Feeding alfalfa pellets to goats

alfalfa pellets

We started using alfalfa pellets years ago when we had goats that could finish all their grain faster than we could milk them. If goats get too much grain, they’ll get diarrhea and a host of other health problems. And some goats are grain hogs. They don’t chew. Not kidding here. They just slurp up the grain like a five-year-old eating ice cream. Of course, goats are going to upchuck it all in a little while and chew it again, so I suppose that’s why they think they don’t need to chew the first go round.

You can’t slow down a goat that eats too fast, but you can make the situation less dangerous for them by mixing in non-grain feeds, such as the crumbs that fall off the bales of alfalfa. Milking does can have all the alfalfa they want. But if you have more than a couple of goats, you won’t have enough crumbs. That’s where alfalfa pellets come in. For years, I’ve also been recommending them to others who have trouble getting their goats milked before the does finish their grain and start to protest about being on the milk stand.

Alfalfa is about 16 percent protein, sometimes more, so it has as much protein in it as most commercial goat feeds. It is also very high in calcium, which is great for milk production. Alfalfa has a 15:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio, which makes it a perfect complement to grain, which is high in phosphorus.

alfalfa pelletsWhen Standlee approached me earlier this year and asked if I’d like to be a brand ambassador for them, it was an easy yes because I’d been using and recommending their product for more than ten years. And I was especially excited to hear that they were coming out with organic alfalfa pellets, especially with goats in mind. Because most of us with goats are consuming the milk and/or meat, we’re concerned about what they eat. I can’t even find organic alfalfa hay in my area, so this definitely fills a void.

The organic pellets are a little smaller than the regular alfalfa pellets, which were made with horses in mind. Goats are smaller, and have smaller teeth, so it’s a little easier for them to eat pellets that are smaller. In the title photo, I have the regular alfalfa pellets on the left, which are 1/4 inch, and the organic pellets are on the right, which are 5/32 inch in diameter.

We also feed alfalfa pellets to our American Guinea Hogs when they don’t have access to fresh pasture. Everyone talks about how goats waste hay, but pigs are even worse. They can’t use a hay feeder, so you have to feed hay on the ground, and a good bit of it gets scattered everywhere and wasted. Even though alfalfa pellets generally cost more than bales of hay, there is zero waste with the pellets. Just as we mix the pellets into the grain for the goats, we also mix it with the pigs’ grain.

Join me in the milking parlor in this video as I explain how we use alfalfa pellets with does on the milk stand.

I received so many questions on that first video that I decided to do a second one to respond …


And this is how I soak pellets before feeding them to our pigs:

Do you know how pellets are different than cubes or hay? Check out Alfalfa Pellets vs Cubes and Hay

And what’s the difference between alfalfa and grass hay? Check out my post.

alfalfa pellets

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153 thoughts on “Feeding alfalfa pellets to goats”

  1. I have only had goats four months and have two 5 month old Nubian doelings and one 6 month old Boer wether. I currently feed free choice bermuda hay, alfalfa in the morning, and grain each morning and evening. I’d like to add more nutrition to their diet in order for them to gain weight for winter and be healthy. I am very interested in adding alfalfa pellets to their daily feed, as I’m concerned about feeding them too much grain. Thank you for sharing this information and for the opportunity to win a bag of pellets. 🙂

    Reply
    • I feed Alfalfa pellets to my Steer to help fill him faster. My dairy goats are not huge fans of pellets and it maybe due to the larger sized pellets so I would be interested to try these and see if they like them better.

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    • I don’t think we are supposed to feed alfalfa to our weathers. Our vet recommended against it telling us it would cause urinary calculus. But it was ok to feed to does

      Reply
      • Feeding grain causes urinary calculi, but wethers don’t need alfalfa. Too much calcium can cause a zinc deficiency. You can, however, feed them grass hay pellets, such as timothy or orchard grass pellets.

        Reply
    • I want to know what to do with all the crumbs. Breathing this by the goats when they are eating like no tomorrow, even when fed very well, can be bad for their lungs. I have actually been looking for a recipe to make some type of cake/biscuit out of the powdered pellets so that there is no waste. Any ideas would be most appreciated.

      It would need a binder – the pellets, some type of oil – perhaps sunflower oil – and some type of sweet such as a few raisins or apple bits. Just thinking/typing out loud, so to speak, but would love to find an already tried and true recipe.

      Reply
      • You can sift out the “fines” and add them into their grain mix especially if it has a high molasses content. If not, you can mix it into chickens feed or sprinkle on your garden around your tomato plants. Tomato and chickens use the extra calcium to prevent blossum end rot and the chickens use for their egg shells.
        I hope these ideas are helpful.

        Reply
  2. I’ve used another brand of organic alfalfa pellets (the only one I could find in 50-lb bags) for my rabbits when our feed delivery was late and think it’s an awesome idea to mix into goat and hog feeds! I’ll have to check availability on Standlee; the other brand was not available locally and became too costly to have shipped by freight. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • You can feed as much as you want, especially if you’re trying to keep a goat happy on the milkstand. It’s not any different than alfalfa hay when it comes to feeding. They can eat as much as they want.

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      • I have a wether a buck and a nanny. Sometimes my hay supply is not that good. If I’m out of hay can I give the pellets to all of them instead and what amount?

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        • I do know of at least one person who feeds her goats 100% pellets, but most people think goats need at least some long-stem roughage to keep their rumen working properly because the longer stem roughage takes more time to digest. You’d be fine letting them have as much pellets as they want as long they’re getting some regular hay or pasture or browse.

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          • Absolutely make certain they have roughage , in the form of hay or browse. The couple I sold triplets to fed only pellets, and medicated ones at that!, contrary to everything I had told them. The wife had to move elsewhere for health reasons. My sales contract says I have first right to retrieve my animals. I gave them to a friend how picked them up. When I went to see them two or three weeks later, I was horrified! These were NOT the healthy goats I sold. Also, one had died. They were fat and lethargic, and hardly moved around at all. In appearance, they looked far more like Pygmy goats than Nigerian Dwarf goats.
            By the time they were there for two months, eating hay and browse (with pellets only a supplement), they were active and healthy again.
            So whatever you take from the article, be sure to take the part that the pellets are supplementing and not the main diet.

      • I have 3 Nigerian Dwarf does , if I decided to switch to pellets and also give some hay easy day..how many bags should I expect to go through in a month? Or how many lbs per doe a day?Right now I go through 4 bales a month(& there is some waste). Wondering how much my cost would go up. Thanks in advance!

        Reply
        • I would have estimated at least two bales per week (8 per month) for three ND does, but maybe your hay bales are extra heavy or your goats get a lot of pasture and browse. A bag of pellets weighs 40 pounds, but since there is no waste, a bale and a bag of pellets are pretty similar in terms of how long they last. You could try a bag and see how it compares. Remember that in the beginning, you might need to mix it with grain to get them to eat it.

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          • Thanks, I have pastures but feed alfalfa and grain when i bring them in from pasture at night. I think I will try pellets and see if they like them, they seem a lot less messy.

        • Hi Glen Rose, I noticed you mentioned medicated pellets for feeding goats as though it’s not good to feed it to them? Is this correct or did you just state it in the reference to the lack of other things that person that had the goats, where one died & a friend took the other ones but you stated they looked really bad. Was that partially due to feeding the medicated goat feed? I was under the impression that medicated goat feed was good for them as long as you hay & minerals for them? Please help me out with this. Would appreciate it very much
          Janet Lambert

          Reply
          • I have never heard of medicated alfalfa pellets, but there is medicated goat feed (grain) that comes in pellet form. Goats should NEVER be given any type of medicated feed for an extended period of time. It is meant to prevent coccidia in times of stress (such as weaning) when kids are most likely to wind up with coccidiosis. It is extremely rare for adult goats to have a problem with coccidiosis. Goats fed medicated feed long term have been shown to wind up with vitamin E deficiency. No drug is good for any creature when given routinely with no clear reason. They all have side effects.

            The kids in Glenna’s scenario were probably overweight due to feeding too much grain. Only does in milk need grain (goat feed). Being overweight is really one of the best case scenarios when over-feeding grain because too much grain can also cause enterotoxemia, thiamine deficiency, bloat, and other rumen problems that can cause death.

      • Hi Deborah,
        So we should not feed alfalfa pellets to does that aren’t pregnant?
        Also, when should we start feeding the pellets to our pregnant does? They are due in April

        Reply
        • You should not feed alfalfa in any form (hay or pellets or cubes) to dry does older than about six months old. Kids that are fast growing can use all of that protein and calcium, but dry adult does can wind up overweight if you feed them alfalfa. And overweight does are harder to get pregnant.

          Does should have alfalfa the last couple months of pregnancy because that’s when the kids are growing really fast, so they need the calcium. and protein in alfalfa. Nutritionally alfalfa is the same regardless of whether it is pellets, cubes, or hay, but goats really need the long stem forage, such as hay, to keep their rumen working. So, if your goats are not on pasture, you need to provide them with some type of hay, in addition to the alfalfa pellets. Alfalfa hay is really ideal.

          Reply
          • Aloha, just wondering about this response. My two does are in milk, plus I have a doeling and a wether, coming up on 8 months old. Since we live in Hawaii it’s pretty much impossible to get hay (we can grow it, just can’t ever dry it!) other than from TSC. So all of my goats have been on alfalfa/Bermuda grass hay (compressed bales from TSC), alfalfa pellets and browse since I got them. My does get 1 cup of grain on the milking stanchion morning and night. My doeling and wether only get grain when they’re getting their feet done or getting shots, etc.

            I don’t -think- any of my goats are overweight. I asked my vet and she said they look fine, but like most vets, goats aren’t her specialty. Now I’m worrying. I had a buck here for a “date” with my does, and I’m pretty sure the two older ones “took”, although I couldn’t stand the smell, and didn’t keep him around for the full 3 weeks. I don’t think my doeling took, as my wether has been mounting her (she’s not standing for him).

            So, all of that to ask if you think I should switch to Timothy pellets? Or something else? They don’t get enough good quality browse to eliminate actual baled hay, and I don’t always have a choice with what kind I feed, but they always seem to have Timothy pellets and beet pulp pellets at TSC.

          • If you are feeding alfalfa hay to the kids, then you can switch them to Timothy pellets at some point within the next couple of months. The less growing they’re doing, the less they need the extra calcium. Hopefully your doeling is at least 2/3 of her adult weight if she was bred. It’s pretty unusual for a doe that age to be overweight, as they are usually able to utilize all of their calories by growing. You can email me a photo of her at deborah@thriftyhomesteader.com if you want me to take a look.

            If the wether is trying to mount her every day, then he’s just confused or being dominant. If it was one day that you saw him mounting her, and she wouldn’t stand, it’s possible she was in standing heat a couple of hours earlier or later then when you were out there, so she is probably not pregnant. However, a very small percentage (like single digits percentage) of does that may come into heat once or twice even if they’re bred.

  3. I’ll try the Standlee brand; have been buying from the co-op more recently but I know TSC carries Standlee. I give alfalfa pellets not only to does on the milk stand, but I also add it to the grain I give my bucks/wethers, to help balance the calcium/phosphorus ratio and help prevent urinary calculi. 🙂

    Reply
  4. I used to feed Alfalfa pellets to my goats, they didn’t like them at first but they did start to eat them up like candy. Since not all my does liked the pellets and they were rather large I switched to Chaffhaye a few months ago. I am interested in trying pellets again though and these sound like they would work well seeing as they are a little smaller.

    Reply
    • I like Chaffhaye too along with Pellets of Alfalfa/Timothy blend.
      My mini goats, horses and Piggies love the Chaffhaye. Are you discontinuing it??

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      • I love Chaffhaye also. My doe’s and bucks get it daily. Along with Standlee alfalfa pellets, black sunflower seeds and Standlee compressed alfalfa and orchard grass baled hay free choice. I have zero waste. And my doe’s are milking machines. I am very happy with both their products.

        Reply
        • Carol – I’m curious – do you feed a goat grain in addition to your above products? I’m feeding very similarly and I’m considering trying to move away from the grain (currently I feed Kalmbach milk maker on the milk stand) – I have Nigerian Dwarf goats.

          Reply
          • I have only ever known one person who eliminated grain in her goats’ diet successfully, and she was only able to do it with goats that were born on her farm. If the goats had ever had grain, their milk supply completely fell apart when she tried to take the grain away. We tried to do this years ago, and our does lost weight at an unacceptable level. I really do not recommend anyone try this, especially if you are new to goats, meaning that you’ve had them for less than five years. You need to have a good baseline of knowledge about what your goats can produce for a number of years because every year will be a little different.

  5. I have been interested in trying alfalfa pellets but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I have a doe in milk, two growing babies (a doeling and a weather), and one dry doe. I’d love to give myself a little more leeway on the milkstand by adding pellets during milking time – I am still not very fast!

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  6. I love the alfalfa pellets mixed in with the grain. But on occasion I give a handful as a treat in the afternoon or when I just want to spend a little time in the pasture with them. So excited to see that there is now an organic option.

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  7. I feed alfalfa pellets everyday. 3# per doe. They work well for me since i cant get goid quality alfalfa hay. Ive done this for years.

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  8. We haven’t used alfalfa pellets yet because we have been feeding chaffhaye on the milk stand with the grain mixed in. My goats love chaffhaye but in the summer it seems to go bad before we can get through a bag. I’m so bummed about this. However, we have been pondering feeding alfalfa pellets in the summer and this looks like a great option! I’m so happy they have organic!

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    • Jordan I bought a small freezer for my goat food barn to put the chaffhaye bales in it once open in the summer heat. No more yeasty bales. You can also use kitchen garbage bags if you have a chest freezer in your house, just take out flakes of the chaffhaye of what you use a day and store in those in your home freezer. Just tie them up tight. Im in NW Tennessee and the heat here will ruin a bag in 3 days. So into the freezer it goes

      Reply
    • We’ve fed them to sheep before. If your sheep don’t need alfalfa, Standlee also makes an orchard grass and timothy grass pellet, as well as a mixed grass-alfalfa pellet. I feed the timothy pellets to my bucks because they don’t need all the calcium that’s in alfalfa.

      Reply
      • Do you give wethers and bucks alfalfa pellets. I had my first experience with UC in a 2 year old wether. He gets 1/4 cup grain and 1/4 beet pulp per day shared with a doe his age. Should I start giving him 1/2 cup alfalfa pellets to his diet per day.
        I don’t want to go through that again. His pizzle was sniped off because of the size of his stone.
        I know hay carries phosphorus but without it being tested I don’t know the ratio value of C/ P

        Reply
        • Wethers do not need grain and they definitely don’t need beet pulp unless you are just trying to fatten him up for butchering. Neither do dry does. Only does in milk need grain and alfalfa. I’m surprised the vet didn’t tell you to stop feeding him grain after surgery. Wethers only need a good quality grass hay and whatever they can get from the pasture. And grain causes urinary stones.

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  9. This sounds like just what I need. One of my goats finishes her grain really fast and gets antsy that I am not finished milking. Thanks for the info!

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  10. Great idea to offer it to pigs when pasture isn’t available… we’ll have to try it with ours this winter! We have Guinea Hogs and also heritage crosses who I’m sure will enjoy the experiment.

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  11. I feed all my goats free choice grass hay, minerals, baking soda, and water.

    Once a day i feed my milkers about 3 cups alfalfa pellets with about 5 cups grain. ,y milkers are mini nubians and peaked at 1 1/2 gallons of milk (each) in a 24 hour period.

    My babies get introduce to alfalfa pellets at about 2 weeks old (a snack during night time separation from mom), they work up from a handful of pellets with no grain to about 1 1/2 cups pellets with 2 cups grain and stay with that till freshening.

    Bucks get about 2 cups alfalfa pellets once a day. They keep the weight on great throuh rut seaon and stay trim and active in summer months!

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  12. I have 4 does that I think would love these! I only feed organic to all of my animals. My goats are currently on a feed that has some alfalfa pellets in it. They pick them out first because they live them. It would be wonderful to have an organic option like this to keep them from getting restless on the milk stand! Thanks for the opportunity to win some! I’ll have to see where they are available in my area. 🙂

    Reply
      • Many years ago we drove 8 hours one way to stock up on organic grain for our goats, and it was disastrous. I was new to goats and did not have any clue what to look for in a nutritional analysis. After dealing with goats dying, not getting pregnant, not staying pregnant, and lots of other heartaches, I learned about goat nutrition, and as of right now, I have never found an organic grain for goats that has a decent nutritional analysis. And sadly, I’ve lost track of the number of people I’ve helped over the years whose only goal was to feed their goats organic grain with no clue about nutrition, and they wound up in the same boat as I did. Feeding your goats organic grain with no attention to the nutrients is like you eating organic potato chips rather than conventionally grown broccoli.

        Reply
  13. That is a great idea to use them with the goats! Besides our horses we use them with our pigs and chickens. The high calcium is great support for egg production and great through the winter when there is not as much grass to free range on.

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  14. I am new to farm animal raising. Got my country home at the age of 52 in November love the new life and will not go back to living in town. Si.ce the first of the year we have gotten 9 goats 2 of which are in milk. I currently add alfalfa pellets in their grain when milking. Over the Labor day weekend I got a baby potbelly pig. Never crossed my mind that the alfalfa pellets would be good for her also, will be adding g it to her daily rations. Thanks for the information.

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  15. I actually found a bag of the organic alfalfa pellets at my TSP. Love it! My goats think they are getting a real treat, and they are. 🙂

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  16. I’ve been feeding alfalfa pellets to my Nigerians for the past three years. It’s a great way to get pasture to them when you don’t have any pasture. I have an urban farm and fresh browse is at a premium. I mix mine with steamed oats and sweet feed. My goats do really well on it.

    Reply
    • Yes, the organic pellets came out a couple of weeks ago. Nationally it’s available through Tractor Supply, which has an exclusive contract for one year, but after that you should be able to buy it at any local farm supply store that carries Standlee products.

      Reply
  17. I haven’t started feeding alfalfa pellets, but I’m thinking a bout it. We get grass hay with very little alfalfa. Our freezer wethers have been fine, but I want to avoid problems with pregnant does.

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  18. If you want to get really thrifty, soak the pellets. They puff up to 3x the size, and it takes the goats longer to eat them. Plus, it gets more water in their diet, which is good for a milking goat.

    Reply
    • I have a 19 year old goat with no teeth and he struggles to chew. He is not a good drinker either. He can nibble grass but can’t chew hay.
      I top him up on ready grass and soaked alfalfa pellets. He loves it and I know he’s getting a fibre, water and protein boost x

      Reply
  19. I have never used alfalfa pellets but they should like a wonderful solution to keeping the girls busy while being milked without giving to much grain. Thanks so much. Will look for it in the store.

    Thanks again

    Reply
  20. I have been using Standlee Alfalfa pellets with my goats for about 3 years now, great to see them adding an Organic option! I cannot find alfalfa hay around here, and the pellets are simple plus the goats love them.

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  21. Currently using organic alfalfa pellets milled locally… mixing with my milking doe’s grain and then feeding free choice overnight. Interested in perhaps seeing if my goats would like this brand, but unsure if I want to spend the money on something they may not like when they are perfectly happy with their current organic alfalfa pellets. I will keep this post in mind on the off-chance that I am unable to get them from the mill. Thank you 🙂

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  22. Interesting read I will have to check them out. I have given flakes of alfalfa and Chaffhaye since day one with my goats, but have heard mixed reviews on the alfalfa pellets. Good to hear some good reviews on them. I really love that they have an organic option!

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  23. Hi there, this is good to see. We have been convinced for some time that grain is bad for our goats, and do not intentionally feed any. They love grain, as you know, and have many ways to cadge it when we are sure all supplies are secure. Breaking into the hen house is not beneath their dignity.

    We kept them going all through a cold winter on alfalfa pellets, hay and occasional goat minerals. We also keep a generic salt lick handy and offer baking soda sometimes. During the warmer months the goats free range and I’m happy to say they eat down a lot of pesky weeds. We can never be sure all their nutritional requirements are met when they’re free-ranging, however, so we offer hay and alfalfa pellets on a somewhat irregular basis, mainly because they have addictive personalities and will forego their grazing to insist on handouts if we’re not careful.

    Whenever we need to entice them to come to us, rattling some alfalfa pellets in a bucket does the trick. I am very happy to hear that someone is making organic pellets especially for goats, but not sure I can source them up in Northern BC where we live.

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  24. I currently use the regular alfalfa pellets from them but a few of my goats don’t like the large size, so these might work really well!

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  25. Years ago we had rabbits and fed them alfalfa pellets. We had a “piggy” goat, that my 7 yr old daughter milked. As we tried to figure out what to do about her piggish ways, we came to the conclusion that if Goatee could have all the alfalfa hay she wanted, perhaps the rabbit pellets would be fine too… so we started buying a bag for the rabbits and one for the goat too! Would love to have organic though! 🙂

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  26. I am interested in trying these organic alfalfa pellets. The only milk we consume for months is from our herd so I strive to make their diet as wholesome as possible! My goats (and I !) would benefit from something healthy to occupy their time as they get used to the notion of milking too. Since they have access to alfalfa hay morning and night would I need to be concerned with introducing the pellets to their diets?

    Reply
    • Pellets and regular alfalfa hay are both alfalfa, so no need to worry about your goats’ digestive systems adjusting. They may initially be suspicious of the pellets, but if you mix a little in with their grain, they tend to get over that pretty quickly.

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  27. First off let me just say that I love your blog. Second I have a couple questions, I haven’t really been able to find any good alfalfa hay suppliers around here so I have been feeding whatever kinds we get in at my work, orchard and to. But we do have alfalfa pellets and the cubes, in your opinion which would be better to feed a doe that refuses to keep weight on her? I feed her beet pulp and boss along with her 17% pellets and she seems to do okay till she is producing milk. I was trying to keep her away from the boys but she excaped her pen and broke into this so she is once again going to kid.

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  28. Help! I want to feed Alfalfa or Timothy pellets to my 3 month old pygmy buck, but he keeps bloating ! He gets 1 cup twice a day — nothing else. What can I do? Will he eventually get used to it? He acts hungry.

    Reply
    • I can’t imagine that he is actually getting bloat. That is a clinical symptom that needs treatment or a goat could die — it is not just a big belly. Can you explain what you are seeing and what you are doing when you see whatever you are seeing? I really hope you are feeding him more than just 1 cup of pellets twice a day because that’s not enough.

      Reply
    • I went to the Lakin website, and the first ingredient is alfalfa, which is too rich for wethers and bucks. There is too much calcium, which can bind with zinc and cause a zinc deficiency. A grass hay pellet would be fine though.

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  29. I was the winner of the giveaway last year (thanks,a gain!) and my goats loved the pellets, and in fact milk production increased. Unfortunately, the organic version is not available anywhere near me, and our local Tractor Supply can’t even order them for me. I can only order them on their website with a shipping fee that is more than the cost of pellets. I have checked the Tractor Supply stores around where all of my scattered relatives live, and no luck anywhere (PA and MD).

    I’m wondering how safe it is to feed the non-organic pellets. I read in a garden forum that alfalfa is never treated with Grazon like hay is, do you know if that is true? I don’t want my goats eating herbicides, and I don’t want to risk ruining my garden soil as has happened to many people with hay and straw sprayed with herbicides. I know alfalfa is a common GMO crop, is it likely that is the difference between organic and not organic at Standlee, not use of chemicals?

    It is impossible to get any kind of organic goat feed around here. The feed store said they would have to order 5 tons of it and they don’t have demand for it. I only have 3 goats, so that is obviously not feasible.

    Reply
    • I know how you feel. We can’t get organic feed where I live either, so I feed the non-organic alfalfa. I just contacted Standlee to get the most up-to-date info for you, in case anything has changed since I worked with them last year on this. Some of the non-organic fields do have GMO alfalfa planted, but not all, so the pellets are a mix. They do not spray alfalfa with an herbicide, but they do spray the field itself before planting. Hopefully the organic will become more popular, and more stores will start to carry it.

      Reply
    • When I use the word grain, I am referring to grain in any form, either a single grain or “goat feed,” which is pelletized grain blends.

      Reply
  30. We are new to owning a goat and have a female and male dwarf Nigerian goats. The male was fixed as for us they are simply pets. We do not milk them, nor will be breeding them. I just introduced the pellets to them recently and they LOVE it, purchased the Standlee, but was recommended the alfalfa and timothy hay mixture as winter is coming and they would need a little extra protein for the cold, although in Las Vegas, our winters are pretty mild compared to other places. In the morning I will be giving them regular timothy hay and for the night, I just purchased an automatic feeder (it’s actually a pond fish feeder, will know shortly how well it works) and planning to have it feed the pellets before it gets dark (around 4 pm) every night as I don’t get home till around 5:30 pm. Do you think set up is okay for them? I will watch their weight to see if I need to give them more or less of the pellets as this will be their first winter.

    Lastly do you think we should put a heating lamp inside their sleeping shed during the night for the winter? It’s a wooden shed with shavings in it. We would leave the split door bottom open or could just close it without locking it so they push it open to get out if they want.

    Any other suggestions or tips would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Please do NOT use a heat lamp, as it is the #1 cause of barn fires, plus healthy adult goats do NOT need added heat. They will grow a thick coat of cashmere, which will keep them quite warm. Our goats are fine down to -20 degrees — yes, 20 below zero Fahrenheit. Here is more info on Goats in Winter: https://thriftyhomesteader.com/goats-in-winter/

      Goats should have grass hay available all the time. Using some grass hay pellets as a supplement would be fine, but they need grass hay or pasture daily so that they have to chew a lot, which keeps their rumen healthy. They don’t have to chew or ruminate much with pellets. They do NOT need alfalfa, and in fact, feeding alfalfa to a wether and a dry doe could cause zinc deficiency because it has too much calcium in it, which can bind with the zinc, making it unavailable. Only milkers need alfalfa and does at the end of pregnancy.

      Reply
  31. Thank you so much! I will switch the pellets to just the timothy hay pellets then. When you say grass hay is that the timothy hay? That is what we give them in the morning. I also give them the sweet feed from time to time as a treat. They have goat minerals and baking soda as well but they could care less about these. Sometimes I sprinkle the little bit of the sweet feed in the minerals and baking soda hoping they get some in this way.

    Reply
    • Wethers and dry does are very easy keepers, so there is no need to try to trick them into consuming minerals or baking soda. In fact, baking soda is an antacid, so you should hope that your goats do not ever need it. It’s just there in case they do. You wouldn’t eat Rolaids with every meal, so your goats do not need to consume baking soda unless they have an upset rumen.

      Yes, Timothy is a type of grass hay. They also do not need sweet feed, so when you say “as a treat,” I hope you only mean a handful a couple of times a week.

      Reply
  32. I’m trying to go complete grain free with all my livestock. I am planning on giving my does alfalfa pellets, veggies, BOSS and beet pulp or kelp if needed. Will this work for the babies? If not, what else would i need to add to sustain healthy growing babies without grain/sweet feed?
    Thanks in advance for your time. Shannon

    Reply
    • It’s very challenging to go grain-free with dairy goats. Kids will do fine if they are nursing and have hay and browse available. The problem is that modern dairy goats are bred to produce so much milk that does tend to get very skinny without grain. I know one person who has taken her herd off grain, and she said she had to start with kids. If she had a doe that had never had grain in its life, it did well, but if she tried to take an adult doe off grain, she either lost too much weight or her supply plummeted. We saw the same thing when we tried to go grain free many years ago and gave up. If you have meat goats, it may not a problem to go grain free. I know someone with kikos whose goats get no grain, and her goats all do great, but she gets her hay tested so that she knows she’s feeding enough protein.

      If you are concerned about GMOs, you should know that beet pulp is all GMO, and it’s really just empty calories. It’s like giving your goats candy. People just use it to put weight on goats, which should not be the only goal. You want to give goats a good nutrient-dense diet so they stay healthy.

      You also did not mention browse, but unless your goats are going to get daily browse, your chances of having healthy goats is not great if you go grain free. Browse provides a lot minerals that goats need that other livestock do not.

      I’m not sure what your goal is because BOSS is a grain. All grains are simply seeds.

      A good free-choice, LOOSE mineral, such as Sweetlix Meat Maker is also essential, or you will wind up with mineral deficiencies, which will cause you a world of heartache.

      Reply
      • Does kelp have zinc in it, I have pregnant does that will not eat any type of hay but periennial peanut hay which is high in calcium? I am afraid to not offer the periennial peanut at this time, I tested them recently and they are just below low normal in zinc. What can I do at this point to supplement the zinc? thanks

        Reply
        • Pregnant does are fine eating peanut hay because they NEED the calcium in the hay to grow babies. It is only bucks or DRY does that do not need the calcium in alfalfa. Pregnant does and milkers need lots of calcium, and you don’t normally hear about them having any issues with zinc deficiency.

          (And no, kelp does not have much zinc in it. Just be sure that your does have access to good quality GOAT mineral, NOT “sheep and goat,” which does not have copper in it, which will lead to copper deficiency in goats.)

          Reply
  33. I have 3 pygmys as pets. One 2.5 year old momma and two 6 month old kids . I can’t find hay anywhere. So I decided to give them free choice alfalfa pellets along with the weeds and grass found in their pen. I also give each kid 1/2 a cup and the momma 1 cup of grain in the evening (it’s like a treat). Am I doing this right?

    Reply
    • If the kids are still nursing, then it’s fine for the mama to have some grain to help her with milk production, but once the kids stop nursing, then you should stop the grain for the mama. The kids don’t really need grain after about six months, although if you’re in a really cold part of the world, you could wait until it warms up before you stop giving it to them. They don’t need it when their growth slows down. Alfalfa pellets are fine now, but again, once the mama is not nursing, she doesn’t need alfalfa at all, and the kids don’t need it either after about six months. It is high in calcium, and too much calcium can cause zinc deficiency. Male goats and dry does (not in milk and not pregnant) do not need that much calcium. A good green grass hay will be fine if you are not breeding your goats.

      Reply
  34. Help! I’m so confused and I know I must be overthinking feeding my goats. I have 3 acres and the grass is waste high but starting to turn brown. I’ve read some places that there’s no nutrition in dry grass. I think the back pasture that’s about 2 acres has alot of oats but I’m not sure. Should I be supplementing them with hay? I have 12 does and they’re just pets. I have no clue how much they weigh so I don’t know how much to feed them. Should I feed them alfalfa, timothy or whatever type is better. As I said before there’s endless grass for them to eat. I give them a goat supplement that’s pellets. There’s a mountain lion that’s killing a couple sheep in the neighborhood and I’m trying to get them to come to the front pasture because it well lit. Theres not alot of grass out front for some reason so I’ve been letting them into the back during the day. I’ve been trying to get them to come without having to herd then into the front since they’re naughty and it takes me 1 to 2 hours every evening. I’ve been giving them a small amount if mixed grain to lure them. Maybe silly but I bought a cow bell and trying to train them to come when they hear it. Its only been a few days but I am making some headway getting them to come when they hear the bell. They’re very skittish but getting alot better about letting me near them. Maybe they’ve just got me trained. I want to do whsts best but every thing I’ve read it’s full of different opinions so I’m not sure what to feed. Help!

    Reply
    • You read a lot of different things about what to feed goats because a lot of people don’t differentiate whether their goats are bucks, milkers, pregnant does, dry does, or kids, which all have different needs.. Dry does are very easy keepers because they are not growing babies or producing milk, so they only need pasture and grass hay. Alfalfa is too rich for them because it is high in calcium, which they do not need, so they could wind up zinc deficient.

      If the grass is brown you can wind up vitamin A and E deficiencies. So they need GREEN grass, leaves, bushes, weeds, etc. You even want your hay to be green inside the bale. The outside will fade to brown over a few months, but when you open the bale, it should be mostly green. Since they are only pets, their nutritional needs are not as intense as they would be if the does were having kids and milking, so you can get by with hay and pasture that’s slightly less green than you could with milkers.

      They do not need a goat feed or grain because that’s high in calories and protein, which they do not need, so they are likely to get obese if you feed them that. If you buy some grass hay pellets, you can mix that with the grain to get them transitioned over and then use that as a treat for them.

      Reply
      • The cow bell works with our goats. They free range and go into their pen at dusk on their own and we shut the gate. If, for any reason, we need to close them up early, we ring the bell and the herd comes running.

        Reply
  35. I have two wethers and one had an operation to reroute his urinary system due to stones! Not fun for any of us but he’s done well for several years. I think he had worms this late winter but I was slow in figuring it out. I gave him the deworming pellets along with probiotic and it seemed to do the trick. The problem is he’s lost a tremendous amount of weight and while he’s eating ..it’s not enough. He has pasture as well as Timothy hay and sanfoin hay plus a little bit of COB with powdered probiotic to help his tummy and add weight. It’s just not working and I’m super concerned especially with winter around the corner. Oh, and he’s losing his fur. What can you suggest for fattening up my sweet little guy?

    Reply
    • If he is losing hair, that sounds like a mineral deficiency or imbalance — most likely a zinc deficiency caused by too much calcium in the diet from the sainfoin hay, which is a legume like alfalfa. Wethers should only have grass hays, such as the timothy that you’re feeding. Here is more on zinc deficiency —
      https://thriftyhomesteader.com/zinc-deficiency-goats/
      Here is more on minerals in goats:
      https://thriftyhomesteader.com/goat-minerals/
      What specific mineral do you have available for them? Free choice? Loose rather than block? What brand?
      Worms could be a possibility also, if you are not rotating pastures. They can easily reinfect themselves if they stay on a pasture too long.

      Reply
  36. Fairly new to goats and am struggling with the idea that my bucklings shouldn’t get grain or alfalfa at all. One of them will be my herd sire this year and he is still a kid growing. Is it ok that I feed them alfalfa pellets and 17% kid grower half and half every morning? They would be almost 5 months old now. The calcium/phos ratio really confuses me but I don’t want to hurt them.

    Reply
    • Keep in mind that ruminants really should not get grain because it’s not good for their rumen — period. (In nature, they consume very little grain — just a few seed heads on grasses.) Feeding grain to ruminants is a pretty modern idea. This is why you need to have baking soda available free choice at all times, so that they can self-medicate if they are feeling off. Some people only have baking soda available for their bucks (not does) because they don’t feed grain to the bucks. They feed massive quantities of baking soda in cattle feedlots because they are pushing so much grain. Unfortunately we have bred does so that they can’t produce to today’s standards and maintain their body condition without grain in most cases. Assuming bucks have excellent pasture, browse, and/or hay, they don’t need grain. Here is more on what bucks need:
      https://thriftyhomesteader.com/7-tips-for-keeping-bucks-healthy/

      Nothing is ever engraved in stone, but most normal, healthy goats have done the majority of their really fast growing by the time they are six months old so they don’t need the extra protein in a grower feed or the calcium in alfalfa. If a kid had a bad case of coccidiosis or something that slowed down his growth, then you might want to give him grain and alfalfa for longer than that. When I sell a couple of wethers or bucks, I tell the buyers that they can buy a 50# bag of grain and when it’s gone, they don’t need to buy more.

      As for the quantity you are feeding your bucks, I would not give them more than 1/2 to 1 cup of grain twice a day, depending upon breed (smaller breed would be less grain). You can mix in alfalfa pellets or not.

      The main reason people talk about the calcium-phosphorus ratio with bucks is because of urinary calculi, but there is more to it than that. Too much calcium can also cause zinc deficiency. You don’t usually see that in bucks until they’re a year old or more when they are really mostly done growing. A Nigerian buck can go over-height up until age 3, so they do continue to grow a tiny bit after a year, but it’s not enough to require additional protein and calcium.

      It is also really important that if someone has a goat that is not thriving on an appropriate diet that they try to figure out why. I see too many people think that they just need to feed more grain or beet pulp (please no!) to fatten them up. If a goat is underweight, there is probably a very good reason for it, and that reason needs to be discovered. If the reason is dried out brown hay, then improve the hay. If the reason is parasites, then treat that. Giving a goat grain with poor quality brown hay can lead to vitamin A and E deficiency because the goat feed companies don’t put much of those vitamins in there assuming that the goats will be getting plenty from browsing and hay. One of the vet texts actually says that the cure for vitamin A deficiency is green hay.

      Reply
  37. I just got two doelings, about 5 months old, and they were a bit skittish when we first got them. I hand feed them alfalfa pellets, to help them become more friendly, and they also get about a half a flake of first cut hay every day. I heard a lot about alfalfa for milking does in your article, which is what my friend does for her does, and is what my doelings have been on for their whole lives. I don’t want to feed them too many pellets, and I don’t know what would be a healthy medium. They also have access to pasture. How much should I feed my goats?

    Reply
    • If you are planning to breed them — and they should be about 2/3 of their adult weight when you breed them — you can probably continue to feed them some alfalfa hay or pellets now through the time that they are pregnant and are milking. If you are not going to breed them, then you should probably cut back on the alfalfa in the next few months. If does are not bred annually, they tend to have a problem with obesity if they’re being fed alfalfa because it’s just too rich. Since they are still growing a lot at this age, they can utilize the calcium, but once their growth slows down, they don’t really need it unless they are growing babies or making milk.

      Reply
  38. Hi- someone gave me a cahrt with cal to phos ratios, where it said a 50/50 mix fo sunflower seeds and alfalfa pellets was the correct balance for wethers for an occasional treat. Is this true? Been searching for a safe treat for my wether and buck.

    Reply
    • Depends on how you define occasional treat. If you’re giving them a handful of black oil sunflower seeds once every few weeks, it really doesn’t matter. You can definitely give them as much as you want of timothy hay pellets on a daily basis, so if you feel you need to give them a treat on a daily basis, the grass hay pellets are a good choice.

      Reply
    • Tractor Supply carries them. If your local store doesn’t keep them in stock, ask if they’ll order them for you. If that doesn’t work, I’d suggest contacting Standlee through their website to see if there is another local dealer near you.

      Reply
  39. Hi,
    I have a 15 year old doe. That is having a hard time chewing her hay. I think she has lost her back. She leaves wads of chewed hay sometimes in her water bucket but I find wads of hay always on the barn floor. I was thinking of adding pellet Timothy or Alfalfa to her diet since we are coming into winter and she won’t have as much access to pasture. She is not a milking doe. Would you recommend alfalfa pellets or Timothy and how much per day? Thank you for any help you can suggest.
    Colleen

    Reply
    • The pellets are actually quite hard and would be impossible to eat without teeth — unless you soak them in water first. Since it is just hay that has been pulverized, she can eat as much as she wants. Since you are soaking it though, I wouldn’t mix up more than she can eat in a few hours because you don’t want it to start to grow mold (if you are in a warm climate) or freeze (if you are in a cold climate). Since she is not milking or making babies, she probably doesn’t need as much calcium as if she were doing those things, but many humans do need calcium supplements when they’re older, so the timothy-alfalfa blend pellets would probably be best for her. Unfortunately we don’t have research on nutrition for older goats, so we just have to go on anecdotal information. The only possible problem with too much alfalfa would be too much calcium, which causes zinc deficiency, so if she starts to blow her coat in the middle of winter or foam at the mouth, I’d switch to timothy only. Here is more info on caring for senior goats —
      https://thriftyhomesteader.com/caring-for-senior-goats/

      Reply
      • Thank you so very much for responding back. So much info in the caring for senior goats article. Baking soda is always available free of choice for my goats. 🙂 Im so happy I found this site. again thank you

        Reply
  40. I am just getting into this. We feed grass hay to our goats and I was going to start giving them alfalfa pellets but I see that is not a good think unless they are in milk. Good to know. What about grain, I was told they really don’t need it since they have hay and access to a pasture. But I was told that when it is cold out it is good to give them grain. Right now I give them grain when it going to be under 32 at night. What is your take?

    Reply
  41. I have a doe that was bred about 4.5 weeks ago. She was right at 60% of her adult weight (my plan was to wait another month, but our buck decided to get smart all of a sudden and figured out how to open the gate). She is 9.5 months old and never came back into heat, so I assume she is pregnant. Is it okay to feed alfalfa pellets or would it be better to use timothy grass? She is currently on about 1lbs. of Dumor goat feed, and free choice wheat hay (the hay does have the grain heads in it). I would just as soon take her off grain, but with her still being young and pregnant I’m not sure what to do. I would appreciate any suggestions.

    Reply
    • Alfalfa pellets have as much protein as the grain and it has more calcium. Alfalfa is great for pregnant goats.

      Reply
      • Alfalfa is not only suitable for consumption by goats, it is also good for other ruminants, such as goats, cattle, camels, etc. The emergence of alfalfa particles saves us a lot of trouble because it is too nutritious.

        Reply
  42. We will be getting two 5 week old and a 9 week old buckling tomorrow. They are coming from two different people and they each feed them different things. We are new to goats and I want yo be sure we feed them correctly. We will be bottle feeding the two youngest ones until they are 8 weeks old and we also have timothy hay, loose minerals and baking soda available free choice. One of the folks told me she was feeding hers (the 5 weekers) grower grain mixed with alfalfa pellets 1/2 cup a day. The other lady with the 9 weeker said she is only feeding hers hay and loose minerals. We do plan on getting them banded when they are 12 weeks old. Do they need grain and pellets? I read in one your comments that you tell your customers to buy one 50lb bag of grain and when it is gone to not buy anymore. Is it ok to give them the alfalfa pellets with it? We have already purchased both. We did have goats about 15 years ago for a short period of time and one of the ended up with UC and we had to have him put to sleep so I do not want to go through that again! I also read to give a copper supplement a few times a year. I’ve been doing a TON of research but there are so many different things that are said.

    Reply
    • You hear so many different ideas for two reasons — first, a lot of people don’t realize that what a goats needs will vary from farm to farm, and second, there was very little research done on goats up until the last few years, so 15 or 20 years ago or more, people did a lot of things that are no longer recommended.

      Wethers do not need grain or alfalfa, but if you just give them a little bit as a treat until you’ve used up these bags, they should be fine. They are growing fast right now so they can use the extra protein and calcium. They won’t need that a few months down the road when their growth slows down — and it can become detrimental for them and cause problems.

      Keep in mind that wethers are VERY easy keepers, and people kill them with kindness a lot. They are not producing sperm or babies or milk, so they don’t need anything more than a good grass hay, pasture, and free choice minerals. Here is more on that topic — https://thriftyhomesteader.com/what-do-goats-eat-it-depends/

      Reply
  43. I am feeding dairy does and because of the weight of the alfalfa bales of hay (I am getting older lol) I am thinking about feeding half alfalfa pellets and half grass hay in the winter months when the does are dry. They get alfalfa pellets and COB on the milk stand when in milk plus pasture. Would you think the 1/2 and 1/2 ratio for winter would be safe?

    Reply
  44. I clicker train my goats with alfalfa pellets. They’ll do most anything for them. It’s also how I trained my super wild, never handled 3 yr olds. Took some time but now they actually act better than some of the spoiled 4H-ers.

    Reply
  45. This may be a stupid question but I am new to goats. I have 2 nigerian dwarfs, one wether and one doeling that are 5 months old. Right now they are getting about a cup a day each of alfalfa pellets with hay twice a day. They are also getting minerals, free choice. They don’t seem to care much for anything in there pen except the leaves they can reach. Their coats are soft and shiny but there hooves are chipping up the sides. Poop is good!
    If someone can tell me what I’m doing right, and wrong in regards to their feeding that would be really appreciated.

    Reply
  46. This product was recommended for our baby goats but they do not seem to like it. If we continue to offer, do you think they will come around?
    Thank you

    Reply
    • Probably. Really small kids may have trouble eating the pellets because they are not small, but they don’t eat much of anything anyway. You could mix in a little grain to get them more interested. Plus, they will eat more if they are in a group because they’re rather competitive.

      Reply
  47. Hello,
    My Nigerian Dwarf does have eaten these alfalfa pellets their whole life. They always have available hay/roughage and minerals/baking soda. This is what their previous owners fed them, and they don’t want to seem to eat any other type of food. They are too small for breeding, so they are solely companion pets. They seem to be a healthy weight and playful, but I was wondering if a solely alfalfa pellet diet is bad for them?

    Reply
    • If they are not going to be bred, then they don’t need alfalfa. It has a lot of calcium in it, which could lead to zinc deficiency because calcium is a zinc antagonist. Only does in milk or pregnant does need that much calcium. If they start losing hair in random spots or foaming at the mouth, I’d suspect zinc deficiency. I’d suggest buying a bag of the timothy hay pellets and starting to mix those in with the alfalfa pellets to gradually switch them over to 100% timothy hay pellets. Orchard grass hay pellets are also acceptable. I don’t know how old the does are, but if they are still growing, that’s why you haven’t had a problem yet. Growing kids also use a lot of calcium.

      Reply
      • They are both 2 and a half years old. I have seem no health issues so far and I have been providing Timothy hay everyday with their pellets. I have tried switching them to other hay type pellets but they pick out the alfalfa pellets and won’t eat the other ones. Do you have any advice for the situation? Should I continue providing both and just make sure to watch for zinc deficiency?

        Reply
        • They don’t need alfalfa pellets, so just stop feeding them. You don’t need to provide male goats with any type of pellets. I hope you are not feeding them grain either, as grain can lead to urinary calculi in male goats. If you need to bribe them with a handful of pellets every now and then, that’s fine. But they don’t need alfalfa in their daily diet.

          Reply
  48. I mentioned this in one of your live feeds, and I’ll pick up the topic again. With being an ambassador to this company, how hard would it be to talk them into producing pellets the same size a rabbit food pellets? Every year I seem to have that one kid that thinks he can swallow a pellet out of his mom’s feed bowl. then we get the green spell of mild choke.
    There would certainly be a huge market for them, as goat popularity is exploding

    Reply
    • I agree that smaller pellets would be better for goats, and I have forwarded your comment to Standlee. Thanks!

      Reply
  49. Thanks again for great info! I’ve had goats for only 9 months and have I ever had lots to learn!
    So I get that grain (Text, pellets, rolled plain grain) and alfalfa are not needed for males nor for dry does. Now… for the pregnant and milking doe… I’m struggling with what amounts to give and at which time in gestation / milking to give the grains and the alfalfa pellets. I have ND goats on grass hay 24/7. Can you give a schedule with related amounts for those does? Thank you!

    Reply

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