Alternative ingredient offers nutritional supplementation for pregnant nannies

When I saw that Dr. Frank Craddock, Texas A&M professor and goat and sheep specialist, was retiring after 29 years, I wanted to seize the opportunity to pick his brain about any nutritional challenges or suggestions he may have pertaining to commercial goat production.

During the hour-long conversation, Craddock shared his wealth of knowledge about goat production and the nutrition challenges facing producers. In trying to identify one specific formulation or ingredient opportunity for the purpose of creating this blog, I narrowed the discussion down to one popular feeding topic: protein alternatives.

Nanny nutrition

“The goal of my nutrition program is to feed that doe so I can get her bred with the most babies and then keep her pregnant for 150 days so she has strong, live kids at the end,” Craddock says. “The period I worry about is late gestation. During the last trimester, the most growth occurs. That’s when you have to up the nutrition: more protein, more energy.”

Nannies become pregnant in the fall and their third trimester typically falls in the late winter – a time when quality forage can’t be found out on the range and the goats have to be fed. At this time, producers roll out a supplementation program.

“The ingredient that bothers us the most is protein,” he says. “If I can figure out how much protein my does need to meet their requirement – and it’s not from the old, dried grass out there with 3 percent protein – then I can decide what supplement to feed them until they can get enough on pasture.”  

The goal, at this point, is to find a whole feed ingredient that can do the trick. In Texas – and other similar climates – whole cottonseed is the abundant, high-protein solution.

Whole cottonseed and cottonseed meal supplementation

Whole cottonseed (20 to 23 percent protein, 17 percent fat) and cottonseed meal (41 percent protein, 4 to 5 percent fat) offer a high-energy, high-protein alternative to soybean meal in ruminant diets. While cottonseed and cottonseed meal prices have spiked in recent years, the ingredient remains “a least-cost supplement per pound of protein.”

“Those products provide an excellent supplement out on the range,” he says. “Some people extend the cottonseed meal with ground milo and add salt to limit it.”

However, according to Craddock, two caveats should be taken into consideration. First, the monogastric stomachs of kids under 60 days old are intolerant to gossypol. After the first few weeks, once the kids begin eating solid feedstuffs, the cottonseed and cottonseed meal should be kept away to prevent illness or death. The second, according to Craddock, high levels of cottonseed gossypol may have a negative effect on buck semen, so refrain from feeding bucks whole cottonseed or rations with cottonseed in them. 

Craddock notes that the use of cottonseed and the formulator’s experience with it may be limited by regional availability, but that this ingredient provides a viable protein alternative when it makes financial sense.