Baking soda can be a useful addition to your goat’s diet. It can aid in digestion issues and help to prevent bloat; a sometimes deadly condition caused by overeating, or eating the wrong food.
Goats are notorious escape artists and can be extremely cunning. They will commonly hop fences, mow down barriers and gorge themselves on grain. In the spring, sometimes returning to thick, green, lush pasture, can cause stomach upset.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
While I can’t find any hard-facts, scientific evidence that baking soda adds to the health of goats, I can say that we’ve always offered it to our goats and we’ve never had a problem with bloat. Our livestock vet has also recommended it as a preventative.
The domestic goat diet and baking soda
Photo courtesy of Google
You might be asking yourself, why would a goat need baking soda? I tend to question suggestions that veer away from how an animal is raised in nature. While a form of sodium bicarbonate does occur naturally in the wild, it surely isn’t available to goats in the quantity that you would offer in the domestic setting.
To understand how baking soda helps, it’s good to have a refresher on the goat’s digestive system.
Goats are ruminants which means they have a multi chambered stomach that works like a fermentation vat. Bacteria in the stomach break down the goat’s food, making nutrients available to the animal. Acids in the true stomach chamber, digest these smaller, fermented food particles so the goat can absorb nutrients.
The goat is also a grazer by nature, meaning as the herd moves over the countryside/mountains it nibbles here and there, eating small amounts of food throughout the day. Contrary to popular belief, goats are in fact not pasture animals. They can be successfully raised on pasture, however, a true goat diet consists of shrubs, leaves, weeds and brambles, not grass. Photo courtesy of Google
For the modern goat keeper, this bramble-type of setting can be difficult to provide to a herd, while still keeping your animals in fenced areas. Once a goat has cleared a pasture of its brambles, it’s difficult to add more to the area.
So when put on pasture, a goat will resort to eating grass. However, if too much is consumed at once, it can overwhelm the bacteria in the rumen. Rich foods like too much grain or alfalfa can have the same effect. The fermentation gasses will build up and in severe cases, can cause bloat.
What is Bloat?
Goats usually pass gas as they digest their food, releasing the fermentation gasses. Bloat happens when the gasses form in tiny bubbles, and the goat is unable to pass them.
Symptoms of bloat
Extended left side- When you look at a healthy goat head on, you will see its abdomen should bow out evenly on each side. If the left side (the rumen side) is extended (sticking out considerably further than the right. Your goat may have bloat.
When the abdomen is tapped it might feel like a tight hollow drum.
Showing signs of pain- teeth grinding, pawing, moaning, resting head against fences etc.
Photo Courtesy of Google
How does baking soda help?
Offering your goat baking soda on a daily basis can help to balance the Ph levels in the rumen. (think Heartburn relief in humans.)
How should baking soda be fed?
Baking soda should have its own designated food dish. It should be offered free choice to goats. Goats are clever in that they will consume it when they need it, and leave it be if they don’t.
Do not mix it into their feed or minerals. Also be sure to replace it if it gets soiled.
Be sure to always offer clean fresh water whenever offering salts, minerals or baking soda to goats.
Baking soda is an inexpensive, easy way to ensure your goats are healthy and happy.
Jennifer Sartell is the primary care taker of all animals on her and her husband’s farm in Fenton, MI. With a passion for living a simple life, Jennifer enjoys creating art, taking in nature, raising animals and has developed a deep appreciation for homesteading.
Jennifer and her husband, Zach, currently raise goats and poultry. Her vast amount of experience on the farm includes, but is not limited to: milking, shearing, hoof trimming, vaccine administration, assisting in animal births, dehorning, egg collecting, chick and turkey hatching, feeding, watering, etc.
She can also cook a mean farm-to-table meal and when the day is done has documented and photographed their day on the farm.