ECHOcommunity Conversations

Crops/Grass for Milking Goats

Does anyone have some good recommendations of what crops/grass would be best for raising milking goats. I’m living in the tropics of southern Ghana.

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Have you seen this video (https://www.echocommunity.org/resources/fc6a30c3-5679-49b8-a2b2-70e3f520c7db - ‘15 underutilized crops for improving the lives of smallholder farm families’) from the ECHO International Agriculture Conference Presentations? Josh Jamison says in the video that he’s got 15 varieties of mulberry growing, and mentions that at least one of them is good for goats :slight_smile:

No I haven’t. I’ll check it out. Thanks!

Hello Jethro,
I would recommand to see the manuals of Agromisa and CTA


https://publications.cta.int/en/publications/topic/animal-production-health/
Basically, it is important to feed not only grass, but also leaves. I rememeber when I was living in Chad, there was a time in the year, in the dry season, where it was impossible to find grass (any kind), and my goats were fed several months long only with tree leaves (mango tree, etc.) and they like it! People from the church were asking me to put their goats at my home, because my goats looked healthy in the dry season. In Ghana, I suppose the dry season is not long, so it is not complicated to find leaves beside grass. People know what kind of leaves the goats prefer, so it possible to link agroforestry promotion with fodder production.

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I have been feeding a milking goat at least 75 percent fodder for 6months and she is doing well. we are using a wide variety including moringa, katuk, mulberry, sweet potato leaves and vines, cowpea vines, kiwi and grape vines, live oak, ligustrim and banana leaves are a favorite. there are list on what not to feed online. I try a little and see what happens. I have tons of longevity spinach that we eat daily. The goats will not touch it. They do love napier grass, but i only have a small batch at the moment, because they climb over the fence and eat it before it can grow. Side note do not plant down fence line unless you let it get well established first before turning goats loose. I have a nupian and borr mix, big goat which means lots of fodder to feed. I would try looking into the dwarf varieties for less forage benefits. I firmly believe in variety and fast growing bushes to make it sustainable.

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The work we did in Rancho Ebenezer outside of Niquinohomo, Nicaragua (11.874317,-86.0880131,390 meters above sea level) with dairy goats, we fed our lot of 6-7 does between 7-10 kg of fresh weight forage (no grasses) and 1/2 kg of cattle supplement per non-lactating doe and lactating does without kids. We provided 1 kg of supplement per lactating doe with kids. I lost the the data we collected in a computer failure, but I believe that we got an average of 0.9 kg of milk per doe per day over three or four years of collecting data. That may not include the does during the last month or two of gestation when we stopped milking them, but in general we got at between 5 and 6 kg of milk per day from five to six does every day for at least 9 months of the year, in addition to what the kids got. The kids were with their mothers all during the day and we enclosed them at night in order to milk during the day. I forget at what age we weaned them. Maybe 3 months? We milked does with weaned kids twice daily.

Harold Watson, an agricultural mission worker from the Phillipines who helped develop SALT systems

(http://www.pcaarrd.dost.gov.ph/home/momentum/afin/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=413:sloping-agricultural-land-technology-salt-1-&catid=87&Itemid=2)

taught us the system we used for our small herd. His rule of thumb that forage provides maintenance nutrition and for the milk, you get what you give in terms of providing supplement–1 kg of supplement will give 1 kg of milk.

In terms of tree species, we used as many different kinds as we could grow and which were growing in the scrub forest. Gliricidia sepium was incredibly good, especially combined with Guazuma ulmifolia. Other trees included Calliandra calothyrsus. Shrubs included Morus, spp, and Hibiscus. Hibiscus provided some of the most foarge per m2.

We also grew Velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens) underneath trees and shrubs during the rainy season. The Velvet bean came close to doubling our forage production per unit area, but it did not solve our problems during the dry season. We depended a lot on mango leaves during the dry season, as well, as mentioned above.

We did not depend on Leucaena leucocephala in Nicaragua because of psyllid infestations.

The dry season in Niquihohomo is between 5 and 7 months. I remember we tried to manage breeding the does so that they were raising their kids and providing us milk during the rainy season. In the tropics, goats can be bred at any time during the year. So we would TRY to get them bred one or two months into the dry season.

We weighed the kids weekly and we were getting between 0.5 and 1.0 kg of growth per week. Our average was approximately 0.75 kg of growth per kid per week. We had many does that were 28-32 Kg by the age of 6-7 months, basically ready to breed, although we would generally wait an additional 2-3 months.

Somewhere in the ECHO library there used to be a copy of a PowerPoint that I put together with all of our data called something like “Goats and Reforestation.”

I hope some of this is helpful.

Thanks Mark. I appreciate any little bit of info. I’ll look for the PowerPoint, that sounds interesting.