So, What Kind of Hay Do Goats Eat?

Everyone knows that goats are eating machines, right? Well, not exactly. Goats do have big appetites, but as any long-time owner will tell you they can be pretty finicky when it comes to their diet.

pygmy goat and Nigerian dwarf goat eating hay
pygmy goat and Nigerian dwarf goat hanging out

Goats are not grazers like sheep or cows. Goats are browsers, and that means they like to eat a little bit of everything and typically only the best parts of anything.

Naturally, many goat keepers want to get their herd on a steady diet of hay to make sure they get enough calories and nutrients.

But there are a lot of different kinds out there. So, what kind of hay do goats eat?

Goats can eat many different kinds of hay, including but not limited to annual ryegrass, orchardgrass, timothy, bermudagrass, fescue, bluegrass, oat, alfalfa and clover hay. Every different kind of hay has different nutritional values which should be assessed against your goats’ needs.

Your goats will probably love hay, there’s no doubt about that, but the hard part can be selecting the right kind that is safe and nutritious for them and just as importantly one that they will like.

It’s a fairly straightforward process, but as you might guess there’s a lot more you need to know. I’ll tell you all about it in this article.

Is Hay Okay for Goats?

Yes, hay is just fine for goats. More than that, actually: hay is an important staple in most goats’ diet.

Hay is a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, and will help your goats thrive and stay healthy.

Can My Goats Eat Alfalfa Hay?

Yes, they can. Alfalfa hay has lots of benefits for goats, like high protein content, calcium and phosphorus.

It’s a great source of nutrition for your herd, especially if they’re heavily lactating or in need of extra growth.

However, alfalfa hay also has significant drawbacks you must be aware of, too: namely it can be too high in calcium and maybe even protein for some goats, meaning it must be fed to goats as part of a good diet plan.

Goats will eat a lot of hay and that’s why you should never, ever let your goats eat as much as they want if they aren’t already acclimatized to it.

Doing so can make them sick, contribute to issues like urinary calculi, or even prove fatal through severe bloat!

Can My Goats Eat Timothy Hay?

Yes, your goats can eat timothy hay. Timothy hay is known to be very nutritious and fairly safe for goats, and it also tends to be lower in calories compared to most other types.

This can make it a decent choice if you have one of your goats on a weight-loss plan!

Can My Goats Eat Clover Hay?

Yes, they can. Clover hay is a great option for goats, too. It’s high in protein and calcium and moderate to low in carbohydrates which makes it suitable for most goats looking to stay healthy without putting on extra weight.

As with alfalfa, though, it can be high in certain minerals which can be dangerous for some goats, so make sure you also take into account what other sources of nutrition your goats are eating.

What Kind of Hay is Best for Goats?

What kind of hay is best for goats depends entirely on what your goats need in their diet, and also what hay you have available in your area.

Most kinds of hay are suitable as long as you get them tested for nutritional content and introduce them to your goats properly.

The three metrics you’ll need to know about any hay are the protein content, fiber and total digestible nutrients, or TDN.

Your vet can help you figure out what your goats need in terms of these metrics, and then you can choose from the hay available to you that most closely matches those needs.

The following are all common types of hay that are good for goats, generally. But keep in mind, the listed stats are just typical!

You must, must get any hay you plan on feeding your goats analyzed to know for certain what your goats are getting.

Serving your goats hay that is inadequate to their needs can make them sluggish and sick, and feeding hay that is too rich for them can cause other serious issues besides.

The following hay types are all commonly fed to goats, and all have differing nutritional content to cover any need you, or your goats, might have:

Hay TypeTDN (Total Digestible Nutrients)Crude ProteinCrude Fiber
Annual ryegrass65-70%15%25%

How Can You Tell if Your Goats Like the New Hay?

You’ll know if your goats like the hay they have been given if they are actively eating it!

If your goats reject the hay, it may be because of its nutritional content not being suitable to their needs, or perhaps you didn’t introduce the new hay correctly.

Always give them a few days to adjust and don’t make an immediate switch from one kind of hay to another!

If your goats seem especially eager to get more hay when you are bringing it out, you’ll know you have a winner.

What Hay is Better for Male Goats?

When it comes to feeding males, the best hay to choose is grass hay, generally. Grass hay can be Bermuda grass, sorghum, orchard grass, fescue, and timothy.

These types of hay are high in fiber and provide the necessary nutrients for a male goat’s diet.

Grass hays also provide more roughage than legume hays like alfalfa which can be beneficial for male goats since they tend to have slower digestion rates than females.

Males also typically need more protein than female goats earlier in life, so make sure you’re choosing hay with a higher protein content for younger male goats.

The protein and fiber percentages listed above for each type of hay can give you an idea of what’s best for your male goat.

Is it OK for Goats to Eat Straw?

Yes, it is okay for goats to eat straw, but they aren’t going to get much nutrition or many calories from it compared to hay. They aren’t the same thing!

If you do feed your goats straw, just make sure it’s free of any mold or other contaminants and that it has no sharp objects in it that could injure your goat’s mouth or throat while eating.

If you use straw as bedding material, your goats should not eat it unless they are lacking other foods, or perhaps lacking certain nutrients in their diet.

You don’t need to worry about your goats eating straw, but it isn’t a nutritious staple for them like proper hay is!

Your Goats Might Need More than Hay

Hay is indeed a common staple in many goats’ diets, but depending on the type of hay and your goats needs hay alone might not be enough.

Your goats might need a more balanced diet that includes other foods such as grains, vegetables, and fruits in order for them to enjoy complete nutrition and the other, subtler benefits of a varied diet generally.

How Can You Tell if Your Goats Need Better Hay?

Good-quality hay is essential for maintaining the health and well-being of goats, as we’ve learned, but not all hays are up to the task- including some that normally would be.

Poor-quality or nutrient-depleted hay may not provide enough things goats need to thrive, which can result in weight loss, poor body condition, digestive issues (like diarrhea) and reduced milk production in dairy goats.

If you notice any of these signs, or if your goats seem disinterested in their hay in preference of other foods, it’s important to assess the quality and nutritional content of your hay at once.

Don’t take any info you received from the seller as gospel! Get a test done on a sample of your hay, and consider switching to a new source of the same type if your hay is lacking.

Consider Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation as Needed

Even the best hay in conjunction with a varied diet likely won’t have absolutely everything a goat needs for optimal health.

And so, it might be necessary to supplement their diet with additional vitamins and minerals.

These supplements can be incorporated into the goat’s diet in a number of ways, such as with grain mixes, mineral blocks, and loose minerals.

It’s important to double-check with your vet before adding any sort of supplement to your goats’ diet as imbalance and even overdose is possible if you are careless.

1 thought on “So, What Kind of Hay Do Goats Eat?”

  1. Ammonium Chloride is used to help prevent urinary calculi in goats. U.C. is more predominate with males. I use orchard grass with timothy hay being a second choice, alfalfa is just too ”hot” in my experiences. I have had Boers for over ten years and a breeding herd for many of those years. Carrots and turnips can be chopped up and given to goats for a treat. This time of year with apples and pears falling we feed them those as well .


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