Implementing Dairy Goat Nutrition Programs on Farms for Improved Sustainability

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $135,246.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Carol Delaney
University of Vermont, Northeast SARE

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, flax, oats, soybeans, sunflower, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: goats


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing - continuous, feed formulation, feed rations, grazing - rotational, winter forage
  • Education and Training: decision support system, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance

    Proposal abstract:

    Demand for dairy goat products in Vermont has outstripped the state milk supply as noted by Vermont farmstead and company goat cheese makers. One barrier to profitable milk production is high feed costs, accounting for 55-65% of total production costs. Most feed manufacturers serving goat dairies formulate rations using dairy cattle nutrient requirements, because those published by the US National Research Council (NRC) for goats are dated. Farmers making cheese or shipping fluid milk are rewarded financially by milk protein content, and often feed high N rations in hopes that they will maximize their milk protein. Feeding improperly balanced N causes wasted N in the form of high milk and blood urea N (MUN/BUN), and ultimately high N urine which contributes to high levels of ammonia volatilization into the environment. Current research on goat nutrition can be found in France and Québec and at the E (Kika) de la Garza American Institute for Goat Research at Langston University, OK. In the first 4 months of this NESARE project, computer spreadsheets will be developed with metabolizable energy and protein requirements selected from these 3 sources. Ten farms will complete a one-year program that implements the recommended nutrition program involving their feed company nutritionists. Monthly measurements on milk production, components, MUN, feed nutrient analysis and costs, and animal weights and condition scores will be taken. In the second year, 8 dairy goat farmers will receive continued but lower assistance to assure they adopt the nutrition program. Results will be sent to farmers, Cooperative Extension contacts and feed manufacturers and dealers throughout the Northeast.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Performance Target 1: From a pool of 21 dairy goat farmers in Vermont, 10 will participate in the project and adopt recommended nutrition programs that are more profitable, improve milk production and utilize nutrients better for their improved sustainability.

    Target 1 Assessment: In the project’s second year, 8 of the 10 farms will continue implementing the original study. A follow-up debriefing visit with the farmers and feed consultants after 2 years will provide a personal summation and written evaluation of the success and usefulness of the information. Comparison of data collected during the study including feed costs and milk production from years previous to the study will add determination of its success.

    Performance Target 2: In the Northeast region, 3 feed companies and all 12 state extension programs will adopt the improved goat nutrition information and recommendations for use in their states. This will provide more consistent dairy goat nutrition recommendations and allow more support to those choosing family-friendly, diversified, small-farm goat operations.

    Target Assessment 2: Information from this study will be placed on a website and reported in the Small Ruminant Dairy Newsletter. If appropriate, the Langston University’s goat website will be promoted to provide the nutrient requirement tables, if available. Otherwise, a Nutrition Program/Nutrient Requirements printed in Excel™ with a fact sheet will be sent to NE State extension contacts and feed company nutritionists with offers to present at annual meetings and conferences. Those receiving the information will be surveyed to assess the use and barriers to its use.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.