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Feeding dairy goats during the dry period

Sarah Adamson
Vita Plus
Dry doe nutrition is an important part of a successful dairy goat operation.

Dry doe nutrition is an important part of a successful dairy goat operation.  However, many producers don’t invest enough time and/or resources into this important stage of a dairy goat’s life to capitalize on the benefits it provides.

In fact, it is a common misconception that dry does are on “vacation” during the dry period and can thrive on a low-quality diet.  However, as we discussed previously in this Dairy Goat Performance post, the dry period will prepare them for a successful – or unsuccessful – transition period and lactation.  If you want to set up your does for a successful lactation cycle, then you need to prioritize the dry period and understand the physiological demands the does are experiencing during this time, such as:

  1. Growing the next generation of animals for the farm
  2. Producing high volumes of quality colostrum
  3. Maintaining their own health
  4. Replenishing calcium and other vitamin/mineral stores while preparing their mammary system for the next lactation cycle

All these demands require a large amount of energy, which is why it is important to provide dry does with a nutrient-dense diet at least one to two months prior to kidding.

Feeding dry does

Producers who do emphasize dry doe nutrition often feed 1 to 1.5 pounds of dry doe-specific feed per day.  It is essential to note that feeding 1 to 1.5 pounds of a lactating pellet does not deliver adequate nutrition to meet dry doe nutrient demands.  That’s because lactating pellets are normally fortified at a feeding rate of 3 to 4 pounds a day.

When a producer feeds only half of a calculated feeding rate, the does only receive half of everything in the calculated diet, including protein, calcium, vitamins, minerals, etc.  If you choose to limit the intake of your dry does, make sure you are feeding a pellet that is fortified to be fed at a lower feeding rate, but still provides the dry does with the nutrients they need. 

Receiving proper nutrition at the correct levels is also important to help dry does maintain their weight throughout gestation.  If a doe loses weight during the dry period, it puts her at risk of developing pregnancy toxemia in late gestation.  Pregnancy toxemia occurs when the doe doesn’t receive enough energy from her diet to maintain fetal growth, her own body maintenance, or colostrogenesis, so the body mobilizes fat for energy.  When fat is converted into energy, it releases ketones, which flood the liver.  In excess, these ketones will cause liver toxicity and, ultimately, death.

Nutrition is just one part of creating a successful dry doe program.  Talk with your Vita Plus nutritionist for more information on dry doe program audits and to learn more about how you can maximize the benefits of the important dry period.

Sarah Adamson

Adamson is the Vita Plus dairy goat specialist