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 forage is more along the lines of what goats really eat.

If you don't have an acre or more of pasture for your goats to find enough forage, goats can be given numerous types of hay to make up for a lack of forage.

You can even grow your own grasses or hay for your goats - if you're motivated!

Get some goat facts so that you can understand the basics about goats.  Correctly feeding goats takes an understanding of how their digestive system works along with their dietary needs.

Basic Goat Facts

  • Goat Milk is Healthy and Nutritious
  • Goat Milk is more Digestible than Cow's Milk
  • Goats are Herding Animals
  • Female Goats are Called Does
  • Male Goats are Called Bucks
  • Young Goats are Called Kids
  • Neutured Males are Called Wethers
  • Goats are Good at Climbing Trees
  • Goats are Herbivores and Considered Browsers
  • Goats are Intelligent Animals
  • Goats have a Distinct Pecking Order
  • Goats can Live for 15 to 18 Years
  • They are the Smallest Domesticated Ruminant
  • They were Used by Mankind Longer than Cows or Sheep

Properly Feed Your Goats for Best Results

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.

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

Unfortunately, most people will resort to feeding goats some type of goat chow which is processed pellets with added vitamins and minerals - especially if they are being milked.

Fortunately, pasture tends to be high in energy and protein for goats.  Pastures with shrubs and edible trees are also the most economical source of nutrients for goats.

Goats 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.

Goats require lots of fiber - preferably from foraging in a pasture.  The right type 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 in General?

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, and grasses. 

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

For a treat, you can give goats apples, grapes, pears, watermelon, bananas, turnips, celery, carrots, and pumpkin.

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. 

Also, the rotation of your pasture will help to ensure less parasites. 

What do Goats Eat
for Best Health during Winter?

A woody pasture with shrubs is the most natural diet for goats.  And at least half of your goats diet must come from forage which does include grass!

Hay or fodder can be 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 a general name for a number of dried grasses. Types of hay also include legumes such as alfalfa and clover.

A goat's hay should always be fresh, clean, and dry plus available at all times. 

It's best to keep hay in a hay feeder instead of laying it on the ground.  Goats won't eat their food once it's been trampled or peed on.

Look for types of hay that have not been sprayed with any chemicals.  Also, never use moldy hay!  Many goat producers have experienced sickness or death from goats that eat moldy hay.

Grow Your Own Goat Fodder

Hay includes different types of grasses such as Rye grass, Timothy, Bluegrass, Orchard grass, and Barley grass.

Legume hays such as alfalfa, lespedeza, and clover tend to be higher in protein. 

Feeding a mixture of grass hay along with legume hay seems to be best for keeping a goat in proper health. 

Also, consider feeding goats fresh fodder for even better nutrition.

One of the main things in remembering "what do goats eat for best health during the colder months" is to make sure goats have free choice to browse on pasture or provide them with enough hay or fodder, 

On top of that you may have to offer a supplemental feed when goats are having babies or being milked.

What do Goats Eat
When Deficient or Lactating?

Grains like corn, oats, or barley are good energy sources for goats.  Also, kelp meal, flaxseeds, molasses, and black oil sunflower seeds are commonly used as supplements.

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

Grain sometimes become necessary and can provide added protein, vitamins, and minerals for your goats.

The purpose of feeding grains or other supplements is to provide more nutrition to goats when they need more than pasture or hay can provide.

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 grains daily to their goats while others will give grains only if pasture and hay are less available.

Mix Your Own Supplemental Feed

If you do decide to feed your goats grains, maybe it's best to mix your own goat feed to ensure the best quality and nutrition for your goats.

Some people take it to another level and will sprout grains before feeding them to their goats.  This helps to get rid of the anti-nutrients found in grains.  Sprouting also increases nutrients like protein and vitamins.

And others prefer to soak their grains in water with raw apple cider vinegar to help improve the digestibility of grains.

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. 

Do not feed goats high oxalate foods such as spinach, beet greens, or chocolate.

Don't feed goats nightshade plants like potatoes or tomatoes.  And do not feed your goats too many gas producing vegetables.

Unfortunately, most landscaping plants are poisonous to goats. 

This is just a partial list of what is considered poisonous to a goat:  Lilacs, Azaleas, Holly Trees or Bushes, Mountain Laurel, Oleander, Lily of the Valley, Rhododendron, Foxglove, Black Walnut, Milkweed, Rhubarb Leaves, Red Maples, Cherry Leaves, Peach Leaves, Plum Leaves, and Hydrangea Leaves.

Go to Popular Types of Goats

Return to Raising Goats