Goats are ruminant animals like cattle and sheep, but unlike cattle and sheep they tend to browse on leaves and bushes in preference to eating grass or other pasture. This means that they can survive quite well on land that would be regarded as unsuitable for sheep or cattle. It also means that they will tend to eat your garden plants and flowers if you give them the chance. Although their digestive system can cope well with many different types of plants, there are some which are highly toxic and should be avoided at all costs, such as oleander and rhododendron. Other plants, such as bracken fern, can be tolerated in small amounts, but can also be toxic if too much is eaten and at certain stages of the plant’s growth.
One of the most common problems we see in goats is over-feeding with concentrated feed such as pellets and grains. Goats love these types of “goodies” but in most cases you should not feed these at all. They can lead to all sorts of digestive problems such as bloat and ruminal acidosis and to bladder stones in males.
As a general rule goats should have plentiful access to a mixture of browsing and pasture. If there is not enough natural feed available you should supplement with hay. A good quality mixed grass hay should be adequate, or lucerne hay in small amounts. You may need to feed more hay during the winter time, when the grass is less nutritious.
For further information about the care and husbandry of goats, there is a wealth of information at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/animals-and-livestock/goats and of course we are always happy to help you with any questions you may have.