Goose pasture, do’s & dont’s

Grass is the basic diet for domesticated geese, it is essential, for the health of the domesticated birds, that their pasture is well managed and they have supplementary food. Now is the time to think of managing grass quality for the breeding birds in 2013 and ensuring that clean grass is available for the goslings in spring.

Grass quality:  Where different qualities of grass are on offer, geese will choose darker-colored, fertilized, short-length pieces. Short, fertilized grass is preferred to coarse, low-nutrient grass, and it seems to be recognized by the “tug & pull”. If a tug at the grass yields a mouthful easily, the grass is desirable and palatable. Once a good patch of grass is found, the geese will repeatedly graze at this small patch to keep it short while an area just feet away will grow untouched becoming tough which is not suitable for them.

Geese as a whole are inefficient grazers, they cannot make use of the cellulose in the same way as grazing hoof stock. They need to gather food over a large part of the day, even in winter, when daylight hours are short, they tend to spend seven to eight hours eating. This short grazing time is the reason why birds need to put on as much weight as possible during the autumn in order to reach a peak weight in November.

Geese cannot be used to get long grass into good condition. Any long grass must be removed first; so control of grass growth by mowing or hoof stock grazing is essential to keep the shoots in good condition.

Grass should be kept short for geese, less than 4 inches, long tough grass can cause crop-binding and death. Mow the grass if it is too long, or get larger animals in to eat it. Geese on clean, short grass do not need a lot of supplementary food in spring and summer.

Timothy is cited as having lower protein content than other grasses, and rye grass as having higher digestibility. Rye grass alone can result in some bare ground around each plant, so lower growing grasses with creeping stems cover the ground better. However, rye grass is successful if kept closely grazed or mown. Up to 30 per cent clover improves nutrient status (nitrogen). If grass is to be reseeded, then it is worth talking to a local feed mill, farm & fleet, or sod supplier to see what they have in stock and what they recommend,

When feeding a supplemental feed or whole grains offer them as much as they want, and can clean up in roughly 20 minutes time. Dry, powdery mash should  not be fed to waterfowl. It gets stuck in the mouth and can lead to ‘dropped tongue’. Wheat is a good all-round food containing more protein than corn. Offer pellets especially in the breeding season. Pellets can be standard poultry layers (like what you offer your chickens), but if you can get waterfowl breeder pellet offer it instead. Geese do tend to acquire a  taste for new food though. Goslings eat what their parents ate. Be careful that geese do not get too fat. A good regime is to feed them only morning and evening and to let them graze for most of the day if they have access to clean grass.

 

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