Make the most of the dry period: Nutrition (part 2)

Posted on October 18, 2022 in Dairy Goat Performance
Editor’s note: This is the second article in a two-part series about making the most of the dry period for dairy goat herds. In this article, experts discuss nutrition strategies that can lead to success in the dry period. In the previous article, they focused on management factors that influence the dry period.

Proper management of a doe’s dry period can have significant impacts on the doe’s longevity and productivity as well as kid survival.

Dr. Katherine Taylor, food animal veterinarian with Whitewater Veterinary Hospital, and Sarah (Adamson) Varney, Vita Plus dairy goat specialist, explained that nutrition during the dry period is a delicate balance. Beginning the dry period 60 days prior to kidding can offer the best chance of striking this balance.

Taylor said pregnancy toxemia is the number one issue affecting dry does, especially during the last 40 days of gestation. If the nutrition program is not well-managed, these does do not consume enough energy to support fetal growth, so their bodies begin burning fat as an energy source. In addition, inadequate nutrition during the dry period can lead to greater variation in kid size and a less successful transition period.
Thus, Taylor said it’s essential to provide a highly fortified and high-energy concentrate to dry does so that they can receive adequate nutrition while consuming a smaller volume of feed. Varney pointed out that these goats should not be fed a smaller volume of the lactating feed because it will not meet their increased nutritional needs.

Varney said she prefers a consistent, clean pelleted feed versus a texturized feed for dry does so that they can’t sort the feed. She also recommends feeding a forage with a higher protein concentration in the last 40 days of gestation.

These feed changes may cause reduced intakes, but Varney said that’s another reason that a 60-day dry period is ideal. If the does consume less feed in the first one or two weeks while they are drying off, it’s OK. They should be transitioned to the highly fortified/high-energy feeds by the time they reach the critical period of 40 days pre-kidding. Varney also noted that a higher plane of nutrition while goats are first drying off can trigger their bodies to increase milk production.

Taylor and Varney said its critical to evaluate the body condition score of the entire goat herd, especially dry does, to help reduce metabolic challenges. Gradual changes in the diet can also limit these challenges.

As Taylor said, “When nutrition needs aren’t met, you’ll lose either lactation or kids.”

Work with your nutritionist to establish a dry doe program that best supports fetal growth and reduces incidence of metabolic challenges.

Category: Animal health
Dairy Goat Performance
Doe nutrition
Feed quality and nutrition