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Goat Digestive System

Obviously, goat is not like poultry or pig. They have only 1 stomach but goat have 4 stomachs named rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. Reason for this is that goats have to digest fiber of plants. Poultry can not survive on plant fiber (reports says that some turkey and indigenous poultry breeds of eastern India can survive on grass). Goat can solely survive on grasses and tree leaves and even gain weight on them (gain is poor).

To digest this fiber rumen has large number of bacteria which secrete enzymes and digest the fiber (basically cellulose & lignin). Rumen capacity of the adult goat is nearly 28 liters and reticulum capacity is 23 liters. Whatever roughage we offer to goat it will remain in the digestive system for 48 – 72

 Brief Review of Digestive System of Goat

  • Oesophagus (food pipe)
  • Rumen
  • Reticulum
  • Omasum
  • Abomasums
  • Small intestine
  • Ceacum
  • Large intestine


There are two type of feed we offer to goat, concentrate and roughage, in intensive goat farming depending upon age and purpose of rearing.

Concentrate contain starch (easily digestible in stomach within 30 minutes) and every animal have the enzyme to digest starch. Roughage/Fiber is made up of Cellulose and no animal has enzymes to digest this not even goat. Only bacteria present in rumen of goat can digest it efficiently and make it available to goat.

Broadly there are 2 types of bacteria first is starch digesting and another one is cellulose digesting. Their population depends upon the type of feed you provide. If you give them fiber from the beginning than cellulose digesting are more in rumen.

If you provide concentrate ration from early age (as we give to goats reared for meat production) @ 60% of total ration than starch digesting bacteria predominates the rumen. In a mixed type of diet a balanced between both types of bacteria is maintained which is desirable. Some times it is seen that when people buy goats from the market and bring them to farm, they usually get sick and diarrhea occurs. It is because their digestive bacterial population is disturbed and they start showing loose feaces. It always recommended while transporting the animals they should be well fed with their regular diet. You should also give them 5-10ml Vitamin B- complex syrup like Polybion and Vitamin C tablets.

This is anti stress medication which reduces transport exertion. When you buy your animal or sell in the market, always ask about the feeding schedule of the animal weather animal is on fiber rich diet of starch rich diet.

One more thing you should keep in mind that if you want to change the diet of the animal than change it gradually for eg. If you want to start maize based concentrate and animal total concentrate requirement if 300g for a day than start with 50g per day for 2 or 3 days than increase to 100g and so on.

These bacteria digest low value cellulose/ fiber and convert into high energy compound inside the rumen which are absorb in the blood and get convert into valuable meat and milk.

Feeding Behavior
Behavior is very important aspect of goat farming because when you understand liking & disliking of the animals only than you can manage your resources efficiently and get optimum output. By behavior goats are browsers (pick up the twigs of trees) and more choosy than any other animal while eating. In this way goats eat wide variety of grasses, bushes and tree leaves. Goats eat even those plants which are refused by all other animals like cow & buffaloes.

Brief Review of Digestive System of Goat Browsing behavior

Goats are more tolerant than other animals towards bitter plants. They can tolerate more tannins (toxins found in plants which make other animals sick). Study has been conducted in CIRG Makhdoom in which 75% Subabul was offered to the goats. This plant contains Mimosine (a kind of toxin). Goats eat 3 times more mimosine than its tolerant limit without showing any decrease in growth or other health effects. Goats just show some hair fall which was considered insignificant. As a goat keeper you should know that there is wide spectrum of feed on which goats grow and maintain themselves. This is the reason that their meat and milk is more nutritious than any other animal.



Goat eat 3 – 7 % of its body weight, this is quite justifiable as their metabolic rate is very high. This means they utilize more nutrients to survive than any other animal. While grazing, they loose lot of their energy that’s why they compensate it by eating more. But in stall feeding they don’t need to move & spend energy therefore their requirements decreases up to 3% of their body weight. You have to feed them according to 3% of their body weight.

Goats are more tolerable to direct sunlight and dry heat (April – May – June) but humid environment (July – August – Sept) is very stressful to them and main disease outbreak occurs in this season. Like HS, PPR, FMD, Pneumonia, Parasitic infestations ( Fasciola & Hemonchosis). It is better to vaccinate the animals properly according to given schedule. Deworming & dipping is done before and after rainy season.

Studies suggest that kidding (birth of baby goat) should be done in September & October. Kids born in these months healthier and have more body weight than kids born in winters i.e. December & January.

Water requirement are also very less because goats evolved in arid areas. 1.5 to 2 lit water is required daily for drinking in addition to 6-7 lit for other farm activities per goat. After camel goat are most efficient in water utilization and resistant to dehydration.

Forage & roughage requirement and availability
Availability of grazing land decreases day by day. Goats are known to be environment degraders, they are responsible for desertification. Intensive and organize farms which follow stall feeding are become more and more popular but the lack of knowledge about different feeding habits and preferences of goats it become difficult to calculate risks and returns .
“The availability of green forages from various sources is only 40% of the required quantity. It is matter of prime concern to bridge this gap. This is also to note that the area under forage production has not increased considerably in the last few decades and our natural grazing lands and pastures are fast degrading. Hence, efforts should be directed to intensify forage production per unit area per unit time, which can be achieved through improved high yielding varieties and better management practices”

Dr. Swapan K. Dutta, DDG, ICAR


At present, the country faces a net deficit of 61.1% green fodder, 21.9% dry crop residues and 64% feeds.


Supply and demand scenario of forage and roughages (1995 - 2025) (in million tonnes

Year Supply of green Supply of dry Demand of green Demand of dry Deficit of green Deficit of dry
1995 379.3 421 947 526 568 (59.95) 105 (19.95)
2000 384.5 428 988 549 604 (61.10) 121 (21.93)
2005 389.9 443 1025 569 635 (61.96) 126 (22.08)
2010 395.2 451 1061 589 666 (62.76) 138 (23.46)
2015 400.6 466 1097 609 696 (63.50) 143 (23.56)
2020 405.9 473 1134 630 728 (64.21) 157 (24.81)
2025 411.3 488 1170 650 759 (64.87) 162 (24.92)


Source: Based on X Five Year Plan Document, Government of India. Figures in parentheses indicate the deficit in percentage
Above trends clearly shows that supply of fodder does not able to chase the deficit which indicate that in coming years livestock commodity will be more expensive than present. Wise investments will give higher returns to the entrepreneurs. Development of silvipastoral system is most recommended policy for the goat farmers to meet out their requirements. Organization of meat and milk market will soon take place in India which means gradation of commodity on the basis of quality. In the present scenario good quality animals are exported to Middle East countries while all poor quality culled animals along with spent animals (old goats and bucks not able to breed) are available for domestic consumption. Mixing of the high priced finisher kids (with good tender meat having high price) with spent animals is common, in this way spent animals also get good prices due to these fraudulent practices.

The green fodder availability in Western Himalayan, Upper Gangetic Plains and Eastern Plateau and Hilly Zones is more than 60% of the actual requirement. In Trans Gangetic Plains, the feed availability is between 40 and 60% of the requirement and in the remaining zones, the figure is below 40%.

In animal feed supply, coarse cereals have a major role and four major cereals, viz. maize, barley, sorghum and pearl millet, account for about 44% of the total cereals. Production of these cereals is stagnating at around 30 million tonnes. Of the total coarse cereals, maize accounts for almost three-fourths and barley accounts for 15%. Sorghum and millets account for 11%. India’s production of these cereals is stagnating around 30 million tonnes, which is less than 3% of the world’s production. The role of food grains and especially of the coarse cereals in providing the balanced nutrition to the livestock for ensuring higher productivity needs no emphasis.

Fodder crops are the plant species that are cultivated and harvested for feeding the animals in the form of forage (cut green and fed fresh), silage (preserved under anaerobic condition) and hay (dehydrated green fodder). The total area under cultivated fodders is 8.3 million ha on individual crop basis. Sorghum amongst the kharif crops (2.6 million ha) and berseem (Egyptian clover) amongst the rabi crops (1.9 million ha) occupy about 54% of the total cultivated fodder cropped area.

Brief Review of Digestive System of Goat



The area under fodder crops has almost remained static for the last 3-4 decades. However, the area under fodder crops has increased in peri-urban areas that have developed as milk sheds under intensive dairy production systems during the past years. On similar lines future broiler goat meat shed area will be established due to changing preferences for goat meat.

Lucerne is the best option for the forage in intensive farm conditions especially in northern India due to several advantages. Lucerne is commonly called as rijka in northern India. Study conducted in CIRG Makhdoom shows that unchaffed Lucerne was preferred over chaffed maize & difference in weight gain is highly significant. Water consumption increases with Lucerne diet indicate metabolic flushing. (Das & Joshi, 1987)

  • It is a perennial plant (evergreen) and can supply green fodder continuously for 3–4 years from the same crop stand.
  • Lucerne has high palatability for all kinds of livestock as it provides nutritious fodder and possesses about 16-25% crude protein and 20–30% fiber.
  • Due to its high protein and vitamin A content, it is included as a feed component for poultry and piggery. Lucerne provides green fodder for a longer period (November-June) in northern parts and throughout the year in other parts of the country where winters are not severe.
  • After sorghum and berseem, Lucerne is 3rd important forage crop in India.


How to cultivate Lucerne?
It cannot thrive on alkaline soils but can be grown on acid soils with liberal application of lime. Lucerne prefers a fertile soil, which is rich in organic matter, calcium, phosphorous and potash. Lucerne requires well prepared field as the seeds are very small. One deep plough with 2–3 harrowing followed by planking is sufficient. The best sowing time of the crop is mid October to early November.

In broadcast method, a seed rate of 20–25 kg/ha should be used while line sowing needs only 12–15 kg/ ha but in case of intercropping, it requires only 6-12 kg/ha. Line sowing is preferred over broadcasting, It is beneficial to add well decomposed FYM @20–25 t/ha before sowing in the first year. Normally, 20 kg N and 100 kg P2O5/ha should be applied as basal dose for good harvest. Application of Molybdenum and Boron may be done based on soil test. In subsequent years, annual supplementation of 80 kg P2O5 and 40 kg K2O/ha should be done. To obtain good germination, pre-sowing irrigation is essential.

The crop needs very frequent irrigations during its early growth period at an interval of about one week but once the plants are established, subsequent irrigations are provided at an interval of 15–20 days during winter and 10–12 days during spring and summer seasons. Proper drainage should be ensured to avoid water logging in rainy season. The first cutting should be taken at 55–65 days after sowing and the subsequent cuts may be taken 30–35 days interval. In general, annual Lucerne gives 4–5 cuts while in the perennial crop, 7–8 cuts can be taken.

If we calculate the organic mass conversion of Lucerne into live weight of goat.

  • At 10kg body weight of kid (3month of age) TDN & DCP requirement is 159 gm & 15 gm respectively. These are the maintenance requirements according to ICAR.
  • Feeding is done @ 4.5% of the body weight i.e. 450 gm
  • 1kg of the fresh Lucerne has 200 gm Dry Matter (800 gm moisture) with 63% TDN & 20% DCP.
  • 2.25kg Lucerne provides 450 gm DM = 283.5 gm TDN + 90 gm DCP; these figures are far more than maintenance requirement (under stall fed system, animal should not waste its energy by roaming in the farm)
  • Spare nutrients are 283.5 – 159 = 124.5 TDN & 90 – 15 = 75 DCP
  • Now for optimum growth @ 70 gm per day additional nutrients are required @ 150 gm TDN & 20 gm DCP.
  • As we see that DCP (protein) is much extra than we can give 1/3rd wheat or rice straw & 2/3rd Lucerne.
  • In this calculation we have seen that there is no need to give anything else than quality green fodder; under farm conditions 1 kg Lucerne costs around Rs 2/- at most.
  • Total cost Rs 4/- per day; as feeding is 70% of the total cost of production than we can speculate total daily expenses nearly Rs 6/- day (± 2) under different phases of growth.


Varieties of Lucerne available
Brief Review of Digestive System of Goat











In these varieties Chetak (S 244) is best with the yield of 140–150 t/ha green fodder. It is highly recommended for Haryana, Punjab & Western U.P.

Goats like tree leaves more than any other fodder. It does not mean that they cannot eat other fodder. They can maintain their selves on tree leaves and very less supplemental ration.