All goats must have access to clean water and a well-balanced, nutritious diet. Freedom from hunger and thirst provides goats with their most basic needs by allowing them to remain in good health and full of energy.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act says that your animal has five groups of welfare needs. These are five groups of things that animals need to be healthy and happy. These five welfare needs are called the Five Freedoms.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) need to provide these five groups of things for their animals. One of these Five Freedoms is: Freedom from Hunger and Thirst. In this section you will learn about this freedom and how you can make sure your goats have what they need to be free from hunger and thirst.
Many people get goats as companion animals (pets), as they believe they will act like lawnmowers and eat all their unwanted grass and weeds. However, the truth is that goats need a specially prepared diet, as they will not eat just anything, nor is it healthy for them to do so! Goats are known as ‘browsers’ – this means they eat a range of shrubs, trees, hedges, grasses, leaves and various other plants.
Since goats are browsers, they can be picky and will carefully choose only the best pieces of plants to eat and will not touch other pieces.
Owners also need to be careful about what they provide their goat with, as many plants can be poisonous to goats. New goat owners should learn about the best diet to give their goats before bringing them home. You can always ask your veterinarian or an experienced goat owner for advice on what is best to feed your pet goat.
Goats need lots of water. Some goats can drink up to 27 litres a day. Water should be available to your goat at all times and be easy for them to get to.
Goats do not like dirty water so you will need to ensure fresh water every day. Make sure you position your goat’s water somewhere it will stay clean too.
For example, putting your goat’s water under a big leafy tree is likely to mean leaves and twigs will fall down into your goat’s water and then they won’t want to drink it anymore.
Find an area for their water away from anything that could make the water dirty. Goats are very strong and playful animals, so you should provide their water in a tough, sturdy large container or trough.
You might have to ask an adult to secure your goat’s water trough or container to the ground or wall.
Goats are herbivores, meaning they eat only plants. Goats and many other farm animals have a really interesting way of eating and digesting their food.
You might notice your goat chewing its food, swallowing it, regurgitating and chewing it all over again! This is because goats have FOUR stomachs.
The special name for an animal with this type of digestive system is a ruminant. Your goat basically swallows its food multiple times and then all four special compartments of the goat’s stomach work very hard to digest the food.
This may seem like a lot of work but is actually a very efficient way for a goat to eat, as it means your goat gets lots of nutrients from the food, making them healthy.
Goats like a variety of foods, including trees, shrubs, bushes, weeds and your vegetable and rose gardens! Goats need lots of bulky food with lots of fibre because of their special stomachs.
The best form of bulky fibre is good quality hay. Goats will only eat fresh, clean hay, so you need to make sure your hay is free from any mould or too much dust. Hay should make up about 50% of your goats’ diet.
Long green grass, roots, branches and other greenery should also be given to your goats daily. This can be about 25-50% of your goats' diet, depending on your goats' age, size and gender. Large male goats will require more greenery than smaller goats. Ask an adult to check that none of the greenery you feed your goat is poisonous. Be careful to not let your goat have too much alfafa or clover as this can cause bloat.
Along with greenery, your goats can occasionally have some kitchen vegetables also. This could include items like carrots, cabbage, beans, broccoli, corn, spinach and kale, but make sure these are fed in small quantities.
Goat pellets are also available, along with hay and grass. It's important to make sure not to overfeed your goats - you should always consult your veterinarian on the diet that best suits your goats.
Goats enjoy eating a variety of plants, however, some of these plants are dangerous for your goat to eat and can cause sickness and death. Plants that are poisonous to goats include, but not limited to, include:
This list isn’t exhaustive (which means all the plants that are poisonous to goats aren’t on the list), so you should check for local knowledge and do your research.
Goats are fussy eaters (sometimes) and will not like to eat anything that has been sitting on the floor for too long. Goats also have a habit of knocking over their food buckets and tipping over (playing with) hay racks onto the floor.
For this reason, you should use a special hay rack or something similar, which is hard to move.
A hay rack stands on the ground or can hang off a wall. It should also have a wire box where the hay is contained so your goat can eat it, but it can’t be tipped over or emptied out onto the floor accidentally (on purpose) and going to waste.
You can find hay racks for sale at your local farm store, or you (and an adult) can make one together. Just remember to clean any food dispenser regularly!
There are some minerals and vitamins which goats need you to provide to them, as they cannot get enough of them from their food.
You can always talk to your local veterinarian about additional supplements for your goat. Salt is a common supplment needed, which goats can sometimes find hard to get to get from their diet. You can either give your goat a daily ration of iodised salt (table salt) from your hand, or you can purchase salt licks from a farm store.
Iodine is another essential mineral your goat needs and can find difficult to get from food. You can purchase cooper blocks from farm stores and your goat will lick this throughout the day. Talk to your local veterinarian for this. Remember that goats do not like dirty food –so try to keep your goat’s mineral blocks somewhere that they will stay clean, and not get wet.
Some goat owners find that it works well to attach these to the wall so they cannot be dropped onto the floor or stored in containers off the floor but reachable by the goats.