Alfalfa is bad for wethers and bucks?

Discussion in 'Goats' started by Laura Workman, Aug 30, 2004.

  1. Laura Workman

    Laura Workman (formerly Laura Jensen) Supporter

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    How come I keep hearing that alfalfa is bad for male goats? The primary cause of urinary calculi is excessive PHOSPHORUS in the calcium to phosphorus ratio. The ideal calciumhosphorus ratio is 2:1 or higher. Grass hay ranges from 1:1 to 1.5:1. Alfalfa runs around 5:1. Grain runs 1:6 to 1:8, depending on the type of grain. So it would seem that some alfalfa is a good thing, and would help to balance the heavy phosphorous in grass. Grain in any significant quantity should probably be avoided, or at least carefully balanced against alfalfa. Any thoughts?
     
  2. No it is bad for none working goats. Breeding bucks during rut when they are breeding does can have it or pack wethers ect. can get it and use it but a buck or wether who is doing nothing but eating and sitting around won't utalize the extra calcium in their system or extra carbs ect. and will get fat and the extra calcium will cause their urine to crystlize as you know. So thats why people say its bad. You also normally don't feed it to none lactating doe for the same reason in a way since they don't need the calcium or the extra carbs unless again they are working does or on their 4th month of pregnency ect. It will make them fat and hard to breed but the does won't get the urinary calculi like wethers or bucks do.

    MotherClucker
     

  3. Laura Workman

    Laura Workman (formerly Laura Jensen) Supporter

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    See, that's my point. It seems like there's a major, common misunderstanding with regard to the calcium in alfalfa. It's NOT excess calcium that causes calculi, it's excess PHOSPHORUS. So just plain grass hay is actually MORE dangerous for calculi than just plain alfalfa hay, since just plain grass hay typically falls below the minimum 2:1 calcium:phosphorus ratio. At least that's what the Cornell website seems to say. Has anyone seen anything different on an extension or university website? Or something else with some scientific basis?
     
  4. Vicki McGaugh TX Nubians

    Vicki McGaugh TX Nubians Well-Known Member

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    You are correct Laura.

    Even vets will try to tell you, no alfalfa for bucks. Because a urinary calculi stone is comprized (candy coated like an M%M if you will) with calcium, calcium is then the enemy when really it is exactly the opposite. When high amounts of protein or phos. grain, are fed, the urine turns more acidic, your first signs of this are urine scald on full grown bucks legs. To save the urethra from being burnt from this uric acid (which is what excess protein is) the body wraps these droplets with calcium to protect it. If enough clog the opening, it blocks and the buck backs up with urine to the bursting point and dies. You have one chance to change your management, you can cut off the pizzle (the little alien worm thing on the end of the penis) most of the time the stone is lodged there. But if you do not fix your managment, then the animal is lost. There is a surgery that can be done, but it's a curel life, one that if not done correctly leaves the buck peeing like a doe, but peeing on his rear legs.

    My bucks get free choice alfalfa pellets year round. The only grain the get is when growing, or during breeding season (because they are used heavily and collected). Now wethers are another story, eating machines that unless being used for carting should have browse or grass hay only. Any protein, even in the alfalfa hay is probably too much calories for them. Vicki
     
  5. Trisha-MN

    Trisha-MN www.BilriteFarms.com

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    Ok - can someone explain this to me SLOWLY. I think I get the Ca/P stuff but I don't get the feed stuff.

    So... how does a person determine what to feed their bucks/buck kids?
    Ours get grass hay year round. The buck kids get alfalfa pellets and grain (18%). The bucks get alfalfa pellets and grain (14%) when they are coming into the breeding season.

    Help?

    Thanks,
    Trisha-MN
     
  6. Vicki McGaugh TX Nubians

    Vicki McGaugh TX Nubians Well-Known Member

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    Trish it's the never ending battle with your goats, nutrition, and just about the time you think you have it licked, we learn about copper, or your feed mill changes hands and they now use fish and feather meal or or or. It depends upon your goals with the goats what kind of condition they are kept in.

    Mine show, so I want that extra bloom and size, but they must pay their way in the milkbucket also, so they have to milk. If your goal is family milk than of course other than nutrition for health, you may not need to do anything extra.

    Protein grows bone and flesh. So once full grown, 12 months for my bucks and at the end of their first lactation for my does, then other than protein from alfalfa hay, my goats need no more protein.

    I always think of my ration, grain, alfalfa pellets and any hay, as a total mixed ration, adding everything up. So if I am feeding a 17% protein as the bulk of their diet, I would not need a high protein grain for my adult stock. So a 12% gives them about the 14% I want them to have. My bucks are huge browsers, and although they get a 17% alfalfa, there isn't any protein in browse and little in grass hay. When heavily used and loosing some weight they are given the milkers grain, for carbohydrates, calories, energy and fat only. Excess feeding of protein is not only not healthy, but is the most expensive thing you purchase for your goats.

    I also do not want the energy in my feed to come from molassas, or the protein in my feeds to come from animal byproducts or cottonseed hulls/meal. Knowing what you are feeding each thing for, and not overgraining is the key.

    Using alfalfa pellets for your protein/roughage/calcium in your dairy goats, using black oil sunflowerseeds for fat and using good clean oats for calories and carbohydrates, understanding mineral feeding is really the key. The days of my dependance on bales of hay, that the girls pull out of the feeder to lay on, or will only eat the fine leafy stems, the piles of hay taken out of the barn each spring to be composted, is over for me. Now if I could get alfalfa hay for the price you all pay up north, with no humidity/mold problems, than yes I would feed it, but not down here. And most of our grass hay is poor quality cow hay, and even the better quality grass hays have nothing on alfalfa pellets.

    The key with dairygoats and your meat goats with high multiple kids and good milking ability, is to know where the calcium in your goats diet is coming from, not being able to answer this question sets the doe up for hypocalcemia.

    This is my favorite topic :) Vicki
     
  7. Mickey

    Mickey Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Vicki, I started feeding my 2 year old Saanen buck the alfalfa pellets today and I'm wondering about feeding them free choice as he gobbled them right up. Can he make himself sick on them? He does the same thing when I give him the minerals free choice as well. He also gets grass hay.
    Mickey
     
  8. Vicki McGaugh TX Nubians

    Vicki McGaugh TX Nubians Well-Known Member

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    It goes without saying that you make all changes in feed slowly. When I moved to free choice alfalfa pellets, the girls would eat everything I put out twice a day no matter how much I would put out. I thought it would put me in the poor house, but they did back off. Each doe now eats around 2 to 3 pounds a day, sometimes less. With out humidity I can not use a hog feeder or other self feeder, so just put out as much as they will clean up twice a day.

    On your minerals, the goats eat minerals for the salt. They do not have some sort of sense that they need this or that so eat the minerals it's all about a crave for salt. So no other form of salt is offered. Make sure salt is one of the main ingredients and not molassas. Molasses will scew the amount of minerals a goat naturally will eat due to craving the sweet, rather than when they need salt.

    There are days the whole 2 pounds of minerals I put out in the pen of 10 adult does is gone in one day, put it out the next day and it may last for 2 weeks. Right now on our other board we are discussing how much minerals the goats are going through, when normally they wouldn't be. Perhaps they know something is going on that we don't? I am going through as much minerals right now as I usually do when the girls are heavy bred. Perhaps we will finally get that winter freeze??? Vicki
     
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  9. caroline00

    caroline00 Well-Known Member

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    for 15 years in CA, we raised bucks on Alfalfa pellets or alfalfa hay on a dry lot. WE never gave grain. they had city water.

    a year or so ago, now in MO, we lost a yearling buck to UC. He also was raised on a dry lot with Alfalfa pellets...no grain.

    we have well water with high magnesium and high manganese. It seems to me that the water must have had something to do with it. Maybe not but I dont understand how it happened and why it happened just months after learning about UC when we had gone 15 years previously without an incident.
     
  10. Mickey

    Mickey Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks Vicki:) I'm also wondering about his getting enough copper if he's not getting grain? It says on my mineral bag that it contains no less than 350 ppm. Is that enough?
    Mickey
     
  11. HilltopDaisy

    HilltopDaisy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Yikes!! You know who told me "no alfalfa"? A vet! This same vet said "Please, please don't get wethers", because of UC. The breeder that I purchased my three from suggested a good quality grass hay, and if I wanted to feed grain, Showgoat was a good choice. I feel awful that I repeated incorrect information :eek: , but thankfully Laura and Vicki have straightened this out for me.
     
  12. Vicki McGaugh TX Nubians

    Vicki McGaugh TX Nubians Well-Known Member

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    I don't have wethers, unless used as pack animals, and a doe can do this anyway, wethers like steers should be in the freezer. But in taking care of them longterm you should use ammonium chloride. When my bucks are on grain, to gain a little weight back I add ammonium chloride to the grain, I get it to stick to my drymix with a little cornoil. I purchase my AC from pipevet.com the last batch from Michael in MN on this list, he also frequents the other list. Not sure if he still sells it.

    Yes your water is a concern. I know living on an iron ore hill, it is some of the reasons why we have more copper concerns than others. I also have to have a readibly absorbable calcium (alfalfa pellets) out for my girls, or we will see hypocalcemia before kidding, and during the beginning of lactation. This tells me that although my minerals contain calcium carbonate etc.. my girls do not readily absorb this. I also had to move from the galvanized water buckets I used to use, with higher than normal zinc (being leached in the water from the coating) which was making my copper unabsorbable.

    I do liver biopsy whenever we put down an older animal. This is the only way to know what is an what isn't going on. My mineral has 3000 ppm of copper in it, I won't use a mineral that isn't over 1000, or we would have to bolus. Selenium levels in our blood tests are only within normal range after giving injections, so we do this twice a year, prebreeding and prekidding. It sounds like an ordeal and expensive when it isn't. What's the bonus of all this and learning how to fecal? Not having to listen to all these opnions on what does and doesn't work at my farm :) I know what wormers are working and what wormers I am wasting my time with, and the $$$ saved is huge! Worming when you need to with something that works is much cheaper and healthier for the goat than being wormed monthly. Herbal wormers also, they have to filter everything you give them through the liver, wormwood is an abortive..sorry but I don't want anything like this given to my goat monthly, not herbal wormers, not chemical wormers. If you are having to worm that often, even with herbal wormers, you have other problems going on that need to be addressed, likely a mineral imbalance. Vicki
     
  13. oberhaslikid

    oberhaslikid Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I learn alot from this thead,and Have changed my ways.
     
  14. BrahmaMama

    BrahmaMama Well-Known Member

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    OH BOY !!! It's still early !! Let me get this right...for wethers,
    No grain
    alfalfa pellets
    grass hay
    (?)

    Now I'm a little freaked out by my well water!
    It has ALOT of calcuim in it!!!
    Please don't tell me I need to buy bottled water for my goat......
    I also need to double check the mineral lick DH bought for him, although he never touches the thing.
     
  15. outofmire

    outofmire Well-Known Member

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    I was doing a little research on the internet awhile back. It seems there can be two causes for urinary stones, either to much calcium or too much phosphorus. There can be calcium stones or phosphorus stones, depending on the type of imbalance. I'll try to dig up some of what I had found.
     
  16. outofmire

    outofmire Well-Known Member

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    Here's a good article explaining how too much of anything can be bad. I think you are right, Laura. For most of us who feed grains, the addition of alfalfa or crushed limestone would be helpful, if not necessary, to provide the necessary balance. But for those few who have clover pastures or feed just alfalfa hay, they might need to watch out for an imbalance in the other direction. There are other types of calculi as well, but not as common.

    I think a big problem is not waiting to castrate. I read somewhere that a vet recommending waiting until at least 4 weeks, but preferably 3-6 months to castrate. Yet most people castrate before 4 weeks.

    http://kinne.net/urincalc.htm
     
  17. outofmire

    outofmire Well-Known Member

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    I'm not the one who started this thread, but I hate to see it die so soon. I was looking forward to more comments/opinions.

    I think Laura is right in that adding alfalfa would help most of us since we feed grain and grass hay usually. I think goats can tolerate up to a 5:1 ratio or 7:1 ratio. I can't remember. But I think we should watch out and make sure that we don't go to the extreme. Of course, straight alfalfa is within 5:1 to 7:1, and if you add pasture or grass hay (1.5:1) and grain (.5:1 for what I give), then you'd bring that down even more. Still, I wonder if animals are really that tolerant to such a high level. I'd rather see it more around 2:1.

    Speaking of the ideal level, why do they say goat feed should be at around 2:1 or 2.5:1? From what I've been reading online, deer need around 1.5 to 1.75:1 and horses need around the same. Why do goats need more? Because we milk them? If that's the case, then they shouldn't need so much when they are dry, such as during winter. That would make sense considering there isn't much green stuff during the winter, but there is in the spring/summer when most animals are lactating.

    Last winter my goats went after acorns like they were goat candy. They passed up grain for them! Didn't care much for their hay either. I followed them around a lot, and they seemed to eat about 1/2 pine needles, and 1/2 acorns. They ate a few dead leaves here and there, but the pine needles/twigs and acorns was mostly what they ate. It must have been good for them because they were very healthy looking...slick and shiny.

    I found some information about acorns. Of course, you know they are high in tannins, but that can be a good thing. It keeps them from going bad. My goats were eating them mostly around Dec-Feb, after the rains had a chance to leach out some of the tannins. Also, acorns develop a mold that is a natural antibiotic. They are high in oils and energy, but also high in phosphorus. The ratio is inverted, about .5:1. I think they were able to correct that ratio with the pine needles.

    I tried to find information on pine needles, but didn't have as much luck finding anything definite. From what I can gather though, the calcium is higher than phosphorus, at least 2:1, but maybe higher. If anyone can find out, I'd like to know.
     
  18. witchysharon

    witchysharon Well-Known Member

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    To much grain (high in phosphorus) is *usually* the cause of Urinary Calculi, but too much Alfalfa (or any forage high in calcium) can also cause crystals. The 'ideal' calcium to phosphorus ratio is 2:1. (it should NEVER go below 1:1 BUT it CAN go as high as a little over 6:1 and still be a working ratio) A balance between the calcium and phosphorus is needed so goats do not develop UC. Although there are other elements that can cause different types of urinary crystals, MOST urinary calculi are made up of phosphorus, and to a lesser amount made up of calcium.

    You will find both calcium and phosphorus in alfalfa. Phosphorus is a naturally occurring nutrient found in ALL plants and animals. The average Ca to P ratio in alfalfa can range from 5:1 to 8:1 and even go as high as 15:1. Goats CAN tolerate higher calcium levels, a ratio (almost) as high as 6:1, when it goes over that for a long period of time, THAT is when problems develop as the bones can only absorb so much Ca and excess builds up in the kidneys and is excreted through the urine.

    Once there is an imbalance, whether it is from excess Ca or excess P in the ratio, this is what leads to the formation of stones/crystals. It isn't the hay or the grain that causes the crystals, but the imbalance in a Ca to P ratio. Even a goats water source can have an impact on Urinary Calculi. The type of water (eg. well water) can contribute to UC particularly if it is heavily laden with calcium, phosphorus, magnesium or other elements that contribute to stone formation.

    The chemistry-oriented understanding is that without a dietary balance....well...there's going to be an *imbalance* in one or the other, and whichever one is in excess (whether it be calcium, or phosphorus) will crystalize back into its original form, thus causing the urinary calculi. The two technical terms for that are Hypercalcemia, (excess calcium) and Hyperphosphatemia (excess
    phosphorus).

    UC cases MAY occur when feeding Alfalfa hays, however, ONLY when the Ca to P ratio goes over the accepted limit of 6:1. If you have a good quality Alfalfa hay that has a ratio within the range of 2:1-5:1 (actually a bit below 6:1) it is FINE to feed to any goat, does, wethers or bucks. You can have forages tested for calcium/phophorus content, or almost every area has an extension office that can get you the basic information if you want general numbers on forages for your area. If your hay tests higher in Ca that 6:1, you can always offer a little grain to bring the ratio down within an accepted range.