United Kingdom & Europe

Making hay while the sun doesn’t shine

Making hay while the sun doesn’t shine

I.O.O. you will find is an oft mentioned, phrase, here and elsewhere in our Terraweena website. It simply means ‘IN OUR OPINION’. We do not purport to know it all and adopt a “my way or the highway” approach to goat consulting or any general goat matters. That’s not our style.

However, having said that – there are a couple of issues on which we feel very strongly indeed. One of these is the suitability (or not) of appropriate feed for these amazing animals.

We can’t expect even the ennobled Boer goat, to ‘sort it all out for themselves’ and give us the same result in the differing environments, on the same feed and management regime as the next place and the last place. Each individual situation should be thoroughly considered and adapted to suit. What should NOT even require a second thought is that HIGH FIBRE ENCOURAGES RUMINATION and rumination equals health, in goat circles – wherever, whatever, however and forever.

Geof and I have experienced ‘life with goats’ in most regions of the world, for 30 years. We have had enterprises, farms, partnerships, projects, ventures and consultancies in a wide diversity of environments. Let me name a few to illustrate just how disparate those regions have been : –

Africa : Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia and Kenya
Australia and New Zealand : NZ, N and S Islands, S Australia, NSW and Queensland
The East : India, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand
Middle East : the Arab countries
The Americas : Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Brazil
Now : England, Scotland and into Europe

From desert conditions to tropical. From urban to rural. From broad acre to hobby farm. From intensive to extensive, from stud to commercial, We have found ourselves in all such environments and generally managed to ‘find our way’, not always with enormously successful outcomes, but ALWAYS with lessons learned.

Boardrooms and businesses might have interfered with our overall economic success, but:

In our current situation where the same animal – the Boer Goat – is being asked (in Britain, UK in particular), to be the meat producing wonder goat of the world, the basic rules for ruminants simply MUST be held paramount. Weight gains should not be treated as a competition and genetics do not randomly ‘fill the gap’.

Throughout our main showing days, our in-house byword was :
‘75% feed / 25% genetics’. A degree of exaggeration, but only a degree. Anyone would be well served to bear this in mind when looking to purchase stock. Look beyond face value.

Bred, ultimately, for meat production, it should not be conceived that merely fed more, a goat will obtain better results, ON A LONG TERM PLANE. It can and does respond, in the short term, with instant results.

It does have to live up to those attributes (and statistics) for which it is bred, marketed, renowned and respected, but there are many ways to achieve this and equally as many not to.

Excess high protein feed, even when given the choice of ‘ad lib hay on the side is ‘I.O.O., neither desirable, nor economic – it is more than likely downright dangerous.

Going back to basics, the goat is a ruminant (4 stomachs) which needs to regurgitate its food for better overall effect and benefit. It is totally different from a pig or a chicken (1 stomach).

Despite their ability to show astonishing short term results, understanding and following the rules for ruminants will win hands down and pay greatest dividends and greatest rewards – particularly for those building up a genetic storehouse for the future and not into quick turnover in commercial markets.

There simply MUST be a high percentage of bulk (high fibre) IN the daily mix. By this, I don’t mean hay ‘on the side’ on the basis that they will ‘surely get round to eating it, so their diet MUST be balanced’. (Humans don’t use that degree of circumspection and selection with regard to their diet – why would goats?)

Chaff made from any kind of reasonable hay, mixed in with the grain mix, makes not only economic sense as it ‘bulks out’ the food, but provides the ‘scratch factor’ so necessary for internal ruminant health.

Yes, the Boer goat has been bred up for meat production. Yes, it has been bred up for fecundity (fertility). Yes, it has been bred for survivability, adaptability and longevity. It will excel in all these departments, BUT, at the end of the day it is still a ruminant and its digestive system (and thus health) is governed by that.

“LET THEM EAT FIBRE”. At the end of the day, it is fibre that will keep them healthy and productive which is how they have survived and thrived for aeons. That is what goats ARE and what goats DO.

All those years ago, up until recently, no-one ever tried to domesticate goats and feed them dinky little, commercially made nuts and pellets. Don’t let us corrupt their systems now.

Yes, we can certainly supplement them with processed, protein and mineral rich supplements and additives that are being produced in this day and age. These will certainly enhance their performance and results thanks to modern day research, but please let it be just that.

Let it be a supplement, an additive or an enhancer – NOT the staple diet.

With Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) now able to prove performance from generation to generation (whatever the feed), we can use the modern day benefits of that scientific assessment IN CONJUNCTION WITH:

* The basic acceptance that ‘fibre is King’ for ruminants
* Supplementary feed endorsed by nutritionists
* Advanced research on ideal grazing habits
* Modern nutritional breeding techniques for an age old species

The goat is a ruminant. It has survived for centuries.
Supplement it – yes.
Domesticate it – yes.
But DON’T think you can (or should) reinvent the wheel’.
Why would you?

FIBRE – Fibre – fibre – FIBRE.