Goats are animals that are very easy to raise. They are hardy and can search for their food when need be.
As popular animals in homesteading, many homesteaders give their goats different types of foods including kitchen scraps, leaves, etc.
But can goats eat all kinds of food you give them? For example, can goats eat meat? Simply put, no.
Goats are herbivores, this means that they eat only a plant-based diet and they get sufficient nutrition from eating plants and plant products.
Eating meat can upset the stomach of your goats and make them sick since they cannot digest meat in the same the way they digest plants.
If goats cannot eat meat, what can they eat? What else should goats not eat?
Feeding Behavior of Goats
Goats are not just herbivores, they are ruminants. As ruminant animals, goats have a four-chambered stomach.
One chamber of their stomach is called the rumen. There are millions of bacteria and other microbes in the rumen of goats and other ruminants.
These bacteria help goats to digest plants and plant products quickly.
The bacteria and other microbes in the rumen of goats do not break down meat quickly. If goats eat meat, their stomach will be full, but they will not get the nutrients they need from it and this could cause malnutrition.
Health Implications of Goats Eating Meat
A continuous meat diet can cause a nutrient deficiency in goats.
If goats eat meat, the meat will occupy space in their stomach that would have been used for plants. Goats get nutrients from plants quickly because their digestive system is made that way.
Goats can also get bloating and other diseases from meat especially if the meat is contaminated.
The most common health implication of goats eating meat is nutrient deficiency.
Will Goats Eat Meat When Given to Them?
Goats are browsers. This means they love to search for their food.
Goats will most likely not eat meat and other meat products when they come across them. Goats will also not eat insects, lizards, earthworms consciously when browsing.
Goats are herbivores, so they search for plants and plant products.
What Can Goats Eat?
Here are examples of food sources for goats:
The major diet of goats is grass. Goats eat grass and it provides sufficient nutrients to goats (though you should still provide supplements).
Examples of grasses that goats eat are:
- Cat grass
- Tall fescue
- Timothy grass
- Elephant grass
- Bermuda grass
Goats can eat many kinds of grasses, the above list is just a few that they enjoy. Goats can also eat alfalfa which is grass-like but is actually a legume.
2. Pellets for Goats
Pellets for goats are usually made of alfalfa, grains, minerals, etc.
Pellets are a great supplement or feed replacement especially when there is little grass available (for example, during the winter).
Remember you should buy pellets that are made for goats and not for other animals such as cats, chickens, dogs, etc.
3. Fruits and Vegetables
Goats can eat fruits and vegetables. Fruits are plant products that can help provide goats vitamins and minerals that may be difficult for them to get otherwise. Fruits are also rich in carbohydrates for energy.
Just make sure that your goats do not eat too many sugar-rich fruits.
Examples of fruits that goats can eat are:
What’s more? Goats enjoy fruit peels, so you do not have to throw them away.
As for vegetables, they make a great supplement for grass and pellets.
You should give your goats vegetables such as:
- Collard greens
Remember that you should not give too many sugar-rich fruits to goats, but you can give goats a lot of vegetables.
4. Hay and Straw
Can goats eat hay and straw? Of course. Hay is dried grass and legumes while straw is the remains of harvested grains.
Both hay and straw provide sufficient nutrients to goats and make great replacements for grass and pellets.
Hay and straw are cheaper than pellets, so most farmers and homesteaders prefer using hay and straw to pellets.
5. Tree Bark, Soft Branches, etc.
As ruminants, goats can eat soft branches and tree bark. These materials are made of cellulose (dietary fiber).
For us humans and other non-ruminant animals, we cannot digest cellulose, but the bacteria and other microbes in the rumen of goats help them to digest cellulose.
Goats get nutrition from eating such materials from plants.
What Can Goats Not Eat?
Here is a list of food items that you should not give to your goats:
1. Meat Products
As you already know, goats are herbivores, so they should not eat meat.
They should also not eat meat products such as meat fat, animal organs, etc.
2. Pet and Chicken Feed
These processed feeds are usually made from animal products such as fish, crayfish, maggots, etc.
Since these feeds contain animal products, they are not suitable for goats.
3. Garlic and Onions
Garlic and onions are made of compounds that can upset the rumen of your goats.
These sulfur-rich vegetables can cause bloating and can inhibit the growth of microbes in the rumen of your goats.
4. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits contain a lot of vitamin c which is beneficial to your goats.
Citrus fruits, however, can harm goats because of their high acidity.
Goats may eat citrus fruits only on rare occasions.
5. Waste and Trash
Many people think that goats can eat anything including waste materials such as plastics and glass.
Goats should not eat foods from the waste bin or trash can because such foods might be contaminated or too toxic for goats.
As for plastics and glass, goats cannot digest them.
Do not feed your goats these harmful substances.
Related Questions and Answers
Here are some questions you may have about foods your goats can and cannot eat:
1. Can Goats Eat Paper?
Paper is made of cellulose. If the paper is plain, goats can eat it because they digest cellulose.
If, however, the paper is full of ink or is coated, please do not give it to your goats.
2. Can Goats Eat Bread?
Goats can eat bread, but not too much of it.
Bread does not contain sufficient nutrients for your goat to grow, but it is not harmful to goats.
Give goats bread occasionally or in small quantities, not regularly.
3. What is the Best Diet for Goats?
The best diet for goats is a plant-based diet. Grass, hay, vegetables, fruits, grains, etc. are enough for your goats to grow healthy and strong. You should also give them goat pellets if need be.
4. Can You Change Your Goat’s Diet?
If you mostly give your goats grass, pellets, hay, or anything else, you should not change their diet to something else suddenly.
The bacteria and other microbes in the rumen of goats grow to be more effective in digesting a specific kind of food if that food is given to goats regularly.
If you change the diet suddenly, they will take time to adjust to the new diet and it can cause bloating.
To change your goat’s diet, introduce the new type of food to your goats while still feeding them with the former feed for 2-3 weeks before fully switching over.
5. Do Goats Need a Salt Block?
Many animals including birds need salt blocks. These blocks are rich in minerals and animals use them when their diet is lacking in specific minerals.
Goats properly fed with grass, hay, and other food sources do not need salt blocks, but it is not bad to provide salt blocks to your goats so that they can eat from them if they need to.
Goats cannot and should not eat meat.
The digestive system of goats cannot digest meat the way it digests plants because goats are herbivores.
Goats are also ruminants, so they can digest cellulose (dietary fiber).
Remember to feed your goats only with a plant-based diet.