Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Browsing We Will Go

Goats are browsers which means they prefer to eat trees leaves, weeds, and bushes.  Eating hgh off the ground helps minimize parasite infestations which are harmful to goats. They do eat grass but they definitely prefer a tasty maple tree or rose bush to grass.  It always amazes me in the fall when they go around the yard vacuuming up dried leaves that have fallen.  Must be like crispy snack treats for them.  It is important, however, to watch out for poisonous plants.  Goats generally avoid them if possible but there are always cases of a goat being poisoned by consuming toxic plants.  West Virginia has more than its share of all of the above and our goats like to take advantage of the bounty.  Although they have a fenced area, by this time of year they have stripped much of the vegetation.  This is great if you want to clear a field but not so great if you want a sustainable food source. 

Because I couldn't lose one of these goats if I tried, we often take browse walks up into the woods just outside of their fenced area.  I always feel a bit like the Pied Piper because I have a herd of goats following me. Starr, my LaMancha in particular likes to stay close, very close.

Goats are particularly adapted to selecting only the finest of vegetation.  They have a row of eight bottom teeth in the front and a toothless pad in the upper-front.  Together with their near prehensile tongues, they can select individual leaves and pull them from the branches.  The back teeth are very sharp and scissor-like and can easily crunch up small branches or your fingers if you're not careful. 

Goats have a tendency to nibble this and that and never eat much of any one thing; well, unless you have a prized rose bush then that gets eaten to the ground.  They love the tall woodland sunflowers that grow along the edges of the woods.  They seldom eat the stems, only the leaves,  so I have a lot of naked sunflower stalks.

Goats also love to climb.  This gives them a better vantage point to reach some of the higher leaves plus they enjoy it.

When it is time to go back home they follow me back toward the gate. That doesn't necessarily mean they actually follow me THROUGH the gate but sooner or later they wind up back in their enclosure and kick back on their deck chewing their cuds.


  1. Your goats are very lucky. Love the way Starr hangs close to you. She's so pretty. I need to take mine on hikes more often.

  2. Very interesting post. I wish you were closer, so you could take your goats for a walk in my backyard. I have a few areas that I think they'd like.