Goats eat just about anything from tin cans to tires, right?
While it is true goats are curious and will taste and explore a wide variety of substances, goats do not and should not eat everything they encounter.
Goats are often picky eaters, making it doubly important to feed them a healthy diet.
Goats are herbivores, which means they eat plants and foods made from plants.
Since bread is made from plants, it is safe for goats to eat, but only in limited amounts since it is highly processed and limited in nutritional benefits. A piece of bread makes a great treat for your goat but should not replace a balanced diet designed for goats.
Goats are ruminant animals and herbivores.
They eat brushy, woody, and weedy plants.
Their complex, four-stomached digestive system can handle different kinds of fiber and roughage.
Too much rich food, such as grain feed, can cause a serious condition called bloat.
Ruminal acidosis, or grain overload, occurs when goats have been eating forage and then suddenly eat fermentable foods such as grain, fruits, or bread.
Bread Types Goats Can Eat
A slice of bread here and there as a snack for goats is fine.
Due to the starch content, feeding your goat whole loaves of bread is not desirable, either white bread or wheat bread.
A healthier diet would use sweet feed as a treat.
- Wheat bread is high in fiber, and wheat starch is beneficial to your goat’s digestion.
- Sourdough bread has half the fiber of wheat bread and half the sugar, which is good.
- White bread is not as nutritionally beneficial as wheat or sourdough but is still an acceptable snack.
- Potato bread is low in fiber and contains too much sugar; it is worse for your goat than white bread.
- Rye bread is high in fiber and lower in sugar but almost too high in starch if overeaten.
- Whole grain bread has varying fiber amounts depending on the grain used, but being whole and less processed is desirable.
- Quick breads and other bread products such as muffins and cakes are too sweet and should be severely limited.
If you make homemade bread, you control the fiber content and sugar content of the loaf of bread and make it a healthier treat for your goats.
Can Goats Eat Moldy Bread?
Moldy bread is not good for goats or humans and can make goats ill.
Moldy bread contains bacteria and fungus, which upsets the bacterial balance in the rumen and causes bloat.
Signs of bloat are restlessness, abdominal discomfort, loss of appetite, and increased salivation.
The stomach distends on the left side, and the goat might bite or kick at the abdominal region.
Although there are home remedies for bloat, such as having them drink mineral oil, your veterinarian will have access to better medications to help your goat belch out the extra gas and recover from bloat.
What is the Ideal Diet for Goats?
Like other animals, goats need a balanced, healthy diet providing the macronutrients of protein and carbohydrates.
Goats acquire a small amount of the macronutrient fat from grazing and do not need extra.
Goats also need micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
Feeding your goat from pasture foraging is the best diet since it mimics their natural eating pattern.
Pasture grasses such as Bahia, Sudanese, sorghum, clover, and millet have a long fiber structure beneficial to the goat’s rumen.
Goats need to eat from 2-4 pounds of hay a day to provide enough dietary fiber if they are not on pasture.
Even when they are on pasture, it is good to provide them with access to hay.
Check out our post on if goats can eat too much hay (and what to do about it).
The plants they eat while on pasture may not be enough to satisfy their nutritional needs, so they also need to be fed hay or alfalfa pellets supplemented with a grain blend for goats or grain pellets.
It is essential to provide loose minerals so they can eat what they need to complement their regular diet.
Some good goat supplementations besides loose minerals are:
- Baking soda to aid the digestion
- Beet pulp is high in fiber and beneficial starches
- Black oil sunflower seeds high in fiber, fat, protein
- Kelp meal provides an excellent source of iodine to help regulate metabolism
- Apple cider vinegar, in small quantities, helps with the absorption of minerals
Keep treats to about 5% of your goat’s diet.
Further reading: What nutritional value does beet pulp give goats?
Foods Goats Can Eat
A healthy adult goat diet consists of up to 4 pounds of hay and other roughage a day.
Dairy goats can eat up to 7 pounds a day to make up for the calorie and fat needs of making milk.
Goats eat brush, weeds, chaffhaye, alfalfa pellets, and grain blends, to name a few alternatives to hay.
Chaffhaye feeds ferments in the bag, which adds the bacteria bacillus subtillis.
This is easily digestible and is good for your goat’s rumen.
Chaffhaye also has more nutrients than regular dried hay, making it easier to keep your goat healthy.
Keep your goat’s diet as close to natural as possible and use no more than ten percent of their diet as grain.
Goats can eat a wide variety of other foods, such as
Fruits such as:
- Pitted apricots
- Pitted peaches
Some people feed their goats citrus; some do not because of the risk to the balance in the rumen.
Vegetables such as:
- Bell peppers
Tree barks and leaves include elm and apple, rose bushes, and lilac.
Edible weeds such as dandelion and lamb’s quarter.
Whole grains, including barley, wheat, and oats, in moderation.
Healthy goats can have extra snacks and treats, such as sweet feed, weeds, fruits, and veggies, if their regular diet is good quality hay and feed.
An economical snack is kitchen waste such as banana peels and vegetable skins.
One of the most essential parts of your goat’s diet is having access to clean water.
Make sure your goat has access to clean water.
Water flushes out toxins, keeps their digestion running smoothly, and will keep lactating goats’ milk supply strong.
What Not to Feed Your Goat
While you may feed your goat bread in moderation, anything with chocolate, such as chocolate chip banana bread, is harmful to goats.
Theobromine, the primary chemical in chocolate, is toxic to goats as it is to dogs.
Processed foods high in empty calories, such as cake, are not suitable for goats.
Caffeine is not suitable for goats.
Citrus fruits can cause an imbalance in the rumen and cause bloat.
Do not feed your goat meat scraps.
As herbivores, their digestive system is not designed for it.
This is the same reason to never feed goats dog food (learn more in our article).
Don’t feed your goats avocados because of the compound persin, safe for humans but toxic for goats.
Cherry pits are high in cyanide and are another food to not feed your goat.
Nuts are not a natural part of your goat’s diet and should not be consumed in excess.
Do not feed your goats metals, plastics, fabrics, and other non-food items.
What Are Some Foods Toxic to Goats?
Some common landscaping plants toxic to goats are boxwood, larkspur, and lupines.
Leaves on oak trees are high in tannins, which can cause kidney and liver issues.
Azaleas can cause an irregular heartbeat and should not be eaten.
The common poppy, wild parsnip, and horsenettle are all bad for goats to eat.
Do not feed your goat nightshade vegetables such as potatoes or tomatoes.
The solanine in them is toxic to goats, and it is better to avoid them entirely.
Foods from the allium family, such as garlic and onion, are not good for your goat, although many farmers use a small amount of garlic to aid deworming.
Goats need to be kept away from poisonous plants, such as
- Common milkweed
- Bracken fern
- St. John’s wort
- Wild cherry
What If My Goat Ate Something Toxic?
Your goat’s behavior will be the first clue they have eaten something they shouldn’t.
If your goat is suddenly listless, off their feed, or attempting to hide (a natural behavior to hide infirmity from predators), they might be in pain.
If there is no obvious reason for these behaviors, the pain might be related to their digestive tract.
If you think your goat has eaten something harmful, take them to the vet.
They may need something to counteract a toxin or surgery to remove an object.
Your vet may recommend euthanasia in some cases, so it is vital to feed your goat properly!
Ensure your goat’s enclosure is free of trash and foreign objects a goat might eat.
Walk areas your goats have access to and ensure they cannot get into toxic plants and materials.