There are many different ways to approach feeding bucks and wethers; however, there are a few recommendations that many seem to agree on. To maintain condition and avoid issues with urinary calculi (a condition where the urinary tract is blocked by stones that have formed), bucks and wethers should be fed a diet low in protein with a specific ratio of calcium to phosphorus. To do this, they should get (free choice) good quality hay, goat mineral supplement, and water. As kids, they need protein to grow, so should also get a limited amount of a higher protein grain ration until they’re approximately 6 – 8 months of age.
As with all goats, the most important feature of their diet should be free choice good quality hay or forage. However, they don’t need the higher protein or calcium levels found in alfalfa or legume hay, so should be fed quality grass hay instead. The higher levels of protein and calcium found in alfalfa can actually contribute to the development of urinary calculi.
They should also have access to free choice goat mineral with a balanced ratio of calcium to phosphorus. The calcium to phosphorus ratio in the goat mineral should be at least two to one, with some recommending ratios as high as four to one. We’ve been using the Manna Pro Goat Mineral (see below) which has a minimum of 16% calcium and 8% phosphorus.
Access to a continuous source of clean, fresh water is also very important. Drinking plenty of water can help to flush excess minerals from their systems and discourage the formation of any stones that could cause blockage. However, goats can be very picky about drinking water (they like it the right temperature, clean, no hay, etc.), so it’s important to monitor their intake and make sure they’re actually drinking plenty of it.
For growing kids and wethers, a higher protein grain ration is also appropriate until they’re about 6 – 8 months old. The calcium to phosphorus ratio should be similar to the two to one ratio of calcium to phosphorus in the goat mineral supplement, and grain medicated with a coccidiastat is often recommended to help prevent coccidia in young goats. It’s highly recommended that any grain ration fed to bucks and wethers of any age (bucks are also sometimes fed grain during breeding season to maintain condition) contain ammonium chloride, which helps prevent urinary calculi. We’ve been using Kalmbach Game Plan Starter/Developer which has 16% protein, a coccidiastat, and ammonium chloride.
We’ve had several bucks, wethers, and buck kids grow up on the farm, and so far, we haven’t had issues with urinary calculi and they’ve maintained good condition. We still monitor them carefully and look for ways to improve our practices though.