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Goats Eating Wood – is it a Problem?

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Many people who raise goats notice them eating wood from time to time. If you think about it, goats are herbivores, so they eat different plant materials.

Why then do people complain when their goats eat wood? Is it safe for goats to eat wood? Why do goats eat wood? How can you prevent your goats from eating wood?

Goat inside pen

Is it a problem for goats to eat wood? Well, it depends on how you look at it.

Goats can typically eat wood without major problems to the goat. If they do so routinely, however, this behavior can damage or even kill living trees. Wood chewing behavior in goats can also be destructive to fencing and structures if it is not prevented.

If the goat does not eat wood regularly or destroy the pen or kill trees, it’s not really a problem. If, however, goats are eating too much wood, it could become a problem.

5 Reasons Your Goat Might be Eating Wood

Probably the first question you should consider is why is your goat eating wood?

1. Lack of feed

If your goats do not find enough feed to eat, they will eat whatever they can find. Imagine that you love wings, but only spaghetti is present at the moment.

Will you eat spaghetti? Of course. Your goats might be eating wood because they don’t have enough conventional food to eat.

Some recommended feed for your goats are:

  • Hay
  • Fruits
  • Straw
  • Cereals
  • Fresh grass
  • Processed feed

You have to check that they are receiving enough to eat.

2. Habit or Influence

Have you ever seen a chicken pecking on her eggs before? Mother hens may peck on their unhatched eggs when they see other chickens pecking on their eggs.

Just like chickens, goats can develop habits from seeing other goats.

If your goats are eating wood, it could be because they saw other goats eating wood, so they decided to try it.

3. Boredom

If your goats feel bored, they may do anything. You should make sure that your goats have company and enough activities to keep them from eating wood.

Two white goat looking over wooden fence

4. Restricted Space

For goats kept in pens and barns made of wood, they might start eating the wood if they feel too restricted.

It is not advisable to always keep your goats locked in the pen. If they feel too restricted, they might try to eat their way out.

5. Nutrient Deficiency

Some studies have shown that goats that constantly eat wood might have a calcium deficiency. You should make sure that your goats have plenty of calcium-rich feeds.

Is it Safe for Goats to Eat Wood or Bark?

From the notes above, you can see that there are various reasons goats eat wood. But should you allow your goats to eat wood?

Consider the Source of Wood

Cedar bark can upset the stomach of goats. Some other trees can cause harm to your goats. If the tree bark or source of wood is completely safe for your goats, your goats can eat wood.

If, however, your goats could get sick from eating that type of wood, you should restrict your goats from reaching the wood or bark.

Can Goats Digest Wood?

There is a big difference between goats and dogs. Goats are not just herbivores, they are ruminants.

As ruminant animals, goats have special microbes in their rumen that help them to digest wood and bark which is mostly made of cellulose (dietary fiber).

Even though other animals cannot eat and digest wood, a few animals such as cows and goats are able to digest wood and bark.

Eating Too Much Wood Can Upset Their Stomach

Even though goats can eat and digest wood, they should not eat too much of it.

Too much wood eaten by goats will encourage the growth of microbes that specialize in digesting wood while reducing the population of microbes that can digest other feeds.

If your goats continue to eat just wood, they might get a nutrient deficiency. They will eat less of their nutrient rich feed and the nutrients they do ingest will be absorbed more slowly.

Goats Destroying Properties

Goat on top of wooden table

Eating too much wood can destroy barns and kill trees. If you notice that your barn is being destroyed or trees around you are dying because of your goats, you should not allow your goats to eat wood.

Now that you have a few reasons to prevent your goats from eating wood, what are some ways to stop your goat from eating wood?

7 Ways to Stop Goats from Eating Wood on the Farm

Here are some tips on stopping or preventing goats from eating wood:

1. Restrict Their Access to Wood

Here are some quick ways to prevent goats from reaching wood.

  • Do not keep bark or wood close to your goats.
  • Fence them with mire mesh to prevent them from reaching woody trees
  • Fence each tree (if there aren’t too many) so that your goats cannot reach them

2. Give Your Goats Enough Feed

If you remember, goats will eat wood if they are hungry. To prevent your goat from eating wood, you should give them plenty of feed. Make sure their feed is always available.

3. Use Bitter Apple or Bitter Dog Spray

Bitter apple or bitter dog spray are products that taste very bitter. These products discourage ferrets from biting people and dogs from nibbling on themselves.

If you spray bitter apple on the surface of the wood or bark that you do not want your goats to eat, they will not eat it.

4. Use Elevated Troughs for Their Feed

Goats are browsers, not grazers. As browsers, goats prefer eating feed way above the ground.

This is why some goats will eat a tree bark that is way up instead of the grass just below them.

You should use elevated troughs so that goats will find their feed more attractive and stop eating wood.

5. Plant Vegetation that They Hate Around Woody Trees

Goat reach out to eat leaves

Some plants that goats hate to eat are:

  • Salal
  • Mullein
  • Wild sage grass
  • Several types of nightshade plants such as tomatoes, potatoes, etc.

If you plant vegetation that goats hate close to the trees or where you keep wood, your goats will not go there.

6. Give Them Toys or Company

Is your goat bored? If you observe that your goat is bored, buy her a toy or get another goat (or any friendly animal) so that your goat will have activities to do instead of eating wood.

7. Give them Wood

Why should you give your goat wood while trying to stop them from eating wood? Note that this option is just a small measure of stopping your wood-eating goat from destroying your barn or killing a tree.

If your goats are destroying your property, give them twigs and branches so that they will eat those instead of eating the wood used to construct the pen or the tree bark. You should add some twigs alongside their regular feed.

Do Goats Eat Everything?

Two goats eating tree bark

So you obviously know goats eat wood and now you know how to stop them. But this begs the question: Do goats eat everything?

Even though you now know that goats can digest cellulose so they can eat wood, bark, or paper (clean paper without toxic ink or chemicals), should you give your goats just anything?

There are so many items that goats eat, but there are some that they are unable to digest.

Some items that goats cannot digest are:

Make sure that your goats do not eat everything they see.

Final Thoughts

According to what you have learned, you now know that the safety of goats eating wood depends on many factors. Goats are ruminants, so you do not have to worry that they cannot digest woody materials. If, however, you do not want your goats to eat wood, follow the suggestions mentioned in this article.

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