Kalahari Reds thrive in feedlots

Hugo Lochner

Boer goat kids usually thrive on balanced rations in a feedlot, but then the facilities must be efficient and good supervision and health measures must be applied. Lamb finishing ensures a more favourable price per kilogram, better feed conversion and a quicker turnover on capital. In addition, the needs of ewe lambs are reduced by almost half when a farmer weans his kids at an early age and takes them off the veld, says Dr Vlok Ferreira of the Department of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Stellenbosch.

Apart from there being more grazing available for the ewes, a ewe can utilise the natural grazing much more efficiently for maintenance than a kid can utilise it for meat production.

With early weaning, ewes also regain their optimal body weight more easily, resulting in improved reproduction. For every 1 kg increase in body weight in the mating season, the kidding percentage should increase by 1 to 1,5.

The profitability of a feedlot is determined mainly by the management and the type of ration. Feedlot finishing will be more cost effective if a farmer produces his own grain or if he can buy grain fairly cheaply.

Profitability can only be determined if accurate records of feed consumption, feed and meat prices, the goats’ cost price, feed conversion (amount of feed required to add 1 kg body weight) and mortality are continuously kept up to date.

Dr Ferreira says the performance of kids in a feedlot will be influenced by their genetic and physiological abilities (type of goat), age and condition, as well as the ewe’s feed during late pregnancy and lactation.

Goats’ feedlot performance can be improved if animals that genetically fare better in feedlots are selected.

Ram lambs grow up to 26% more rapidly than ewe lambs and castrated goats. A ram lamb shows more muscle growth, while ewes deposit fat more rapidly. This results in faster growth in ram lambs, as fat requires more energy than muscle growth. Ram lambs can thus be fed economically for longer. Because younger animals grow faster and have better feed conversion, kids will perform better than old ewes.

The feed of a ewe during late pregnancy and lactation will also affect the kid’s performance in the feedlot, as it influences milk production and therefore the kid’s growth, vitality and performance. A heavy weaning weight is the ideal, but it is often affected by environmental and economic conditions.

Good feed is a prerequisite for profitable feedlot farming. The best production of a kid’s meat will be obtained with a better quality protein that escapes breaking down in the rumen to some extent and is only exposed to enzyme digestion in the lower digestive system. In this way specific essential amino acids become available to the animal.

Dr Ferreira says the inclusion of by-pass protein (as in maize gluten or in oilcake) in finishing rations will therefore have a beneficial affect on the kid’s biological performance.

Apart from a good feed, the rations must also be well balanced to obtain the best results from kids. The need for some B vitamins in fast growing animals is greater than the micro-organisms can produce. The animals’ mineral needs are also higher and must be supplied by the ration.

Finishing rations must contain a high level of energy as energy determines the rate at which other feed ingredients are utilised in the metabolic processes and thus determines the growth rate.

As energy can comprise as much as 70% of the cost of a finishing ration, farmers who want to limit feed costs often make the mistake of reducing the energy level. A lower energy level leads to poorer growth and ultimately to an increase in feed costs per kg meat produced. Such costs can increase by 25% to 30%.

Dr Ferreira says it would pay to feed goats is approximately 12 kg feed van be bought with the income of one kilogram of meat. Recent research at the University of Stellenbosch showed that the goat farmers in intensive feedlot conditions utilise feed as efficiently as the SA mutton merino.

When pellet rations as used, feed conversion of the same amount of roughage is improved by 30% to 100%. Among others, the reason for this is that pellet rations ensure a higher intake, less wastage and less loss due to wind.

Boer goats will also fare better in a feedlot if they are properly prepared. Mature goats that have never been inoculated against pulpy kidney and pasteurella, must be inoculated 4 weeks prior to and again at intake and those that have been inoculated before, 14 days prior to intake.

All animals must be de-wormed before intake and where necessary, treated against external parasites (ticks). If eye infections occur, all the animals must be treated otherwise flies will spread the infection.

Boer goats will also do better in a feedlot if they are separated by to age, weight, condition and gender to eliminate the effect of dominance as far as possible.

Kids that are finished immediately after being weaned must be given trough feeding with the ewes before weaning. It reduces weaning shock and they then adjust more easily to a complete ration.

Table 1 shows how goats can be adjusted to a feedlot ration. If purging occurs before the end of the adjustment period, the goats must be adjusted more slowly over a longer period.

During the feed period a representative group (about 10%) of the animals in the feedlot must be weighed weekly to determine when they reach the target weight and whether they grow satisfactorily. A scale is essential at any feedlot, because the effectiveness of finishing cannot be monitored without it.

It is essential that feeding takes place at least two to three times a day and that troughs are emptied before a subsequent feed is given. Goats are reluctant to take in polluted feed (with spittle, for example).

The more frequently fresh feed is fed in smaller portions, the more the animal feeds and the faster it grows. High feed frequency can save up to 1 kg feed per kilogram weight increase, benefiting the feed margin.

The expected duration of the feed period can be calculated if you subtract the average weight of the animals at the beginning of the feed period from the desired average weight at the end of the feed period and divide it by the expected daily average weight increase (ADI).

If the starting weight is 20 kg, the expected end weight is 50 kg and the expected average daily increase is 0,3 kg, the expected feed period will be 100 days [(50 - 20) ÷ 0,3].

The feed period will be considerably reduced as the starting weight or growth rate increases. If the starting weight is higher because of good kid care during the suckling period, it will improve the feed conversion.

The total amount of feed required per goat can be calculated by multiplying the ADI (0,3 kg) by the amount of feed the goat will need to gain 1 kg weight (4 kg in goats) and then to multiply it by the feed period (100 days in this case). If the expected feed period is 100 days, 120 kg feed will be required (0,3 x 4 x 100).

Dr Ferreira says it is important to keep to the same ration composition throughout the entire feed period. Table 2 gives examples of different rations: a cheaper, safer ration with a lower growth rate, a more expensive ration with a better growth rate but with certain risks and a more expensive ration without urea with a good growth rate. The feed composition of the rations is given in Table 3.

In the rations whole maize can be substituted with barley or oats, but only third with corn and two-thirds with another type of grain. Ammonium chloride must be included for feeding male animals to prevent the formation of bladder stones.

If possible, an ionophore and zinc bacipracine must be included to reduce digestive disorders on high grain rations and to improve feed conversion and growth; your profit, in other words. Vitamins and minerals improve resistance to stress and disease and increases feed intake, growth and feed conversion. The vitamin mixture must contain Niacin (a B vitamin).

A growth stimulant, such as a ralgro implant, must always be used as it increases kids’ growth by 10% to 15%.

Research at the University of Stellenbosch has shown that Boer goats can utilise energy derived from a high roughage ration almost as well as the more easily available energy from a high power-feed ration.

Goats can therefore, depending on the prices of roughage and power-feed, probably be finished more profitably on a ration with a higher roughage content than the norm. However, the number of days the goats stay in the feedlot can be more on the higher roughage ration.

The success of Boer goat finishing will be affected by the available facilities. Feedlots must preferably be situated against a slope for the sake of drainage and preventing problems such as foot-rot. It must also be in an east-west direction to best utilise available shade.

In open lots between 1,5 square metres to 2,5 square meters are required per goat. For goats on slatted floors in barns between 0,4 square metres and 1,7 square metres per goat is required. If more than 50 animals per lot are kept, the occurrence of shy eaters will be increased. Individual animals that need attention will also be difficult to trace.

Adequate shade in feedlots is important, as metabolic processes create high body temperatures. If the goats must inhale warm air, cooling is inadequate, leading to a lower feed intake and poorer performance. Shade of at least 0,5 square metres per goat must be provided over the feed troughs and away from the feed troughs on the opposite side of the lot. If there is shade only over the feed troughs, the goats will crowd around the troughs, limiting access for other animals. The feed will then be more easily polluted with excretion and urine.

Feed troughs must be designed and placed in such a way that the goats cannot get on top of them. It will prevent their excreting and urinating in the feed. The troughs must also be placed that the feed does not get wet when it rains. Although trough space of 100 mm per goat is sufficient, 300 mm is more beneficial.

Dr Ferreira says that self-feeders do not belong in a feedlot, as workers usually give too much feed at a time. Better results will be obtained if goats are fed three times a day in open troughs.

The goats must have constant access to enough clean, cool drinking water. The water troughs must not be too big otherwise excessive waste takes place during cleaning; this creates an ideal medium for hatching fly larvae and koksidiosis (bloody purging).

The drinking troughs must be far enough from the feed troughs to prevent feed landing in the water troughs. If this happens, the water will quickly turn sour and the animals will possibly refuse to drink it.

According to research at the University of Stellenbosch a Boer goat requires only 1,8 litre of water per kilogram of feed taken in (171 ml water per kilogram metabolic body weight) as opposed to sheep that need 2,6 to 5,6 litres of water per kilogram of feed taken in.

TABLE 1: An adjustment procedure for kids in feedlot


Good hay


Finishing ration


1 750 0
2 750 150
3 625 300
4 500 450
5 375 600
6 250 750
7 125 900
8 0 Ad lib

If purging occurs, goats must be adjusted over a longer period

TABLE 3: The average composition of rations in Table 2

Nutrient(%) Composition
Raw protein(%) 13.0(min)
Roughage(%) 11.0(min)
TVV(%) 70.0(min)
Fat(%) 3.0(min)
Ca(%) 0.6(max)
P(%) 0.25(max)
Metabolic energy +10.5

Feedlot diseases can lead to considerable loss if health and hygiene are not managed properly. Mortality of 2% and higher is unacceptable. Animals must therefore be inspected for any problems daily.

Dr Ferreira says the following are the most significant diseases that occur in feedlots and although they do not all lead to mortality, they affect the goats’ performance in the feedlot, resulting in lower profitability.