Goats are fed a diet of mostly hay these days—as they are domesticated and most owners don’t have miles of land for them to forage on. This is totally fine; however, your goats will always be healthier if you can switch up their diet in small, meaningful ways by adding in a variety of forage/browse products for them. Anything from fruits/veggies, to herbs, to trees can be a great treat for your goats.
So that’s what we’re going to cover today – what foods, plants, and trees you can grow, source, and feed to your goaties! And just for giggles, I’ve added some of the benefits of these plants as well (but consider them the “Spark Notes’” version, there is much more to each of them besides the main benefits I’ll list.
Please keep in mind that adding any new foods to your goat’s diet, even if healthy, should be done gradually so as not to cause any “tummy woes.” Not to worry, though, if you did introduce anything too quickly and your goats have a problem, consult this post for solutions!
Healthy goats are happy goats!
Garlic (Read benefits HERE)
Ginger (Wonderful for the stomach & coccidiosis control)
Cayenne Peppers (Use to make powder or tincture (preferred). Heart support, blood/circulation support, energy, vitamins B & C, shock, weak kids/weak goats, bleeding/hemorrhaging (internal and external), and more)
HERBS & SMALL PLANTS:
(NOTE: Not all are safe/recommended for pregnant and lactating goats. If not noted either way, consult before giving)
Hyssop (Wonderful for lung support & expectoration, use the above ground parts of the plant only)
Mullein (Another great respiratory support herb, great for pain and general assistance in healing. Caution, only the leaves and flowers can be used – seeds are toxic)
Yarrow (Great fever aid & GI tract support herb, safe for pregnant does and fantastic to give for them. Similarly to Hyssop, use the upper parts of the plant)
Nettle (Fantastic herb for the kidneys & bladder and helps the body to flush toxins. Also a wonderful blood builder!)
Parsley – (Another great blood building herb. Also fantastic for the kidneys. Not for lactating goats – will help them dry up)
Marshmallow (Wonderful for general inflammation reduction and helps to heal damaged tissues throughout the body)
Dandelion (One of my absolute favorites – dandelion is great for blood building as well as organ support with the kidneys, liver, and more. This weed is also loaded with vitamins! The whole plant, any parts, can be given)
Raspberry (great for does, especially when lactating!)
Blackberry (An overall nutritious forage product that also has anti-diarrheal properties, great for an ailing goat needing easy-to-consume browse)
Mint (This herb has so many uses – but is especially great for bloat, digestive issues, pain, and calming)
Other weeds and forages with general health boosting (and possibly anti-parasitic) properties:
Oak (Great for stomach issues/diarrhea and parasites. Caution on feeding too many acorns – best to stick to the leaves)
Mulberry (Fun fact – mulberry is very similar to alfalfa in how it acts in the diet, though MUCH higher in minerals and can replace it in a 1:1 ratio)
Moringa (A super healthy tree with protein content as high as 24%!)
Willow (A goat-favorite! Anti-inflammatory, nutritious, and remember the bark has pain relief properties!)
Pine (Known for its supportive and nourishing qualities for goats, while providing lots of good vitamins and nutrients. Bonus points for parasite management!)
(These next three are generally healthy, nutritious, tasty choices for goats)
Honey Locust/Black Locust
What are the benefits of feeding more tree forage in particular?
Trees are often chewed on fresh by goats, but “Tree Hay” is a popular idea that has been circulating throughout the goat community (mostly in non US countries). From what I have gathered, it is an extremely healthy idea, even better than regular hay. Trees will contain higher quantities of minerals (depending on the type and time harvested), and by varying the forages your goats are getting, you will likely be aiding in the prevention/management of deficiencies which is a big problem for most goats raised domestically. A lot of trees also contain high amounts of tannins, which have anti-parasitic properties. However, most people are not in a position to replace all hay with CORRECT trees for this, so do continue your feeding of hay as a diet staple.
The take-away from all of this is to try and add as much fresh forage to your goat’s diet as you can – even if it is just a treat here and there.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet, nor am I a licensed professional. I am in no way a “goat expert” and my opinions are only that of personal experiences, and my insights shared are not medical treatment suggestions, care suggestions, or any directions for raising goats at all. I am simply sharing my own personal opinions. Any and all changes to your goats’ health regimen, care, etc. should be approved by a veterinary professional or licensed professional. I also believe that every goat owner has their own way of doing things, so just as my opinions are my own, and cannot apply to anyone else, your opinions are also regarding your individual goats, and I welcome you to share them in a kind, constructive manner. Disclosure: This post may contain Amazon Affiliate Links, from which I will earn a commission.