There are as many views on feeding pygmy goats, as there are types of food. Every breeder or keeper will have their own personal variation but whilst there are many variables there are also a few rules that need to be borne in mind. Rule 1 is that despite the myth that goats will eat anything, and that the breed standard describes the look of a pygmy goat to be “perpetually” pregnant; most new keepers are surprised by how little they actually need to sustain their shape and health. That said; a pygmy goat must be fed with reasonable quality food. I have come across goat keepers who feel that grass is all a goat needs to thrive; Wrong. Whilst pygmy goats need fresh air and open space to play within they are not great grazers, they are browsers, and grass alone is not sufficient to maintain health and fitness.
There are numerous proprietary goat feeds that can be purchased from your local animal feed store that will suffice for their basic food supplement however most goat owners will add their own ‘secret’ additions to either bulk out the quantities of food, thus saving cost, or adding additional dietary supplements, according to your goat’s premises, e.g. if you are a back garden goat keeper then you will have to add additional nutrients and vitamins that the goats would naturally have got if they had lived in a field, and not been soiling the same grazing as much. Personally I buy a basic goat mix, which I buy most of the time; sometimes I buy a sack of rabbit mix as a variation. Both seem to go down well and both are pretty similar in constituents! To this mix I add a small amount of sheep nuts to provide a little protein, and handful of grass-based horse mix with added vitamins and minerals, a dash of vegetable oil to keep the coat in condition and a good handful of chopped fruit and vegetables.
There is a saying in humanity that is; “you are what you eat”. So is a goat. Health and vitality comes with a mixed diet. I feel that this is true for pygmy goats too. When I first began goat keeping I simply fed them on a few handfuls of goat mix. A wise and knowledgeable goat keeper offered me advice on feeding fresh veg and fruits. The difference in condition of my goats then compared with today is something I am constantly proud of. That simple but effective advice has made a difference to me as a keeper, to my show animals in the ring and to my pets in their health, vigor, demeanor and vitality. That said, whilst fruit is an excellent source of vitamins please be aware not to use too much citrus fruit. I rarely give my goats citrus fruit in its entirety but orange, mandarin, Satsuma, Clementine, lime and lemon peel chopped into thin strips goes down a treat! Some also love banana skins, bread crusts and cauliflower and cabbage leaves, but one leaf per goat is enough per day or they may start to scour. Mine love carrot and apple.
Carrot does have a tendency to cause a little constipation, so as with anything foods care needs to be taken not to give too much. Again as an owner caring for your goats you should have a good idea of their ‘movements’ and can adjust foods accordingly. It is also worth adding that all goats are different (obviously) but they also, like humans have different likes and dislikes. I have one goat that won’t eat citrus peel; in fact she positively picks it up and spits it out of her feed bowl in complete disgust! Another true story, which sounds like an urban myth but is indeed true, is that one of my wethers (castrated males) refused to eat his vegetables as he reached the age of “puberty.” As he moved from being a kid to a goatling he went for about four months refusing to eat any fresh vegetable or fruit, he ate around them! We laughed and commented how like a teenager he was behaving. He is now grown and eats everything!
Routine is everything to a goat and they like to know when they are getting fed! Timings need to be set with your own personal commitments and around your life. My goats are fed first thing in the morning with goat concentrates and then again as they “go to bed” (it is so much easier to get them into the shed, safe and shut in if there is a bowl of food there)! I give mine a cupped handful of concentrate each in the morning and then a cupped handful of concentrate, a handful of horse food (as described earlier), a few sheep pellets and their fruit and vegetables at “bed time”…but each to their own. Find a system and routine that works for you and the goats.
Rule’s 2 and 3 are two things that every pygmy goat keeper will agree upon. That is the need for pygmy goats to have access to fresh drinking water and also to fresh hay. Some keepers will insist that goats need access to hay constantly as this forms the majority of their diet and as ruminants, they need hay to ruminate. For me my goats have access to hay first thing in the morning, and there is hay in each of their stalls at night. So they have hay on demand for the majority of the day. My reasoning for not having it on demand constantly is purely down to waste and cost. My goats pull the hay out of the racks, most is eaten, some is dropped. They refuse to pick up hay from the floor. I found that for entertainment they empty the hayrack, if there is lots of hay there is goes to waste. But as with most things about pygmy goats you will get to understand what they want, and they learn what they can get away with through time.
But don’t stress! A few hours each day without access to fresh hay is unlikely to be harmful to their overall health. It all comes down to your routine, your enclosure and your observations. In time you will learn to look at your goat and know if it is getting too much, too little or the right amount and if necessary adjust accordingly.
Fresh Drinking Water
That cannot be said for water. Fresh clean drinking water is essential for all animals and as ruminants, particularly for the pygmy goat. It may sound really simple. Water for the goats, no problem; a bucket will do…or a self-feeding water trough. Just be aware. Buckets on the floor are often kicked over. Buckets in a holder are more preferable for stability, however buckets with handles can get caught in the horns of any pygmy goat that is not disbudded (hornless). However a bucket without a handle is more difficult to carry and therefore refilling and cleaning of these buckets may slip down the priority list. There are sadly, many stories of kids being drowned in self-feeding troughs, and these tend to freeze in the coldness of winter.

So fresh water isn’t necessarily that easy. That said as with everything pygmy goat, common sense, vigilance and consideration are usually all that is needed. Buckets with handles but the handles held down in a corner or away from the risk of hooking a horn, filling handless buckets by watering cans, turning off the self filling trough when young kids are around and filling and emptying for those few weeks regularly, slowly increasing the depth of the water as the kids grow (you may have to introduce a platform to the trough initially to allow the parent goats to reach the reduced water levels to begin with) just be aware that kids are mischievous and playful, if they get in the trough to ‘paddle’ can they get out? Sadly kids have drowned in such situations. So just be super, super careful and maybe shallow bowls or buckets are the best option in the medium term. None of this is difficult; it just needs a little forethought and then add in the element of a Pygmy goat’s inquisitiveness it needs a whole lot more, if it is at all possible, if you even think ‘I wonder if they could?’…they will! So be proactive.
There are some goat keepers who regularly offer their goats a salt, mineral or vitamin lick. The decision to do this comes down to where they are kept, the variety of diet, the diversity of browse they can access, whether they are able to get to ‘fresh’ ground on a regular basis and, of course, the personal choice of the owner. Many people take vitamin and mineral supplements, some need them, and some don’t.

We do use mineral licks for our goats and sometimes they lick them frequently but will then go several weeks without even sniffing them. For me they tend to lick them more in the winter. Whether this is down to the lack of fresh browse or just boredom as they stand in their sheds during wet weather, I genuinely don’t know. It's a personal choice. As you become more experienced with your goats you may decide they need an additional mineral boost, or conversely they never touch them so you are wasting the money providing them.

Goat Digestive Anatomy
You are; I am sure, aware that Goats effectively have four stomachs; well this is sort of true. In essence there are four parts or chambers of a goats stomach: the Rumen, the Reticulum, the Omasum, and the Abomasum.
The Four Chambered Stomach

Rumen: This is the largest of the four stomach compartments. The capacity of the rumen of goats can be up to or even over fifteen litres depending on the type of feed. This compartment contains many microorganisms (bacteria and protozoa) that supply enzymes to breakdown fibre and other food that the Pygmy Goat eats. The rumen converts the cellulose in its food to volatile fatty acids (acetic, propionic, and butyric acids). These volatile fatty acids are absorbed through the rumen wall and provide up to 80 percent of the total energy requirements of the animal. Microbial digestion in the rumen is the basic reason why ruminant animals effectively utilize fibrous feeds and primarily survive on pure roughages. The Pygmy Goat is specifically adept at breaking down the cellulose, which is why Pygmy Goats can successfully survive on foods that most other ruminants will not. I myself regularly feed my goats on hay that is generously donated by my neighbor. Her horses eat some of the hay she provides but refuses to eat the majority of this. My goats don’t know that a horse has refused it! They willingly consume all of it. A win-win…true recycling! That said a pygmy goat can be very particular about what they will eat, they will not consume food of poor quality or food that is dirty or has been trampled on. Rumen microorganisms also convert components of the feed to useful products such as the essential amino acids, the B complex vitamins, and vitamin K. Finally; the microorganisms themselves are digested further in the digestive tract.

Reticulum: This compartment, also known as the 'hardware stomach' or 'honeycomb', is located just below the entrance of the oesophagus into the stomach. The reticulum is part of the rumen separated only by an overflow connection, the 'rumino-reticular fold'. The capacity of the reticulum in a Pygmy goat is approximately one litre.

Omasum: This compartment consists of many folds or layers of tissue that grind up the food as it now is “ingesta” and remove some of the water from the feed. The capacity of the omasum in goats is less than a litre.

Abomasum: This compartment is more often considered the 'true stomach' of ruminant animals. It functions similarly to human stomachs. It contains hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes that breakdown food particles before they enter the small intestine. The capacity of the abomasum of an adult pygmy goat is around four litres.
As partially digested feed enters the small intestine, enzymes produced and secreted by the pancreas and small intestine further breakdown feed nutrients into simple compounds that are absorbed into the bloodstream. Undigested feed and unabsorbed nutrients leaving the small intestine pass into the large intestine. The functions of the large intestine include absorption of water and further digestion of feed materials by the microorganisms present in this area.

When a goat kid is born, the rumen is small and the abomasum is the largest of the four stomach compartments. The rumen of a goat kid represents about 30 percent of the total stomach area, while the abomasum represents about 70 percent. Hence, digestion in the goat kid is like that of a monogastric animal. In the suckling goat kid, closure of the oesophageal groove ensures that milk is channeled directly to the abomasum, instead of entering the rumen, reticulum, and omasum. When the suckling kid starts to eat vegetation (first or second week of life), the rumen, reticulum and omasum gradually develop in size and function.

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