Oh, The Things A Goat Will Eat
Updated: Apr 9, 2020
Bottom Line Up Front: Goats are browsers that have forage preferences that are varied and diverse, and their ability to eat from a wide range of plants makes them an ideal addition to farms and ranches.
Ah, yes, the ever prevalent image of a goat eating a tin can, your shoe off your foot, the tire right off the rim of your car. Cliche to say the least, and while cute, it's nowhere near an accurate image of the goat. Curious, and not bashful about giving anything a little test nibble, goats are ultimately selective and calculated browsers. During our recent drought, I tossed out a 2 year-old bale of coastal Bermuda hay to see if they'd eat it. After a couple of sniffs they collectively decided it was better used as bed upon which to rest.
I suppose goats get the image of the animal that will eat anything because they tend to eat things that more popular livestock reject, and often go to great lengths to do it. When we first reintroduced goats to the homestead, the pasture was in great shape, lush with grasses to include thick patches coastal Bermuda. The kind of scene you'd love to turn cows out onto, but the goats took one look around and began zeroing in on just about every broad leaf weed in the pasture. Then they turned their sights on the brush. A landscape dominated by huisache, black brush, and guajillo did not stand a chance. What most consider as brush to be removed at any cost has proven to be an ample food source for our goats.
And to be clear, they didn't ignore the grass altogether. They will graze, but it's not their preferred source of food.
I've written previously about some of the great reasons to add goats to your farm operation, and that includes using them as pasture renovators. There's the potential that goats will clobber undesirable species of plants thus opening up room for grasses or other desirable species that you might want on your ranch. For example, there are some great stories about goats being used to manage and destroy the invasive and destructive kudzu plant in the American southeast. Isn't that an interesting potential money maker for you? An organic, self-propelled weed eating, pasture improving machine that you could ultimately sell for a profit?
So here in our video I show our goats doing work on limbs from a huisache tree. Our pasture was getting bare, and I was behind on opening up a fresh paddock for them to go into. So in lieu of putting out hay I cut down several limbs from this tree - and if you're worried about the tree, don't - it will grow its limbs back with a vengeance. They had browsed as high as they could, so I brought the feed down to them. I hope you enjoy, and I'd love to know what your goats eat.