You should always have a mineral block or loose minerals available. Though they’re pretty dumb in some areas, it seems like they’re pretty smart about eating what minerals they need to supplement what they don’t get from their other food.
Salt blocks come in a few different forms, and most of them are for horses and cows. There are actually goat salt blocks showing up here and there at feed stores that I’ve seen, but if there isn’t a goat-specific one, that’s all right. Get a horse one with the most vitamins and minerals listed.
Read the instructions on the packaging, too. They’re all a little different and I’m sure there’s something I haven’t seen for feeding these. For example, some goat specific blocks are actually crumbly (!?) and are meant for a herd of 12-15; so feeding the whole thing to five goats might be overkill.
I understand that with livestock such as horses, they can make themselves sick off of them. I’ve never known a goat to do that, but I don’t know every goat in the world, either.
Loose minerals, on the other hand, looks kinda like sand. But is super salty (obviously). It’s easier to eat for goats, so many goat herders like it for that reason, though overeating is more of a risk that way. Again, I’ve never known that to happen to a goat necessarily.
Also, goat-specific loose minerals seems to much more readily available.
(Funny story: Sassy makes odd little annoyed sounds when she eats it, and I finally figured out it’s because she’s eating so much so fast it’s drying her mouth out and making it hard to swallow. She has to make a few water trips to make it work)
I actually have a salt block AND loose minerals. Each pen has a salt block they can chew on, and I bring out the loose minerals a few evenings a week. I’ve thought about setting up a dish-hanging contraption for the loose minerals and moving away from salt blocks, but haven’t yet. Besides, the evenings I feed the minerals I get fun bonding time, and who’s eating the minerals and who’s not gives me an idea of how everybody’s feeling, too.
As I write this: growing babies and milking does are the ones that want the minerals, but nobody else is that interested. Hmmm…
Anyway, I starting feeding both because of my old lady, Cocoa. She struggles with weight and keeping her mineral/vitamin balances up, so I have the loose minerals that allow her to easily ingest what she needs without spending hours licking a block. When she started getting access to the loose minerals, her health really improved.
(That, and the weird herbs I give her, but that’s another story.)
There are also other supplemental things you can supply your goats.
Black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS): I love feeding these guys; black oil sunflower seeds contain vitamin E, zinc, iron, and selenium, as well as fiber and fat. It makes their coats shinier and increases the butterfat in their milk. I add it to the grain I’m feeding, or just as a handful or two if somebody needs it (but isn’t on grain).
Kelp meal: Kelp meal is a great source of iodine, selenium, and other minerals. I use it to help prevent iodine deficiency. I hear it also helps with milk production and protecting against mastitis.
Baking soda: Many goat owners offer their baking soda free choice, which aids digestion by keeping the rumen pH-balanced. If one of your goats is having tummy troubles, offer baking soda.
Beet pulp: I’ve heard of people who feed this; it adds fiber, protein, and energy to a goat’s diet, and contains calcium and phosphorus.
Apple cider vinegar is also a good one; it’s full of enzymes, minerals, and vitamins. If you put it in their water, it may also convince goats to drink more water as it smells interesting.
Other articles on feeding:
A post on grass hay will be up soon!
Any questions? Comments?