, and lespedeza, but honestly they’re quite happy to munch on most any kind of hay so long as they are properly acclimatized to it.
To keep them healthy and maximize the nutrition of the hay you’ll want to source hay that is harvested from a known, clean acreage without any contaminants or trash in it, and ensure that the hay has been properly stored and cured.
Tips for Giving Hay to Your Goats
First assess how much quality forage your goats have access to. If they have access to plenty of varied and nutritious food, then they may not need nearly as much hay.
Keep in mind, hay is always a good thing for goats considering it will help their gut flora (the tiny microorganisms that exist in their digestive tracts) stay healthy.
Next, make sure to weigh the hay before feeding it out. This will give you a better idea of how much your goats are actually eating and what they need more or less of. Do not let goats eat as much as they want at all times.
You should be in control of how much hay they have access to at feeding! Also, be aware that different types of hay have varying nutrient content so make sure to account for that.
When feeding hay, you also want to avoid a sudden, drastic, all-at-once switch to a new type or a predominately-hay diet.
Sudden changes in a goat’s diet can radically upset their rumen, and cause problems like bloat or diarrhea. A goat’s digestive tract takes time to adjust to new food!
Also, be sure to provide your goats with plenty of clean water and regularly check their hay for mold or other contaminants.
Moldy hay can cause a variety of health issues in goats, so it is important to keep an eye out. Keep your herd eating fresh, clean hay and they’ll stay healthy.
Last, don’t just throw hay on the ground or floor for goats to eat. They don’t like food that has been trampled, and eating from the ground dramatically increases the chances of illness, particularly picking up intestinal parasites.
Always keep hay up and off the ground or floor for them to eat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Adult goats should get anywhere from 2 to 4 pounds of hay a day depending on the time of year, the amount of other food sources they have access to, and the size and health of your goats.
It depends on the type of hay, the size of the goats, and other factors. It can range anywhere from 60 to 120 pounds per month.
No! Old, nasty, or moldy hay can cause serious health issues in goats, so make sure to provide your goats with fresh, clean hay.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.