The Underweight Goat: A Nourishing Regimen for Productive Weight Gain

Disclosure: This post may contain Amazon Affiliate Links, from which I will earn a commission.

Whether you have just rescued a goat, have one bouncing back from a rough parasite load, or just need to get weight on that hard keeper—putting weight on a goat is a whole body endeavor; you need to nourish and supplement in many ways to help the goat rebuild a healthy body condition.

Why a goat may be underweight:

  • Parasites

Parasites can cause rapid or gradual weight loss. This will often be accompanied by anemia, diarrhea, or other symptoms of a worm infestation. If you are unsure of the cause of a skinny goat, run a fecal test for parasites and treat them accordingly. A goat will not be able to gain weight while burdened by a parasite load.

  • Mineral Deficiencies

Mineral deficiencies (specifically copper deficiency) can cause weight loss. Usually this goes along with parasite issues, but be sure to know the signs of mineral deficiencies and treat them as needed; this is a necessary step in weight gain.

  • Nutritional Issues

Weight loss that comes from nutritional issues simply means that a goat has lost weight because of improper feeding. Lactating does may lose condition because they do not consume enough protein. This does not mean a goat is being cared for improperly or neglected, just that they require some more “groceries” in their diet to keep them healthy.

  • Disease

Certain diseases such as Johnes Disease can cause weight loss in goats. Be sure to routinely test your goats for diseases.

This is a goat belonging to one of my clients, she suffered from mineral deficiencies and a very poor body condition. I began working on this case in August of 2020, as you can see on the image. This sweet doe has improved drastically–with a carefully-planned regimen and a very diligent owner:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_9801.jpg

Once you determine and treat the cause of being underweight, recovery is a fairly generic regarding the feeding regimen. Here’s what I recommend, and remember, we must nourish all parts of the body—weight gain is not just about protein and calories. 

Step-by-step:

  1. Feedstuffs

Hay should be available free choice. For most goats, this consists of grass hay; if you feed your goats alfalfa hay, you may need less of the alfalfa which will mentioned later on.

A balanced goat pelleted grain is a good baseline for a weight-gain diet. Sweet feed will have empty nutrients and sugars—avoid feeding this. On top of a pelleted grain, you will want to add beet pulp and alfalfa pellets. Beet pulp is exceptional for putting weight on goats, and alfalfa is necessary as well. Everyone has different available feedstuffs, so here are a few good weight gain rations you can decide between:

1 part Balanced Goat Pellet

1 part Beet Pulp

1 part Alfalfa Pellets

~~~~~~

1 part Alfalfa pellets

1 part Beet Pulp

1 part Oats (whole)

1/2 part Timothy pellets

Topped with 1-2 TBSP Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

~~~~~~

1 part Oats (whole)

1 part Alfalfa Pellets

1/2 part Calf Manna

1/2 part Beet Pulp

Optionally Topped with 1-2 TBSP Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

~~~~~~

NOTE: If you are putting weight on a MALE goat (buck or wether) use only the following two recipes:

If the goat is drinking hard water/well water/high calcium water: 

1 part Timothy pellets

1/2 part Beet Pulp

1/2 part Oats

Topped with 1-2 TBSP Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

~~~~~~

Normal/filtered/softened water:

1 part Alfalfa pellets

1 part Timothy pellets

1/2 part Beet Pulp

1/2 part Oats

Topped with 1-2 TBSP Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

2. Supplements

Dark Beer – Drench/offer if the goat enjoys it 4-6 oz (4oz for mini, 6oz for standard) of room temperature dark beer. Leave it in a bowl to sit on your counter to warm and flatten. Dose 1-2x per day for 1 week straight, then give twice a week thereafter. Dark beer contains healthy microbes for the gut, it is my go-to for malnourished goats, and is a complete life-saver!

Dyne High Calorie Liquid – Dyne is a liquid drench which provides calories and nutrients in a concentrated form. I recommend this daily while a goat is critically underweight.

Probiotics – My preferred form of daily probiotics is Probios Bovine Gel. Dose daily for at least 1 month. If the rumen is not functioning properly, it will not efficiently utilize the feed you are providing.

Vitamin B B Vitamins are essential to rumen health, blood building, and the overall wellbeing of a goat. Give Fortified Vitamin B Complex injections once a day for 1 week straight. If a goat is recovering from anemia-related weight loss, give once a week until fully recovered.

Garlic – To support the underweight goat’s immune system and overall health, be sure to feed daily raw garlic. For a goat that has not been on a regular garlic regimen, feed 2-3 cloves daily for 3-5 days, then one clove daily thereafter.

If a goat is struggling with gut health (diarrhea accompanying weight loss, decreased appetite, slow rumen) I like these two herbal formulas:

Initial cleanse: LOH GI Back on Tract – https://landofhavilahfarm.com/loh/product/gi-back-on-tract/

Routine support: Fir Meadow LLC GI Soother – https://www.firmeadowllc.com/store/p811/GI_Soother%E2%84%A2_Digestive_System_Support_16_oz.html

Putting weight on an underweight goat is not a quick process. Introduce new things slowly, and don’t feel rushed to give the full amount of feed all at once. An underweight goat’s rumen will not be expecting the large amounts of protein and calories that needs to be provided, so start slow and build up. Have patience! As always, if you have an underweight goat (or are questioning if one is underweight) and you would like one-on-one help to discuss your situation and regimen, contact me via email, Instagram DMs, or Facebook Messenger and I would be happy to help—all of my consulting is pay-what-you-can, there is no charge, but donations to support the work that I do are always appreciated.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet, nor am I a licensed professional. I am in no way a “goat expert” and my opinions are only that of personal experiences, and my insights shared are not medical treatment suggestions, care suggestions, or any directions for raising goats at all. I am simply sharing my own personal opinions. Any and all changes to your goats’ health regimen, care, etc. should be approved by a veterinary professional or licensed professional. I also believe that every goat owner has their own way of doing things, so just as my opinions are my own, and cannot apply to anyone else, your opinions are also regarding your individual goats, and I welcome you to share them in a kind, constructive manner. Disclosure: This post may contain Amazon Affiliate Links, from which I will earn a commission

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