Feeding During Lactation
As I sit here working to write this in my silent house, I loud and clearly hear Zoey yelling at the barn. She is usually a quiet goat, but when she kids and is raising her kids she becomes the loudest goat on the property. The main reason for that is because of her extremely elevated hunger! I easily feed her 3-4 times per day during lactation due to the demand her kids and lactation puts on her body. This got me thinking about other goat owners and how they may approach this topic if they are not able to do what I do to manage their goats.
The first thing I would say is to know your goats, not all goats are going to need as many calories when they are raising their babies. Like humans goats are individuals, some are heavy milkers, making themselves skinny and their babies little chunky spunky things, while others are more efficient at maintaining their body weight while nursing kids. So what I will say to you here is dependent on your goats, your genetics, the demand on their body for milk and your management plan. But as a rule of thumb I generally double the feed of my does post kidding and at the start of their lactation. This is a time when their body is undergoing significant stress, not only are they repairing from the kidding process they are taking their fats stores and their intake and turning it into a complete feed source for their kids. At this time it is absolutely pivotal to provide as much fresh water as the goats want, along with high quality free choice forage at all times, this means both hay, and browse if available. Then to compliment this I add in free choice minerals, along with at least 8-10 cups of feed per day for Zoey. I feed her at 4 cup at a time increments and I know her in the way that she will only what she needs. Some goats will eat an entire 50 lb sack of feed and make themselves sick, however, she is not that goat.
This is an extremely important time for the length and persistence of the lactation at this point, as a goat that is having her nutritional needs met is not only going to be healthier, but will also raise healthier kids and be more prepared to breed back easily in the fall when the time comes. I also find it important as I still want goats milk in August to make cheese, and to be able to show my does at later in the year shows. I think one other important fact to note is that the demand for milk will peak about a month to six weeks after kidding. This is when the kids are still predominately getting their nutrition from their mothers milk, and are growing extremely fast. I will say, dam raised kids tend to start trying other sources of food much earlier than bottle raised kids. For example, I was sitting in the pen hanging out with Zoey's kids last night who will be three weeks old tomorrow and they were already nibbling on hay, grain and I even noticed the buckling chewing his cud for a few moments!!!
I will leave you with this, the cells of your goats are made up of what they consume, so ensure you are providing them with adequate nutrition, vitamins and minerals. This will make them healthier, you more successful in your kid raising and milking endeavors. I hope you all have a spectacular weekend and Happy Goating!