The Real Reason Goats Eat Everything

Goats are curious animals that often get into things they shouldn’t. They will taste almost anything that they come across. They have a reason for exhibiting this behavior though.

The real reason goats eat everything is because they have nearly twice the amount of tastebuds humans do and exhibit a higher tolerance for toxic matter. However, goats do still have a strict diet to follow to obtain the essential nutrients they need.

We will further discuss this captivating phenomenon since goats and their eating habits are a very intriguing subject.

Goats Eat Everything

Goats are considered a browsing pastor animal. This means that they like to taste things. Whereas other pastor animals, like horses and cows, are considered to be grazing animals. Meaning that they prefer to stick with grasses.

Goats will go out and taste everything. From the grasses that are grown and provided to bark off of trees to the glue and paper off of tin cans. This curiosity that the goats have is adorable to watch and mostly harmless but means that you have to take charge of the area your goats live in.

If you don’t keep an eye out something toxic will get into your goat’s space and the goat will get curious. These goofy creatures won’t hesitate to eat something they shouldn’t. We’ll talk about what’s toxic in a minute but for now, suffice it to say that if you don’t want to eat it, your goat shouldn’t either.

Goats are so curious because they have so many taste buds. They like to use their abundance of taste buds to explore the world and find out what is and isn’t tasty. It’s the same reason babies put everything in their mouths. Their exploring the world and figuring out what is and isn’t safe.

Makes a lot of sense right? It’s okay if it doesn’t, because this curiosity can be pretty dangerous if they don’t have someone looking after them. So just like you needing to go take that bouncy ball out of your baby’s hand before they get it to their mouth, you’ll have to keep a sharp eye on your goats.

So what is a normal diet for your goat? What should they be eating?

Normal Goat Diet

Goats exhibit a high tolerance for many toxic foods and can therefore be free-range pretty easily. So long as you do your part to ensure their safety. A goat’s diet is more along the lines of a deer than of other pastor animals.

Even though goats will taste almost anything, they will not make a habit of eating things they do not like. With that in mind, goats prefer shrubbery, leaves, weeds, and vines when left to their own devices. They will also eat grass, hay, alfalfa, and oats if you feed them that. Although, these are less enjoyable to them than shrubberies.

If you are changing a goat’s diet then you must do so slowly. Goats have a four-compartment stomach, called the ruminant digestive system. In two of the stomach compartments, microbes exist to assist in the breakdown of any food that goes into it. These microbes get used to the food they are fed and any sudden changes will throw them off.

Giving goats too many grains will also cause problems. Your goat’s digestive tract is not made to digest a grain-heavy diet. Giving goats too many grains will lead to acidosis. Acidosis is when a gut slows down. It causes dehydration, constipation, and often death.

Grains are important though. Especially for lactating goats and in the winter months. Grains are very high in energy and if conditions are harsh then the goats will need extra energy. Grains should always be an energy supplement and never the main source of anything. More forage than grains is also important.

Keeping this balance though can be difficult because your goats will eat anything you put in front of them though.

Lastly, you need to supply adequate minerals and vitamins. You’ll need to look up what minerals are abundant in your area so you know what to give your goats. Your local feed store will have this information.

The vitamins you need to give your goats will depend on the feed you are giving your goats. Your local feed store will know this too.

There you have it, goats don’t like to eat everything. They prefer to taste everything.

Goat Tongue Anatomy

Goats love to sample everything because they have marvelous tongues. Their taste, much like humans, is intertwined with their smell. They have a sense of smell many times better than a human’s. We aren’t here to talk about a goat’s nose though.

A goat’s tongue has about twice the number of taste buds that a human has. Plus the cellular turnover is very high. This means that their sense of taste stays very high for the length of their life.

As mentioned above, a goat’s tongue plays a huge role in why goats like to taste everything. They do it to explore what is and isn’t safe. Like the classic idea of a goat eating tin cans or dynamite. The glue on the can’s label and nitroglycerin both taste sweet, so the goat thinks it will get calories from it.

The tongues of all ruminants (animals with four-compartment stomachs) are very long. This is because of how they have to chew their food. Their diet requires that they have flat teeth for grinding, and long palates make this easier. This is also one of the many things that allow the goat to have such a developed sense of taste.

So basically, almost everything tastes good. Now, a goat eating a stick of dynamite or tin can is a definite no. They’re just tasting it because it tastes good and the goats are being curious.

What’s Toxic

Some plants are toxic to goats. It’s a long list (though comparatively short) to go through though so we will not be covering all of them.

We’ve already talked about how grains can be toxic to goats in high quantities. Other things include algae, blister beetles, copper, lead and hardware toxicity, fungi, pesticides, herbicides, rodenticides, selenium, snakebites, and toxic plants. Don’t worry, we’ll cover all of these in a little detail here.

Algae, specifically blue-green algae, is most commonly found in stagnant water. Ingestion of this will most likely kill the goat. The goat will most likely just collapse to the ground and lay there until it dies. It may resemble an allergic reaction, but likely not. There may also be convulsions, but likely not.

Blister beetles are found everywhere. There isn’t really any avoiding them. So just inspect anything you give your goats. Any amount of beetle toxins that won’t kill the goat will cause diarrhea, breathing issues, lots of urination, and dehydration. If you get a goat to the vet as soon as you notice any of these symptoms your goat might just make it.

Copper is actually very important to a goat’s diet. But not too much. Just like humans and most living animals copper in small doses helps to regulate blood cell creation, iron regulation, and helps to keep the immune and nervous systems running. Too much will cause stress, discolor urine, and cause depressive symptoms. It’s an easy fix though. Relax the goat, and put it on a low copper diet for a week or two.

Hardware disease refers to any harm caused by something manmade. It’s an easy fix too. Make sure that there is no debris in the area of your goats.

Lead poisoning isn’t awful if the lead is consumed in small amounts and if it’s taken care of immediately. Symptoms include a loss of appetite, weight loss, lethargy, diarrhea, and respiration problems. Goats can get lead poisoning if levels are high in your soil or by tasting something high in lead (like old paint).

To combat this simply make sure you have your soil levels tested and the area where your goats are staying cleaned up. If you suspect your goat has lead poisoning then contact a vet. The goat will be just fine if you act fast.

Fungi are hard to predict and hard to combat. This is because there are so many types of fungi that all you can do is be on the lookout and try to stop it before it gets bad. The best advice is to keep the areas your goats are living in as dry and as cool as possible. Wetness invites mold, heat encourages the spread of it. Symptoms to look out for include appetite and weight loss, trouble breathing, stunted growth, and poor immune system response.

Pesticides herbicides and rodenticides are all poisons. Meaning that if your goat ingests them there will be consequences. The problem is, these smell and taste sweet. So your goat wants to taste them. These could cause sickness and death. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing what poisons have been used in the area before. Luckily you can check to see if your feeds have been exposed. Just call up the feed store. Contact your vet if your goat is looking sick. We’re lumping snakebites in here too.

The difference between the two is that snakebites are visible and easily detectable. There will be obvious signs and distress, versus a poisoning will be more passive. If your goat is bitten you have to contact a vet fast.

Selenium is a mineral very important to our metabolisms. Too much though causes stiffness, staggering, deformed hooves, and loss of hair. Check your soil levels to learn if this will be a problem.

Toxic plants is a very broad topic and can’t be addressed all here. The best advice is for you to learn what toxic plants are in your area then plan accordingly. Remove all toxic plants and be diligent in keeping your goat’s area well kept.

Long story short, yes, goats will taste everything because they have a lot of taste buds and like to use them. No, goats won’t actually eat everything, nor should they. Just cause they are curious and like to explore the world by eating everything doesn’t mean that you should let them.

Recent Posts