What do Goats Eat
and Basic Goat Facts

What do goats eat? Some people think just about anything. The truth is that feeding goats different types of hay and forage is more along the lines of what goats really eat.

Get some goat facts so that you can understand the basics about goats. One of the most impressive goat facts is that goats can climb trees.

Correctly feeding goats takes an understanding of how their digestive system works along with their dietary needs.

If you don't have an acre or more, goats can eat numerous types of hay to make up for a lack of pasture or forage.  You can even grow your own grasses or fodder which is pretty much like growing wheatgrass for your goats.

Basic Goat Facts

  • Female goats are Does
  • Male goats are Bucks
  • Young goats are Kids
  • Neutured males are Wethers
  • Goats are Herding Animals
  • Goats are Intelligent Animals
  • Goats are good at Climbing Trees
  • Goats have a Distinct Pecking Order
  • Goats can live for 15 to 18 Years
  • Goat milk is Healthy and Nutritious
  • Goat milk is more Digestible than Cow's Milk
  • They are the Smallest Domesticated Ruminant
  • Goats are Herbivores and are Considered Browsers
  • Have been used by Mankind longer than Cows or Sheep

What do Goats Eat?

Goats are ruminant animals and they have a stomach that is composed of 4 compartments and ruminants are less likely to experience digestive problems (acidosis) if they are consuming high forage diets.

What do goats eat differs from other ruminants such as cattle or sheep.

Goats are reputed to be willing to eat almost anything and they may sample many things, but goats prefer to browse on the tips of woody shrubs, trees, and leafy plants.

Stripping leaves off of branches and shrubs is their favorite thing to do. Goats will also eat dry leaves, shoots, weeds, grasses, and apples.

During spring green pasture is usually about 80% digestible and has a crude protein content of 20%. Goats can eat lots of this spring pasture and because this pasture is very high nutritionally, they will grow quickly.

Keep about 6 to 10 goats per acre. The amount of goats will vary with the quantity and quality of browse available.

Goats that browse seem to have less problems with internal parasites and the rotation of your pasture will help to ensure less parasites.

Feeding Goats

Nutrition is probably the most important part of raising goats and improper feeding can literally kill a goat.

The most important nutrients for a goat are protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals.

Goats also require lots of fiber (preferably from pastures) and water. The right types of food maintains a healthy ruminant environment and prevents digestive disturbances.

Goats also require adequate water intake and goats seem to prefer room temperature water over cold.

What do goats eat will affect herd reproduction, kid growth, and your goat's milk production.

Pasture tends to be high in energy and protein for goats. Pastures are also the most economical source of nutrients for goats.

Grow Your Own Goat Fodder

Many minerals are required by goats especially calcium and phosphorus. Often, goats will need to be supplemented with free minerals and salt to meet all of their mineral needs.

Goats also need a variety of vitamins especially vitamin A and vitamin D. Being allowed out in sunny pastures will help to full-fill much of a goat's vitamin needs.

Grain sometimes becomes necessary when browsing or foraging cannot provide enough nutrition for your goats.

Grains such as corn, oats, or barley are good energy sources.

Mixing Your Own Organic Grains

Supplemental feed is usually feed to goats to increase their milk production and growth. It is common to feed grains to does during late pregnancy and during lactation.

Feeding goats grain can sometimes be a controversial topic among goat producers. Some people will give grain daily to their goats while others will give grain only if pasture and browse are less available.

The purpose of feeding grain or commercial feed or other supplements it to provide the part of the diet that is not being provided by pasture.

Many people are being taught to feed goats grains, but a goat must have roughage. Hay and pasture are roughage, not grain.

Also, grains can cause calcium stones in urinary tracts among other problems especially among male goats.

One of the main things in remembering "what do goats eat" is to make sure goats have free choice to browse, supplemental feed, or hay plus having lots of clean fresh water.

Types of Hay

Obviously, pasture is the most natural diet for goats.  However, hay is a major source of nutrients for goats especially during the winter months.

Hay is usually fed to an animal in place of allowing the animal to graze on grasses or browse especially during the Winter or in times of drought.

Hay is the general name for a number of dried grasses. Types of hay may also include legumes such as alfalfa and clover.

Commonly used plants for hay include types of grasses such as Ryegrass, Timothy, Bluegrass, & Orchard grass.

Legume hays such as alfalfa, lespedeza, and clover tend to be higher in protein. Although, feeding goats a mixed grass hay may be best as alfalfa can be too rich and may cause health problems.

Mixes with legume hays added seems to be best for keeping a goat in proper health. Also, a goat's hay should always be fresh, clean, and dry - plus available at all times.

Look for types of hay that have not been sprayed with any chemicals. Never use moldy hay and keep hay off the ground. Many goat producers have experienced sickness or death from goats that eat moldy hay.

Plants Poisonous to Goats

Unfortunately, "what do goats eat" can include toxic plants. You will have to make sure to keep your goats away from plants that are poisonous.

Most landscaping plants are poisonous to goats. Also, do not feed too many gas producing vegetables to goats.

This is just a partial list of what is considered poisonous to a goat:

Foxglove, Black Walnut, Holly trees/bushes, Milkweed, Mountain Laurel, Oleander, Rhubarb leaves, Azalea, Red Maples, Rhododendron, Lily of the Valley, Cherry leaves, and Hydrangea leaves.

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