Can Goats Eat Orchard grass?

You might be surprised to find out that goats are quite picky about what they choose to eat. Not only do they have complex digestive systems, but depending on the gender of the goat, there are also different dietary needs to consider as well. With all of that taken into consideration, is orchard grass what you should be feeding your goat?

Goats can eat orchard grass and it is a great option to feed goats for both genders. Although it is widely grown in the United States, there are quite a few farmers who either love it or hate it. Goats are considered browsers as opposed to foragers, but they do not always get the nutrients they need, which makes orchard grass and other hay types essential to their diets.

When deciding on a diet for your goat, it is essential not only to consider what you are currently feeding them, but what may be missing from their diet as well. Let’s talk more about what orchard grass is and why it is an excellent option for your goat’s diet.

Can Goats Eat Orchard grass?

Orchard grass hay is one of the most popular options for many goat farmers. Not only is it readily available, but it also has plenty of nutritional benefits for the goats as well. The high fiber in orchard grass is excellent for the four-compartment stomach that goats have. 

Since it has such higher nutrient value, it also results in having to feed less to the goat, which will cut down on the cost to feed the animal. If you are considering feeding your goat orchard grass hay, then you need to introduce this slowly into your goat’s diet. Not only can it make your goats sick, but it can also cause bloat, which can lead to a severe condition. 

Understanding where the grass you are feeding your goat comes from is just as important as making sure that you are following the diet they need. You can find out what your grass or hay is lacking by visiting a regional nutritionist who can help you make adjustments to your goat’s diet.

What is Orchard grass?

Orchard grass is a standard option for many goat owners. It is a flat leaf perennial that grows quite tall and in colder weather. It is popular in Europe, Asia, the United States, and some areas of New Zealand, Australia, and Africa. It is commonly found in orchards or the edges of forests, which is where it gets its name. It is tolerant to shade, and in a moderate winter is quite drought resistant. It can also be grown with other grass or legumes as well.

It has a high nutrient content and has a 10-12% of protein as well as balanced levels of calcium, phosphorous, and calories as well. Goats are ruminants, which means they have a four-compartment stomach. They need the extra fiber that orchard grass provides to digest correctly. It is one of the most versatile hays, being loved by many different animals.

Orchard grass is excellent because you can combine it with additional legumes such as alfalfa or red clover to enrich the quality of feed that you have for your goats. It is also quite versatile and can even be used for pasture. The primary use for orchard grass is for forage production. 

Orchard grass is not as resilient as most. It has been known to decline rapidly, and it needs proper technique and management to make sure you are harvesting the grass when it is still good. 

What are some of the Most Common Orchard Grass Types?

  • Latar: Most commonly used in seeded pastures or hayland plantings, it has high fiber content and is easily digestible. It takes longer to mature than standard orchard grass types, which makes it considered to be of higher quality. It is often combined with alfalfa.
  • Paiute: This type of orchard grass is commonly used in arid areas. It is more drought-resistant than other types, but it has a quicker maturity rate. This makes paiute not compatible to use with alfalfa. 
  • Potomac: This is another type that is not used with alfalfa because it matures too quickly, but it is great for farmers who prefer to use a single species of hay. 
  • Berber: Most commonly found in Europe, this is a very drought-resistant type of orchard grass. It has even been found that this is an excellent option for erosion and fire control. 

How to Know if Your Orchard Grass is Good Quality

Before you feed your goat orchard grass, there are a few ways that you can tell if your grass is of good quality. One of the easiest ways to find out is simply by looking at the bales. You want to check on the color, fullness, and texture. You can also check for weeds, mold, dust, or even fermentation. You also want to make sure there are no foreign objects in your hay either.

The inside of your bale should be green, even if the outside has been bleached due to weathering. The scent of your hay is also a big sign! Your hay should never smell musty or sour. Grass should be easily separated, and mostly the same color as well. 

How to Properly Feed Your Goats

Not all goats need the same nutrients. Knowing what breed of goat you have, how it is fed, and what you need to feed your goat is essential. Although goats are great for being able to live on land that other animals cannot, they are not able to survive on grass alone; therefore, their diet will need to be supplemented. 

What Do Goats Eat?

  • Hay: For many goat farmers, this is the most common type of food to feed your goats to make sure they get all of the nutrients they need. Most goats need at least two to four pounds of hay per day. If your pasture has grass, then you may need to feed your goats by hand less often. Additional hay is needed by goats to maintain their digestive functions.
  • Alfalfa Hay: In addition to orchard grass hay, many farmers also use alfalfa hay (see on Amazon) since it has been of the same traits as orchard grass when it comes to the nutrient content.
  • Chaffhaye: This is created by combining fresh cut grass and combining it with molasses and a type of probiotic culture. It is then vacuum-packed and begins to ferment in the container. This adds great benefits to the digestive system for the goat. Chaffhaye is more nutrient packed and is often used as an alternative.
  • Grain Feed: Grain feed is not something goat farmers usually use, but there are certain instances where a pelleted grain mix can be beneficial. Since it can include more protein, vitamins, or minerals that your goat may need, it is often fed to goats during bad weather conditions where they are not able to feed as they usually do. Mothers raising multiple kids can also have their diet supplemented. Grain feed can cause goats to gain too much weight and fall to illness, which makes it less desirable.
  • Minerals: Many locations have a livestock nutritionist that you can visit. This is a great way to see what kind of conditions in your area may be preventing your goats from getting all the nutrition they need. You can even have your hay feed tested to identify what it is lacking. If your goats need additional minerals, then you can feed them loose minerals to supplement. 
  • Kitchen Scraps: If you compost your scraps, then your goats should be fine. If your goats are used to eating compost, then there are no serious threats, but you should not overdo it. Like grain feed, feeding them items that are not standard to their diet can cause weight gain that could lead to illness or even death.

So yes, goats can eat orchard grass – it’s versatile, nutritional, high in fiber, easily accessible, and can be a very cost effective way to supplement your goat’s diet.

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