Feeding geese

Table 1 gives the minimum nutritional requirements of geese. Table 2 and Table 4 give suggested rations for goslings and breeding stock.

Table 1. Minimum basic nutritional requirements of geese
Protein, starter 20% 16%
Protein, finisher 16%
Energy 11 100 kJ/kg 10 500 kJ/kg
Fibre 4% 5%
Fat 5% 4%
Calcium 1% 3%
Methionine 0.30% 0.25%
Phosphorus 0.60% 0.50%
Vitamin A, as retinyl (acetate) 3100 mg/kg 41 300 mg/kg
Vitamin D3 300 mg/kg 65 mg/kg
Riboflavin 10 mg/kg 10 mg/kg
Calcium pantothenate 15 mg/kg 20 mg/kg
Niacin 55 mg/kg 55 mg/kg
Manganese 60 mg/kg 40 mg/kg

Goslings are often fed a similar ration to ducks, but because goslings show a rapid weight gain during the first 4 weeks, they need more protein. The heavy breeds of geese weigh approximately 85–100 g at day-old and may weigh up to 1.6 kg at 4 weeks of age.

Provided there is plenty of green feed, goslings can begin to graze at just a few weeks of age.

  • The liveweight of geese will increase by up to 50% during their first 2 months of life.
  • Goslings grow more rapidly when housed and fed a completely prepared and well-balanced ration than when they graze. To 10 weeks of age, goslings reared in cages will weigh up to 20% more than floor-reared goslings. Day-old birth weight and rate of growth in the first month influence a gosling’s weight at 10 weeks.
  • A starter diet containing 20% protein is recommended for the first 4 weeks in conjunction with good grazing. After 4 weeks, feed goslings a finisher ration containing 16% protein.
  • Starter and finisher rations may be fed either wet or dry, in mash or pelleted form.

Table 2 gives suggested rations for goslings. (See the next section for information on feeding breeders.)

Table 2.  Suggested rations for goslings (a vitamin and mineral premix should be added to these rations)
Ingredients Starter (%) Finisher (%)
Wheatmeal 34.75 40.75
Sorghum meal 20.00 30.00
Bran 10.00 6.00
Pollard 8.00 6.00
Coconut meal
Meatmeal 18.00 12.00
Lucerne meal 5.00 3.00
Milk powder 4.00 2.00
Ground limestone
Salt 0.25 0.25

Where good grazing is available, practise supplementary feed restriction when the finisher ration is fed. Allow 500 g feed per head per week for goslings between the ages of 4 and 8 weeks, then 1 kg feed per head per week to 12 weeks of age. At the end of the restricted feeding program, allow goslings an unrestricted ration to marketing.

The type of restricted feeding program adopted depends on many factors, including the required gosling weight for marketing, the amount of pasture available, the quality of the pasture and the time of year. Suggested programs for restricted feeding, together with a guide to expected body weights, are given in Table 3.

Table 3. An indication of expected performance from a restricted feeding program
Program Age (weeks) Bodyweight (Kg)
Complete ad lib feeding to marketing. 10 >4.0
Full complete feeding to 4 weeks of age.
Pasture plus 130 g of complete feed to 12 weeks of age.
Full complete feeding to marketing.
15 5.0
Full complete feeding to 3 weeks of age.
Pasture only to 18 weeks of age.
Full complete feeding to marketing.
21 6.5

Feed conversion

Feed conversion is calculated by dividing feed consumption by the bird’s live bodyweight. In other words, it is the amount of feed eaten (in kilograms) required to produce 1 kg of meat (liveweight). For example, goslings fed without restriction on a balanced ration to marketing at 10 weeks will have a feed conversion of approximately 3:1. This means a total of 12 kg of feed will be consumed for a bodyweight gain of 4 kg. As goslings get older, feed conversion capability diminishes.

Growth promotants

The inclusion of growth promotants in a gosling’s diet will improve the rate of growth. However, since geese are sensitive to arsenicals, this additive must not be included in the ration.

Note: Force feeding for any purpose is unacceptable in Australia (see the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals No. 83 — Domestic Poultry (4th edition)).

Feeding breeders

Good grazing for all breeding stock is needed for up to 6 weeks before the breeding season. Then, up to and during the breeding season, feed geese a ration with about 16% protein. Rations for laying hens are suitable.

Breeding geese in full lay should be given about 200 g of prepared feed a day, depending on the amount of pasture or green feed available.

Table 4. Suggested rations for breeding stock (a vitamin and mineral premix should be added to these rations)
Ingredients Ration 1 (%) Ration 2 (%)
Wheatmeal 30.75 57.75
Sorghum meal 20.00 22.00
Bran 12.00
Pollard 12.00
Coconut meal 8.00
Meatmeal 10.00 13.00
Lucerne meal 5.00 5.00
Milk powder
Ground limestone 2.00 2.00
Salt 0.25 0.25

Geese should have access to both soluble and insoluble grit at all times. Soluble grit is in the form of limestone chips (5 mm) or shell grit, whilst insoluble grit is usually supplied as blue metal or basalt chips screened to 5–6 mm.

Grazing pasture

Geese are more like grazing animals than any other type of poultry. Their beak and tongue are particularly well-equipped for grazing. The beak has sharp interlocking serrated edges designed to easily cut and divide grass and other plant tissue. The tongue at the tip is covered with hard, hair-like projections, pointing towards the throat, which quickly convey the pieces of grass and other vegetable material into the throat. This rough covering on the point of the tongue enables geese to bite off plants even closer to the ground than sheep can. Because of this, overstocking must be avoided as the ground will become bare.

Because geese have virtually no crop in which to hold feed, they tend to feed and graze frequently. In summer they may continue to graze and feed at night.

As stated, goslings can start grazing at just a few weeks of age. If pasture is good and plentiful then the amount of prepared food they are given can be reduced.

A system of rotational grazing should be practised to ensure geese have access to good pasture all the time. Where paddocks are fenced off and allowed to spell, the pasture will regrow quickly and the paddocks will be more hygienic. Overseas research has shown overall performance of breeding geese is greatly improved when they have access to good pasture.

If pasture for grazing is not available then breeders should be fed chopped green feed. Geese prefer to pick their own green feed and may reject cut grass unless it is fresh and very finely chopped.

Geese can be very selective in the pasture they eat and tend to pick out the more palatable pastures. They reject narrow-leaved tough grasses and select the more succulent clover and grasses.

The stocking density for geese on pasture will vary depending on the quality of the pasture and the age and size of the geese. But as a guide, growing geese can be stocked at a density of 50–100 birds/ha, and breeding geese at about 20 birds/ha.

During the non-breeding season, breeding geese only need access to pasture to fulfil their total feed requirements.