When raising goats, whether for goat milk, meat, or companion animals, you have to account for their diets.
Can goats eat meat in their feed, though?
Goats are herbivores, meaning they only eat plants and can’t properly digest meat products. While goats are prone to snacking on anything they find since they’re curious creatures, eating meat will upset goat digestive systems. Over time, a meat-based diet won’t meet nutrient requirements either.
Feeding a goat kid or adult goats the proper diet is crucial to maintaining their health.
Read on, and we’ll go over what is and isn’t appropriate for a goat diet.
What Happens If My Goat Eats Meat?
There are short- and long-term effects of a goat eating chicken, cow, goat meat, or any other animal meat for these animals, thanks to how their digestive tract works.
This is true for all of them, even among different goat breeds.
What’s a great protein meal for you isn’t as good for your goat.
Short-Term Effects of Goats Eating Meat
If your goat eats meat, you might immediately notice they show signs of an upset stomach.
This is because animal organs in an herbivore’s digestive tract can’t break down meat like a carnivore or an omnivore can.
For a goat, the rumen, a chamber of their stomach, is filled with healthy bacteria and microbes.
These ruminal bacteria and microbes work to help break down the plants they eat while they’re out grazing forages in a pasture.
These same ruminal bacteria and material can’t break down meat as well as they break down plants.
This means your goat can start to have stomachaches from meat consumption as this healthy bacteria.
Long-Term Effects of Goats Eating Meat
If a goat continues to eat meat as part of its regular feed supply, they’re likely to experience inadequate nutrition as its diet won’t meet its nutrient requirements.
Just like your goat might have an upset stomach because they can’t break down meat, their digestive tract can’t absorb nutrients from it either.
Without meeting these nutritional requirements, your goat is at greater risk for health complications.
This is especially important because eating meat will make your goat feel full.
So, if they eat meat and feel full, they aren’t only suffering from not absorbing their nutrient requirements from the meat, but they aren’t as likely to go out and forage.
This means they’re losing out on the nutrients they’d normally find available in forages while they graze because they simply aren’t eating during this time.
What Are Goats Allowed to Eat?
There are plenty of things your adult goats can feed on safely.
Here is a list of foods you can give your goat!
Grazing on Grass
These animals love to spend time in hilly pastures, and it’s all thanks to pasture grass!
These animals forage frequently, and, as such, grass makes up a big part of their diet.
There are a few types of grass particularly popular in a goat pen.
For example, elephant, Bermuda, tall fescue, and cat grass are delicious treats for mature goats.
They may forage on legume pastures and pasture grass, too, especially if there’s some alfalfa around!
Many farmers allow grazing forage as part of a herd’s diet.
Straw or Hay
Similarly, your goats will also love snacking on straw or hay when they want some food.
These can offer a lot of nutrients to goat breeds, and it’s often more affordable than pellet-style goat feed.
Some owners opt to reach out to legume pastures again and add alfalfa to their straw or hay mix.
These are tasty and full of essential vitamins.
These options can offer protein to your animals without meat.
Fruits and Veggies
Like many animals who are herbivores, mature goats love to snack on herbs and veggies.
Both offer plenty of vitamins and minerals, but fruit offers additional carbohydrates, which can help your animal feel more energetic.
A bit of watermelon, banana, apple, or papaya is a tasty snack for a goat and may even boost their energy level.
The only thing to watch out for is to stop your goat from snacking on fruits full of sugar, with a few exceptions, which we’ll cover later.
Luckily, this isn’t much of a problem with veggies.
Of course, giving your goat quality feed is also an option.
There are a few types of feed to choose from, although goat owners tend to have preferred feeds as they learn to avoid poor feed quality.
High-quality feed will help you keep healthy animals by offering plenty of vitamins, carbohydrates, and fiber with the right protein levels to help meet your goat’s nutritional requirements.
This is often used for a goat herd that can’t immediately access pastures to graze in, such as during the winter.
You may even see your goat herd snacking on wood here and there!
Usually, you’ll see them munching on a bit of tree bark or softer branches.
They may eat a few tree leaves in the process too.
While this wouldn’t work as human food, it’s a great source of fiber for your goat.
What Are Goats Not Allowed to Eat?
We’ve already covered the nutrient requirements, and the digest tract of a goat doesn’t align well with meat consumption.
Here is another list of foods and kitchen scraps to keep separate from feed grains.
Feed for Other Animals
Quality feed grains made for a goat are great for them, but not all types of feed are.
However, avoid other types of feed, such as those recommended for animals such as dogs or chickens.
Related Reading: Goats eating dog food and why it’s bad
They don’t offer the nutrients to goats they need or keep their dietary restrictions in mind.
This goes whether you’re talking about quality feed or food for other animals with poor feed quality.
Onions or Garlic
Onions and garlic will both upset your goat’s stomach.
Due to the sulfur in these food items, they can reduce the growth of microbes in your goat’s stomach and leave them bloated.
Citrus, Potatoes, and Avocados
We’ve already discussed how fruit is a great treat for a goat.
There are a few examples to avoid.
For one, never feed your goat citrus.
While vitamin C is great for them, the acidity of citrus is a bit too high for these animals.
While they’re okay rarely, they aren’t healthy for a regular addition to their feed.
Don’t feed your goat avocadoes or potatoes as well.
Avocadoes have persin, and potatoes have solanine in them.
While both are fine for humans, neither is good for goat digestive systems.
A few nuts aren’t likely to hurt your goat if they get into the feed supply.
Still, they aren’t part of a natural diet for a goat, so you don’t want to overdo it.
To avoid them feeling sick, limit nut intake greatly.
Related: Can cows eat meat?