Goats like horses, cows, and sheep are ruminant herbivores.
In fact, with a little knowledge, it is not overly difficult to provide goats with a healthy diet.
But if you run out of food, you may even consider using dog food for your goats.
Dog food should never be served to goats, though they will eat it if given a chance. Goats are ruminants, meaning they have four stomachs. The goat’s digestive system has evolved to process only plant matter, not animal products often included in dog food.
Read on for more information on why this isn’t great for goats.
How Are Goats Affected By Eating Meat Or Animal Products?
The meat will displace vegetable matter in the animal’s digestive system.
And since goats are not built to metabolize protein, the meat will tend to get trapped in their system or move very slowly through, thus decreasing their nutrient intake.
These mineral imbalances in goats deny nutrition to goats and end up causing severe problems.
At best, they’ll get sick and suffer damage, particularly in the joints of goats.
At worst, they’ll die.
From wet food to dry kibble, dog food is not acceptable as food to goats.
If a goat is curtailed from sampling an excess of dog food, the impact won’t be significant.
However, ingestion of a large quantity (and if not stopped immediately, this is what will happen) can have a significant impact on the animal’s overall health.
Eventually, the meat will “gum up the works.”
The animal may suffer from constipation and/or bloating due to this.
At this point, it is a good idea to talk to a veterinarian.
Bloat will very quickly kill a goat.
Related: Why is my goat bloated?
Additionally, some giant agribusiness companies have found feeding remnants of slaughtered cows and goats back to their relatives was a good way to save money and increase the growth rate.
It sounds counterintuitive, but the easiest digestible protein for a species comes from a member of the same species.
The practice has been made illegal, and the USDA has a flyer covering this topic which is available at the link.
Ethical considerations aside, cannibalism is implicated in various forms of prion diseases or transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs).
Mad Cow Disease, otherwise known as BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), falls into this category, although the more general TSE is used across the spectrum.
What Types Of Plants Will Harm A Goat?
Dog food often contains quite a bit of plant matter, and while this isn’t bad, some of the items may be hard or even deadly to the digestive systems of goats.
Dog food commonly uses corn gluten meal or ground wheat meal as a supplement, and while it’s not directly harmful, neither is it healthy.
The amount of nutrients found in dog food good for goats is minimal.
Poor nutrition hampers milk production and the development of muscles (which, in turn, puts extra strain on their bodies).
But some plants in dog food may even be poisonous.
The College of Agriculture and Life Science at Cornell has published a list of plants harmful to goats and other ruminants.
The list is not comprehensive, so read the introduction carefully; it is a good starting point.
Identifying dangerous plants common in your area and keeping your goats away from them or, better yet, eradicating them will help your goat stay healthy.
Symptoms Exhibited by a Poisoned Goat
The effects of goats eating a poisonous plant or food show up almost right away.
The outward indicators include:
- Lack of coordination
- Excessive vocalization
- Muscle tremors often appear as shaking
- Vision problems
Even though a goat may be experiencing vision problems, they can still hear and, in their afflicted state, may run to avoid capture.
Unless you are experienced in raising and treating goats, we suggest you contact your vet immediately.
Goats can swiftly succumb to poisoning.
Protecting Your Goats from Poisonous Plants
First, always check out the plants in your area and anything within reach of your goat pen.
Also, check the ingredients before feeding goats dog food (which we still don’t recommend).
Large herd grazing and overgrazing steer animals toward plants they would otherwise avoid; this problem is endemic to large-scale operations.
Smaller herds on smaller parcels of land are easier to protect simply because the land area is smaller, making identifying trouble spots and remediation easier.
In this case, keeping fields clear of noxious weeds and plants is a task that pays for itself.
Further, small herds are easier to maintain and maneuver into the areas you need them in; a blackberry bramble, for example.
Keep in mind: your farm equipment and tools can pick up unwanted contaminants.
When working areas of a property known to contain toxic plants, clean any tools and equipment before returning to an active forage area.
Preventative measures are easier and more cost-effective than eradicating established weeds.
What Is The Best Type Of Forage For Goats?
Foraging is one of the best ways of providing food to goats.
Of course, goats want grasses, and plenty of options are available.
It’s a critical element for goats and their diet.
Timothy hay and orchard grass are good choices should you want to buy bales.
Further reading: Do goats eat grass?
But make sure you buy from a reputable farm store or farmer as the quality of these products varies immensely.
Despite being known as grazers, goats are generally quite picky in their eating habits.
They prefer if their forage is above shoulder height.
This characteristic makes goats ideal for the eradication of blackberries.
Goats go for in a blackberry bramble are the succulent, tasty leaves of the plant, which contain many nutrients supplied by purchased forage or supplements.
By stripping the leaves from these plants, the goats deprive them of their ability to photosynthesize, eventually killing them.
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