Hay and straw for goats

Good hay is the most important part of any goats diet. It should be available ad lib at all times of the year. Buy hay “with your nose”, it should smell like a summer meadow, sweet and pleasant. It should be a shade of green (not golden and bleached) and have a variety of herbage in it. Hay that has no odour, or a musty smell is a waste of money.

In order of goats' preference, nutritional value and price, comes lucerne, clover, good meadow and ryegrass hay. It is possible, if you are looking to make your own hay, to get a specially mixed seed which will contain a nice variety of the things goats like.

The best hay is cut early in the year, by June or July. Hay cut later does not have as good nutritional value, regardless of how good it may smell. Ideally hay should be made with no rain falling on it during drying. Try to buy hay off the field and store it yourself, it will be cheaper, and will ensure it is not stored somewhere where it may get damp or ruined.

Hay should be stored in a spacious, well ventilated building- poor storage can turn good hay into useless hay. Allow 25 - 30 bales (of small rectangular) bales per adult goat per year.

Straw is generally ready to buy off the field in August (sometimes September). Barley straw is generally considered to be the best as goats will be happy to eat it as well (although nutritional value of straw is low, it is good roughage). Next in value is wheat and oat straw. Again, avoid dusty or damp straw - it will not do you or your goats any good!

Beth Fairley

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