Feeding the Goats

I’d prefer not to feed our goats anything other than hay to supplement their natural foraging, but this winter has been harsh and I’ve worried that they aren’t getting enough nutrition.  So I sometimes give them some grain feed.

Whenever I put out feed for them, World War Goat breaks out.  Each goat’s mission, it seems, is not to eat as much as possible, but rather to do everything possible to prevent the other goats from eating.  Instead of just lining up at the trough and eating their fill, they growl, push, shove, ram and trample each other.  I’ve tried to reason with them, carefully explaining how  they will all have plenty if they share, but to no avail.

Laying down in the feed trough is a favored technique.

Laying down in the feed trough is a favored technique.

And when I put feed in more than one trough, rather than divide into groups to eat, they’ll all crowd around one of the troughs, presumably to intensify the combat.  Then, when finished, they’ll all stampede to the other trough to resume it.

In the foreground, a feed trough attended only by 3 curious kids.  In the background, a goat melee.

In the foreground, a feed trough attended only by 3 curious kids. In the background, a goat melee.

When they see me coming with a bucket they all descend upon me and I have to kick my way to the trough, usually to find that kids have been walking and pooping in it since the last feeding.  I can’t set the bucket down to clean the trough, so I have to fight my way back to the gate to put the bucket down outside the fence, then fight my way back to the trough to try to clean it while dozens of crazed goats press against me from all sides, scrambling for position.  By that time I’m generally cussing and resolving never to give them feed again.

If anyone should ever film the affair and post it on youtube it would likely become one of the viral videos that end up on millions of facebook pages.

Sharing a hay bale is, by comparison, a much more civilized affair.

Sharing a hay bale is, by comparison, a much more civilized event.

I’m ready for spring.

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16 comments on “Feeding the Goats

  1. This is my favorite post of yours to date. “World War Goat” is just the best. I will be driving down with my video camera shortly…

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    • Bill says:

      Would love to have you visit. You’d probably find other hilarious video opportunities as well. (I feed the pigs the same way you once described in a post, for example).

      I think if I had a feed trough that ran the length of our pasture and was filled to the top with sweet feed the entire way, they’d all fight over one spot at the end of the trough, slowly battling their way to the other end while spilling and spoiling half the feed along the way.

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  2. if you want a new system (which you likely don’t given you don’t normally grain) get two pieces of pcv pipe, on bigger then the other, cut small ovals in the top half of biggest pipe put it firmly on the wall, take smaller pipe cut in half, pull out, pour grain, slid back in, at some point they will figure that the only way to get said grain is to eat each out of oval hole, tongues clean well on both sides in the pipe. almost no spilling, no sitting in it, and the weaker get pushed down the line, but it does not matter as the next feeding hole is just as good

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    • Bill says:

      Sounds like a good system. We have too many goats to mount feeders inside. When I feed inside the stalls the battles are much fiercer, as it gives them the ability to ram each other against the walls. I looked into feeders that hang on the fence and allow only one goat head per hole. They were pricey, I don’t use them enough, I’d need a lot of them, and I figured they’d tear my fence down, so I didn’t pursue it. I tried building a trough that would have separation panels. Within about a week they’d destroyed it, partly because of poor craftsmanship, partly because they like to climb, jump and walk on it when there’s nothing in it and partly because they discovered the most effective way to attack it was to come at it from the end, blocking the other goats by standing (or laying down) in it while eating. Now I’m using an metal water heater that’s been cut in half (and is indestructible, even by goats) and a plastic barrel that’s cut in half (and is well on its way to being destroyed).

      As we like to say around here, “Goats.”

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      • I have the metal water heater trough for the pigs, as you say, pretty much the toughest out there, mine has held up really well, its along a barn wall, to low and its tough, feet slid off the rounded pipe, can’t stand on it, can’t get the leverage to push it around and costs from home depo for material cheap, time for the cutting was the most effort.

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    • This sounds like a great idea. What size PVC pipe would you suggest I use, what size ovals and the distance between each oval should i cut on the larger of the two pipes. How high from the ground level is it recommended to attach the larger pipe to the wall? Thank-you

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  3. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, I’ve never had the joy of raising goats but they sound very similar to hogs. Our feed troughs for the hogs were next to the fence (had to be a strong fence) so we could just dump the feed over the fence. Of course hogs don’t get up off of all fours and certainly don’t jump like goats do so climbing and jumping would not be so good next to the fence. Goats are definitely meant to be wild and are a challenge to domesticate. Hopefully, it will warm up and supplemental feed can end.

    Have a great goat feeding day.

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    • Bill says:

      Our goats are as tame as dogs. They’re extremely easy to handle and none have ever been aggressive to us in any way. But they just refuse to act right when I give them feed.

      With the hogs, they come running when they see me with a bucket. They grunt, squeal and rub their muddy bodies against me while I walk, giving me lots of pig kisses on my pants legs with their muddy snouts. My strategy to get from the gate to the feed troughs is to race to one (trying to outrun them) and dump some in. They’ll then dive into that one and then I can fill the other one without having to battle pigs to do it. Pretty much the same thing I have to do with the goats.

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  4. shoreacres says:

    Honestly? The funniest thing for me here is the thought of you trying to reason with the goats. I have a feeling their greediness is exceeded only by your level of frustration. I agree – spring will be good for everyone.

    World War Goat is funny. When you write your book, that could be a chapter heading.

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    • Bill says:

      It’s true. I’ve explained the situation to them several times and it hasn’t seemed to do any good. I think they’re just ignoring me.

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  5. Dee Ready says:

    Dear Bill, your analogy of goats: World War one combatants is so apt. I’m devoting the next four years to reading about World War I. What prompted me of course is that this is the centennial anniversary of the beginning of that grief. I’m learning so much about human folly. Peace.

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  6. Laying down in the trough is priceless! I’m lobbying hard for goats on our farm, but my husband is resisting. Better not let him see this post!
    I tend to love animals with feisty personalities. He likes them a little more compliant. I think he’s in for a big surprise…

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    • Bill says:

      Goats are a lot of fun and relatively little trouble, notwithstanding their tendency to get pushy over sweet feed. Ours are perfectly gentle and friendly, vastly more so than cattle or sheep, but they do seem to lose their minds at feeding time.

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  7. This year in the barn, I pen the “queen” before feeding and there is much less fighting. She thinks she is getting more (!) and waits now in the pen area before feeding. Me 1 Goats 0

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    • Bill says:

      A wise move! I’ve tried separating the biggest bullies, but then whoever is next in the pecking order steps up to assume that role. I think if I only had two goats, one would bully the other.

      But we have a small group of goats in a different pasture and they will all eat out of one bowl without fighting, so maybe it’s been indoctrinated.

      I like the idea of training the dominant goat to separate herself at feeding time.

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