If you own goats, you’ve likely wondered at some point if they need any special feed or if they can survive by eating grass alone.
After all, goats are known for eating (or at least nibbling on) just about anything in sight, so they certainly aren’t very picky, right?
Since goats are herbivores, a grass pasture would be the perfect goat buffet.
Goats occasionally eat small amounts of lawn grass and various types of weeds, flowers, and other plants. However, they are browsers rather than grazers, so they need a varied diet made up of many different kinds of plant matter rather than eating mostly grasses like a cow or a sheep.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about allowing your goats to eat grass, from how safe it is for them to how healthy it is and why.
In addition, we’ll touch on if you need to worry about your lawn being destroyed if you have goats and what other types of plants your herd should be eating to stay happy and healthy.
Do Goats Like Eating Grass?
At some point, you’ve likely noticed your goats attempting to chew on almost anything their mouths can reach, from various plants to your own clothing to outright bizarre materials like plastic or metal!
In their curious nibbling, goats learn what sorts of things are food and what things are inedible–and they’ll sample anything they find, too.
One of the first and most abundant plants your goats will ever eat will be grass, and they learn quickly how useful, accessible, and filling the green stuff is.
Thankfully, most common lawn grasses are not toxic or dangerous to goats if eaten in moderation.
Goats are a particular type of herbivore known as a browser, meaning they spend a lot of time browsing through various kinds of vegetation and carefully selecting the types they want while leaving other stuff they don’t care for behind.
While browsers typically eat a small amount of grass as part of their diet, they don’t eat nearly as much of it as grazer animals.
Grazer animals like cattle and sheep eat primarily low-lying grasses.
Grazer animals’ digestive tracts and stomachs are also better able to break down and absorb nutrients from grasses.
At the same time, browsers are better at breaking down other kinds of plant matter like leaves, shoots, fruits, and vegetables.
In short, it’s perfectly normal for goats to eat a bit of grass daily.
However, they should ideally mostly be eating a mixture of leaves, grasses, fruits, weeds, leafy greens, and grains, with typical lawn grasses making up a small portion of their total diet.
Do Goats Prefer Weeds or Grass?
As we touched on above, most goats do enjoy eating grasses to some extent, even if it usually isn’t a staple food for them.
Additionally, the term “weed” is a bit subjective–generally, it’s defined as any plant growing in an undesirable situation or location.
However, if we consider some of the most common plants most people universally agree are weeds, like dandelions, crabgrass, and ragweed, goats are big fans of them!
Although all goats have unique preferences for different foods, we’d wager that most goats would prefer eating a varied mix of weeds rather than grass.
Goats are very efficient at clearing out pesky weeds and brush in a short amount of time!
Some goat owners even use their herds as weed control to clear out entire acres of unwanted or invasive plants (and save a great deal of money on brush-clearing, mowing, and weeding in the meantime!).
Is Grass Healthy For Goats to Eat?
It is healthy for goats to eat a bite of grass occasionally, provided they are also eating plenty of other types of plant matter.
In addition, grass and legume hays should make up a large part of their diet, with alfalfa hay and timothy hay being nutritious staple choices for goats.
Goats are expert foragers, so they greatly enjoy and prefer munching on all kinds of leaves, vines, flowers, grasses, etc., rather than sticking to lawn grasses alone.
Their bodies are much better equipped to break down and pull nutrients from browse plants more efficiently than lawn grasses.
For a healthy herd, you must ensure your goats have access to plenty of hay, browse plants like vines, leaves, shoots, shrubs, and trees, and a grain feed daily.
A diet of grass alone is not healthy or particularly nutritious for goats to eat regularly.
Can Goats Survive on Just Grass?
Technically, a goat likely would be able to survive on only lawn grasses for a short time in a dire survival situation.
Goats are quite resourceful animals when it comes to their diet. However, they definitely wouldn’t be thriving and would likely be desperately searching for other types of plants to feed on in the meantime.
How long a goat would realistically survive without succumbing to various health issues related to malnutrition is debatable.
Grass alone does not supply goats with the range of vitamins, minerals, protein, and key nutrients they need to stay healthy.
If the part of your yard where you’re keeping your goats doesn’t have enough browse to sustain the herd, you’ll need to supplement their diet with additional hays, greens, leaves, fruits, and other safe plant materials.
Just be sure to research which plants are toxic to goats and which ones are safe and healthy for them to eat regularly.
Do Goats Destroy Grass?
Unfortunately, goats tend to damage and trample most lawn grasses over time.
They aren’t quite as destructive as heavier livestock animals like cows, horses, and pigs, but they will still wear down a grass lawn if you don’t take the initiative to maintain it well and give it plenty of TLC.
Occasional reseeding, aerating, and frequent watering, for example, will help mitigate the damage done to the lawn by your herd.
Additionally, certain spots will likely have more wear and tear than others, as your goats will prefer playing, exploring, and browsing certain parts of the yard over others.
Grass near watering holes, shelters, and feed areas will be damaged much more quickly.
In cases where the grass is destroyed and worn away, installing grass plugs is another way to quickly and discreetly replace the especially patchy spots.
The smaller the overall area your goats get to roam around in is, the more concentrated the damage will be.
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