Thursday, May 23, 2013

What Goats Eat

As I was out with my goats on a sunny late-May morning I was thinking how wonderful it must be to be a goat in West Virginia during spring.  I also was thinking that is wasn't too bad for the goat herder either.  Everywhere you look is goat food and lots of it.  If that were me, I wouldn't know where to start sampling and apparently the goats have the same problem.  As they wandered I thought I'd make a mental note of everything they munched.  They defintitely have their preferences and might spend a few minutes on a multiflora rose but only take a quick bite or two of an elm tree. 

Interestingly, goats cover a lot of ground as they browse, sampling this and that.  They also tend to favor the tips and tender shoots, avoiding the stemmier parts of most plants.  In the sunny open areas they sampled grass, red clover, weeds of various kinds and were most fond of woodland sunflower.  As they moved to the hillside they found multiflora rose, blackberry, raspberry, sumac, alder, hazelnut, and poison ivy.  They soon wandered into the woods to escape the sun and happily munched the leaves of dogwood, hornbeam, maple, ash, elm (not their favorite), oak, beech, willow and pine.  On the way back to the barn they nibbled on the leaves of an old apple tree.

Goats seem to know what they like and need to maintain optimum health.  They also avoid plants that they know are bad for them.  Too bad us humans don't have the same instincts.


  1. What does woodland sunflower look like? Does it have another name?

    Did any of the babies get to go on the walk?

    1. It is a tall (up to 6 feet) plant with yellow flowers that grows in shady areas. Here is a link:

      I only took the bigger girls because it had been raining and everyhing was wet. I let the younger kids (3-month old) out but all they want to do is play on the deck with us :-)

    2. I have seen those flowers before, but I only think about them later in the year when I've seen them in bloom.