Goat Chow

How to Compare Feed Labels Without a Chemistry Degree

So you'd like to compare goat feeds but don't know the difference between manganous oxide and magnesium sulfate, and aren't all that sure you really want to know?

Here are three rules of thumb—in five minutes from now you'll have the basic skills you need. Most feed stores will give you an ingredients list of whichever feed you'd like to know about. Bring the list home and compare it with what you're feeding your goats. Here are the three rules of thumb:

1. Specific ingredients are better than "products" or "by-products."

2. Calcium to phosphorous ratio should be at least 2:1.

3. Some things are more available physically to goats than others. This is the order (best to worst):

  • Proteinates
  • Sulfates, carbonates, sulfanates
  • Iodates
  • Oxides
  So, copper proteinate will be better than copper sulfate, and zinc sulfate will be better than zinc oxide, right?

Easy so far—Now you're ready for the test. Here are the real-life labels. Don't read every word on them, just eyeball them very quickly.

Sweetfeed I:
Hmmm. . . . Grain is probably whatever the feed-mixing people found on sale, quality may vary. The calcium:phosphorous ratio (listed in the top "guaranteed analysis" part) looks good. Pretty heavy on the oxides, not many proteinates, but lots of sulfates, so I guess it evens out a little.

Remember, don't stew on it, just sum it up in a glance. Here's the next one. . .

Sweetfeed II:
Oooh! looks like they really know what's going into this stuff! But the calcium:phosphorous ratio looks like it's only OK sometimes. They seem to steer toward the proteinates and away from the oxides—that's good. Oh look—it has 18% protein written right up there at the top. I wonder how much this feed costs?

Sweetfeed III:
A little disappointing. No specific grains, no calcium:phosphorous ratio shown, not a lot of goodies. But do my hardy goats even need goat chow if they have good forage? Wait a minute. . . is that Gelatin in there?

So there you have it. Hope it helps.

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Thanks for the information on this page goes to Christine Reed and VA Tech.

San Clemente Island Goat Association