Alfalfa (a legume) is the wonder food in goat-land. It provides protein, calcium, and all sorts of wonderful vitamins and minerals for any goat who is milking, growing, pregnant, or (for bucks) in rut. Each goat fitting those requirements should be getting a few lbs of it a day, though some of this can be supplemented with browsing and/or quality grass hay.
If your lovelies are not milking, growing, pregnant, or in rut, feeding alfalfa is unnecessary. Particularly if they have access to lots of brush and things to eat. Alfalfa is more expensive, and will eventually make them fat (which is, of course, bad). You can feed a nice grass hay instead.
A quick note about bucks: feeding too much alfalfa to bucks, or to whethers (who should almost never get alfalfa) increases the possibility of urinary calculi. This is a build of solid particles in the urinary track due to too rich of a diet — and is very painful, causing pain, fevers, vomiting. Don’t overfeed the alfalfa!
Now, an extension of what I was saying in my https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/on-feeding-an-overview/ post: alfalfa grown in different areas will provide different levels of vitamins and minerals. In order to know what exactly your goats are getting, you might want to get your alfalfa tested. It’s not that expensive, and will help you figure out if you need to add a little extra this or that to their diet.
(Or make friends in the community, who already know some handy tips about what is deficient in the area and where to get hay.)
I know that my area is deficient in selenium (NW Oregon – though I’m not sure the boundaries of the soil deficiency). Selenium is handy for things like muscle growth, brain function – you know, small things like that. If you read my https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/22/on-baby-goats-born-with-weak-pasterns/ post, you’ll get a clearer picture on what a minor selenium deficiency looks like.
Because selenium is deficient in this area, I buy alfalfa from Eastern Oregon. Most of the alfalfa around here is shipped from there anyway, so it’s easy to get ahold of. They’re not deficient in selenium in that area and the alfalfa naturally has it in higher quantities. Now, I still have to occasionally give shots of selenium, so the alfalfa isn’t completely covering it – but it’s much better than giving it totally through shots.
As with most things, the more natural you can get, the better.
The quality changes depending on which cutting the alfalfa bale is from — first, second, or third. First is best, the others following, respectively. Most of the nutrients in alfalfa resides in the leaves, so choose the leafiest alfalfa you can (and some picky goats won’t eat the stems unless it’s a last resort anyway). The more stems, the more fiber and less nutrients.
Sometimes you may not have much of a choice, depending on the season and how you acquire your hay. Just remember to go for the leafiest, brightest-colored, most sweet-smelling alfalfa you can.
And for any type of hay, always check to make sure that it is fresh and clean. Moldy hay can make goats very sick — and in large enough doses it can kill them.
Posts on grass hay will be up shortly!
Here’s the post on grain: https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/feeding-grain/
There’s also an important one on minerals: https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/feeding-minerals/
Or you can head back to the https://dairygoatdiariesblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/on-feeding-an-overview/ post.