Posted by Mandi Chamberlain, Wed, Jul 17, 2019
Waste not, want not. Right?
If only that were true of our caprine counterparts! Goats are browsing animals, and while they won’t eat anything (contrary to popular belief), they will eat a lot of things if placed in front of them—certainly a nibble or two! If you had to identify plants on your farm or homestead that were potentially harmful to your hooved friends, could you? Don’t be alarmed—I couldn’t all the time either! Good thing there are resources for that at our fingertips. I want to cover a few things you might have growing in your pasture which you might think are okay to have them try, and then wrap up with some good ol’ table scraps that might be detrimental to goats if ingested.
Everyone enjoys a well-manicured and landscaped front lawn, especially if you have goats because they ruin everything else! I’ll be the first to tell you that I have three commonly used plants on my farm that are toxic to goats: boxwood, larkspur and lupines. I mention these because of their commonality at nurseries. When ingested in a decent amount, they can do some harm to goats, or at least cause some gastrointestinal upset. Another common thing I see a lot (okay, almost everywhere) is oak trees. The green leaves found on yellow, black, and red oak trees are very high in tannins, which can cause kidney and liver issues if ingested in large amounts. Be careful about oak trees dropping their leaves into water sources, too; tannins can be leached from the leaves via that route as well. Now, remember, these are green leaves we’re talking about. I have tons of oak trees on my property—hence my farm name, Wild Oak Farms. Azaleas are another one to potentially plant away from goat bellies, as they can cause an irregular heartbeat. These are just a few of the common things found at local garden stores that we seek out to plant! They are okay to have on the property, but let’s keep the pet goats clear of them.
In addition to things we can choose to plant, you may have some weeds just naturally growing that, at the very least, you will want to identify, such as common poppy, wild parsnip and horse nettle. If you have any land, especially unkempt, I can promise you will find one of the above (depending on geographic location, of course). Don’t believe the old wives’ tale that goats know the difference between bad and good plants; however, if your goats are receiving adequate nutrition, specifically forage and hay, you should be just fine.
Onto the good old pantry raid! Just as with our companion animals (i.e., dogs and cats), goats shouldn’t consume many human foods either. Sure, blueberries, carrots and some good ol’ homegrown cabbage is fine; my dog even eats all of those things! But, just like other animals, goats shouldn’t consume things like garlic, onion, chocolate or any source of caffeine, to name a few. Although most goats wouldn’t eat leftover meat scraps, they shouldn’t be offered them either. Citrus fruits should also be avoided, as they can really upset the rumen. Banana and apple are great fruit options that most goats love, and they provide a good way of administering medication as well!
As a good rule of thumb, a good pasture or hay source and potentially a nice ration of pellets or grain mixed specifically for goats is something you can stick with, and your goats will still be just as happy and healthy!
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