Ideally, pygmy goats should have access to pasture, but it's not an absolute requirement for keeping these small caprines. As long as they have quality hay, constant access to clean water and a well-fenced area for exercise, pygmy goats can do quite well. If your pygmies do have pasture access, you must be careful when the grass is especially rich to avoid sickening your goats.
When pasture is adequate, you don't to give your goats any supplemental feed unless they're in milk production. Then you might want to give nursing or production does some grain in addition to their forage. An acre of good pasture should keep three or four goats in fine condition. In winter or during drought, feed your goats hay, along with grain if they are young, pregnant or nursing. Goats should also have access to a mineral block designed especially for caprine needs.
Whether your pygmies are in a small lot or a large pasture, make sure your fencing is adequate to contain them. Not only are goats escape artists, they're also vulnerable to predators such as loose dogs or coyotes. You need fencing that keeps pygmies in and predators out. Pygmies easily get out of standard post and rail horse fencing, so use wire mesh along the fence line to protect your goats. While electric fencing might work for equines, it's generally ignored by goats unless the shock level is set very high. Since the odds are that you or a family member will eventually bump into that fence, you're better off not using electric fencing for goats.
Your pasture should contain some kind of grasses, such as timothy, orchard grass and fescue. It will also contain forbs, a term for plants such as the ubiquitous dandelion and milkweed and other broad-leafed plants. Your pasture might contain browse, especially along the fence lines. This includes vines and brush. Given their druthers, goats will consume browse and forbs before the grasses. The goats tend to prevent weeds and brush from crowding out the grasses. If you have horses or cows and adequate fencing for goats, you can turn your pygmies out with your equines or bovines and they'll eat the weeds that the other livestock won't touch.
Normally, your goat expels gas regularly by belching. However, when gas gets trapped in his rumen, life-threatening bloat can result. Avoid rich pasture in general for goats, especially alfalfa and clover. Consuming these plants can cause frothy bloat, occurring when foam develops in his rumen. His rumen expands rapidly, causing respiratory or circulatory failure. You'll literally see your goat's left flank swelling, while it's also obvious the animal is in pain. Call your vet immediately if your goat exhibits bloat symptoms.
To reduce potential parasite load, such as worms, in your pygmies, rotate their pastures every two weeks. That means putting them in one field while the other field rests. Don't put too many goats on a pasture, not only for adequate feed purposes but also because crowded situations are ideal conditions for parasite spread. Harrow your pastures regularly to break up manure, allowing it to dry and kill off worms. Keep your pygmies on your veterinarian-recommended deworming schedule.
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Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.