Alfalfa is a perennial flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae, and it can be grown in many countries. It is commonly used as a forage for cattle, and it has the highest nutritional value of any common hay crop. It is mostly harvested in form of hay and is used less frequently as green manure because of its high nutritional content. The seeds are used in human and animal nutrition as they are rich in vitamins, fiber, and protein which are essential to the improvement of health.
Can Goats Eat Alfalfa?
Goats can eat fresh alfalfa. It can be served to them in various forms such as pellets, cubes, and hay. it is mostly served in form of hay. Alfalfa hay is a great source of protein, fiber, and minerals for goats. It provides goats with vitamin A and vitamin D which helps to promote healthy skin and coat. Alfalfa can be fed to goats during winter as it helps to regulate their body temperature. It is beneficial for pregnant and lactating goats as it has high contents of calcium and protein.
Health Benefits of Alfalfa to Goats
Alfalfa is a great source of food for goats due to its high nutritional value. However, it should be fed to goats in moderation. It is not entirely bad to feed goats lots of alfalfa, but feeding it too much is not advisable as it has a high range of nutrients which in excess can cause damage to the health of goats. It should be fed alongside other fodders.
Favorable to Pregnant and Lactating Goats
When a female goat (doe) starts lactating. It needs high amounts of protein. Alfalfa contains enough protein required for the lactating doe. It is the only kind of hay that can provide the vital nutrient needed for a pregnant doe to maintain its health. Feeding large amounts of alfalfa is not advisable for a new mother doe. Alfalfa should be added to their diet gradually so they get used to the extra protein.
A good source of Calcium
Alfalfa is a great source of calcium. It is an important nutrient for the development of goats. It helps in strengthening bones, improving the solidity of eggs, and supports their nerve functions. It is recommended for young goats as they can benefit from the high calcium intake.
It keeps Goats warm during winter
Goats have thin skin and fur coats, this makes them vulnerable to cold temperatures. Feeding forages such as alfalfa hay keeps them warm during winter. Since the digestion of alfalfa is through bacteria fermentation in their rumen, which releases heat, it keeps them warm.
Can Goats Eat Alfalfa Seeds?
Alfalfa seeds can be fed to goats as they are as nutritious as hay. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The seeds are a great addition to a goat’s nutriment but they should be fed to goats in limited quantities. It can be fed raw or sprouted. However, it is advised to serve it sprouted. To make the alfalfa seed sprout, you soak it in a bowl filled with water overnight, drain the water, and leave it in a dry and cool place for 9-10 hours.
Potential Risks of Overfeeding Alfalfa to Goats
Generally, Alfalfa is not a bad source of food for goats. It is a great nutritional source for a goat’s nutriment. However, feeding goats too much of any source of food is not advisable. Alfalfa contains high amounts of calcium and protein. This is beneficial to a goat’s health but it should not be used as a substitute for a goat’s main diet. Some of the risks involved in overfeeding alfalfa to goats are discussed below:
High Content of Protein
Alfalfa contains an excess amount of protein. It is not advisable to feed goats excess protein unless they need it, like in the case of a pregnant and lactating goat. Unlike carbohydrates, protein cannot be stored in the body of a goat for later use. As a result, any extra protein goats consume is converted into urea and is excreted from their body in the form of urine.
Bloating is a form of indigestion caused by excessive accumulation of gas in the rumen of goats. The symptoms include restlessness, discomfort, increased salivation, and loss of appetite. The stomach becomes swollen on the left side. The goats may bite or kick the abdominal region, followed by increased discomfort, and in some cases leads to death. Bloating can be challenging to treat and often requires medical attention as a stomach tube will need to be inserted. Overfeeding of alfalfa can cause a goat to bloat. Bloats will occur if you introduce excess alfalfa to a goat’s nutriment abruptly. It should be fed to goats gradually, this way bloating can be prevented.
What is the Best Hay for Goats?
Several types of hay can be fed to goats. None of them is “better” than the other as the best hay for a lactating doe would not be the best hay for a matured goat. Goats need good-quality hay and the type does not matter as long as it is free of debris and mold. Many farmers prefer Timothy hay for the main herd and alfalfa hay for lactating does. The type of hay fed to goats boils down to the availability and choice of the farmer.
There are different categories of hay that can be fed to goats, These include:
- Legume ( such as alfalfa and clover)
- Grass ( such as timothy, orchard, and bluegrass)
- Cereal grain straw ( such as oat hay)
- Mixed (legume and grass)
Goats can eat alfalfa as it is a great source of nutrition for their diet and it has many health benefits. Pregnant goats should be fed with it as their protein requirement is twice that of a normal goat. Alfalfa should be fed alongside regular hay. Overfeeding alfalfa to goats is detrimental to their health. Therefore, alfalfa should be fed to goats in limited quantities to ensure a balanced nutriment.