The Proper Weight for a Dairy Goat

The Proper Weight for a Dairy Goat

I figured I should follow up the dairy cow body score post with one for dairy goats, since I know we have as many followers who have both or goats as we do for cows.

I once heard a breeder say: "A goat's back end should look like a coat rack," and my response to that is. . ."Sure, if you don't feed her, she will look like that."

Now, that isn't to say you will not see hip bones. You will on a doe in milk. You will find bucks get quite thin in rut when their minds are mostly on breeding does and not on eating. But kids, dry does and bucks not in breeding season should have a clear layer of fat over the short ribs, hip bones and rump.

Many times, newer goat folks confuse a large rumen / barrel / midsection (like you see here especially on my ran doe, Candy) for a goat of good weight. This is not related to being a suitable weight. You can have a very underweight animal with a lovely developed rumen.

Unless you have your hands on a goat, unless they are clipped, it is something hard for people somewhat new to goats to know their animals are at a proper weight.

It is important to run your hands down the back. Notice if the spine seems to have no cushion, the short ribs seem too abrasive or the hip bones. Even a heavy producing doe should have a bit of flesh (not just skin) over her back end. Coat condition and texture will help you decide if a goat is healthy and just a hard working milker who is getting enough food or if you need to step up the quality of grain, worm and/or increase hay.

Dairy goats need grain in milk. Period. The End.

Chose a 16-18% ration. Most will be 3% fat. If you have a hard keeper doe who milk a tremendous amount, then you may use rice bran to up the fat content. Always feed free choice hay. If you can, use alfalfa on the milking does, bucks in rut and growing kids, but if you need to, you can use other hay types. I use grass. I feed milking does and kids alfalfa.

Growing kids need grain from the time they are able to eat more than milk until at least a year old. Bucks get grain year round here, but especially in the early fall through late winter.

Dry does and yearlings usually are ok with little to no grain IF they have browse, parasites well controlled and free choice excellent hay.

The animals pictured below show you healthy animals at either really good, moderate weights or slightly over-conditioned (depending on the person you ask)

The first doe is Eve. She was a bit over conditioned (a bit heavy) here and in milk. The next doe is Bianca, followed by Candy, and these does are health milking does at nice weights. I would not want to see them thinner. Next is Moses, a buck not in rut. Again, nice weight. Not too heavy or too thin. A buck will rarely keep this weight in rut, however. Then there is a yearling dry doe, Cali, and she is a nice weight. No visible ribs, spine, hips. Lastly, there is a very nicely grown buck kid at about 8 weeks old. This how your kids should look.

Whenever you doubt, run your hands over the top line of your animals. You will know if it feels pleasant. If they are too thin, first make sure you have giving all the hay they want, up the grain (I give milking does about 4lbs per milking at peak / dry does about 1 cup 2 x times a day / bucks about 2lbs x a day / kids get about 1lb 2 x day) and check the inner eyelid color. If the animal has pale inner eye membrane, parasites are part of the weight problem, and you need to worm with something that works and keep watch until color of the membrane improves.

Eve, a tad over-conditioned 

Bianca on the thinner side of Healthy

Cali, dry yearling, at ideal weight

Candy at an ideal milking doe weight

Nicely grown buck kids

Buck at ideal weight or slightly above while not in rut 

An excellent video:


For structure reference