Can Goats Survive by Foraging?

Goats can eat anything. It’s their own personal party trick. However, just because they can doesn’t always necessarily mean they should

Goats can 100% survive by foraging alone. Leaving your goats to graze amongst your field would be totally fine with only having to provide water regularly. However just like you might not enjoy eating the same thing, neither do they!

If you’re looking to have multiple goats, or even just one, feeding them a proper diet is important and while they can just graze you may want to know a little bit more about their diets and what they’re going to thrive in versus what they shouldn’t or can’t eat!

How Goats Eat

There are really important things to remember about goats and how they digest and process their food. Goats have four stomachs! They don’t get their nutrition from their food, but instead from the fermentation of their food. Similar to the way alcohol ferments, goats’ stomachs break down and ferment their food, and that provides them with nutrition. This is why they can eat pretty much anything and everything. It’s not about the food itself, but the fermentation.

They’re also not considered “grazers,” the way that sheep or cows are. They’re considered “browsers,” which if you can believe it, is different. This is really just a fancy way of saying that goats are pickier eaters than you would think. Just like humans, goats enjoy a variety and selection of foods. They’re going to be drawn to plants that may hold more nutrition and so will eat things like leaves, bushes, bark, weeds, flowers, whatever they can BEFORE they’ll eat your grass. This is why it’s hard to have goats as grass feeders. They’re going to want other things before they want grass.

This is why it’s important to feed your goat the best diet you can, so here are a few things you can feed them that they’ll WANT!

Goat Feeding

If you’re looking for your goats to eat something other than the grass around them, then there are a few other things you can feed them!

Pasture/Hay: Pasture is fresh land that is filled with lots of various grasses & weeds. Not just grass in your backyard, but think more of rolling fields. An area that has more than just grass, but bushes, weeds, and other foods that they’ll like. Hay, on the other hand, is not similar to the yellow straw you’re thinking of. Instead, it’s green hay. Orchardgrass, Bermuda, or other forms of greenery. These can come in bales the way the yellow hay also comes or in pellets! Hay tends to be the better course, however, again because of the four stomach debacle. Their stomachs can digest the hay better and they’re less likely to bloat or cause digestive issues.

Grain: Goats don’t need grain to survive, however that doesn’t mean it isn’t beneficial. For pregnant goats, grains can provide a good amount of vitamins and other resources and especially protein. Grains are NOT recommended for male goats, however, and should be avoided at all costs.

Vegetables, as Treats: Any vegetable can be fed to goats as a treat, it’s important however not to feed vegetables to goats regularly. As we stated earlier, they’ll want the most nutritious things first, and that often being things like vegetables that’s all they’ll begin to expect soon. So it’ll be hard to maintain that diet if you aren’t careful!

Controlling Grazing

If you’re still considering using grazing as a way to feed your goats, then you’re going to need to do it a certain way. Goats will eat anything and everything, and unless you control the grazing in a way you’ll lose your whole yard and soon you’ll have to be feeding them other things. So if you’re allowing your goats to browse. you’ll need to control access to the grass they can eat and browse at. It’s important to adjust this for different seasons to allow different areas of grazing to regrow. However ultimately it’s going to be up to you in how you decide to allow your goats to graze, and again they’ll be 100% fine in just grazing.

goats graze on green grass near river, drinking water

One of the difficult parts of just providing grazing is in the winter feeding gets incredibly difficult. Plants die, and with things like snow, grazing isn’t a thing that goats can participate in. So it’s important that if you do decide to allow your goats to browse, that you have food alternatives for the colder months.

Things to Look Out For

Making sure that if your goats are browsing they’re safe is a super important part of goat care. Some grass can be altered with pesticides and other chemicals that you’ll need to be careful of. While minor exposure to many of these toxins shouldn’t cause serious problems, large amounts can cause severe health issues even possibly lead to death. There are also some toxins that are highly dangerous even in small amounts. If goats happen to ingest plants that have been sprayed with pheenoxy acid herbicides, or any other form of pesticides, then they can become sick and possibly die. It’s important that you’re sure your plants or other areas are not treated where your goats are browsing.

There are also some plants that can be fatal to your goats! Algae in particular causes issues in water troughs for goats. In more humid, and hotter seasons, algae can develop as well as other bacteria within water troughs and it can be particularly fatal for any goats! Making sure that their space is cleaned regularly when it’s particularly warm outside will prevent any illness within your goats!

In the warmer months, bugs are also more present in their browsing areas. As you can’t comb every bit of grass, you’ll want to look out for any mood changes in your goats to make sure that they haven’t injested any bugs that could be fatal to them as well like Blister Beetles! Keep a careful eye on your goats, and contact a vet if necessary!

Recent Posts