Whether goats can survive on grass alone has been a debate among the farming community for quite some time.
While some farmers are adamant that you can raise goats on pasture alone, others are unconvinced. Goats cannot survive on grass alone. To decide for yourself, it’s essential to look at the facts.
Can goats survive on grass alone?
First, look at whether goats need other foods besides grass to survive. Goats are browsers, meaning they eat various plants and shrubs, like forbs and legumes. They also feed on bark, twigs, and leaves, so goats are often seen nibbling on trees.
Depending on what is available, goats typically consume grass and other plants in their natural environments. It means they can extract enough essential nutrients from the variety of plants they consume, as grass alone can not provide them with everything they would find in their natural diet.
Do Goats get all the Nutrients they Need from Grass?
The answer to this question depends on the grass the goats eat. If the goats eat high-quality forage, like legumes and clover, they will get enough protein, carbohydrates, fat, and minerals. On the other hand, if the goats are only eating grass, their diet will be low in some essential nutrients, like phosphorus and calcium.
Additionally, it is essential to note that the quality of the grass matters. Low-quality grass, such as hay or dried grass, can provide different nutrients than high-quality grass.
Furthermore, the type of grass the goats eat can also affect their nutritional intake. For example, certain grasses may contain toxins or cause digestive issues in goats, so it is essential to be aware of that when choosing the type of grass for your goats.
What Else Do Goats Need To Eat?
Goats are social and curious animals. Goats graze on grasses, leaves, herbs, and shrubs in the wild. When they’re kept in captivity, goats require a balanced diet that goes beyond just feeding outdoors.
Forage is made up of browse, which is hay specially designed for goats, and it usually contains alfalfa, an excellent source of high-quality protein.
You can buy forage from most pet stores or create a mixture yourself based on what’s available in your area. A good forage mix should contain timothy, orchard hay, and available wild plants.
2. Grains And Concentrates
Goats require a small amount of grain daily, about 1/4 pound for every 100 pounds of body weight. Concentrate should be fed in small doses to avoid unpleasant digestive problems. A good concentrate mix should contain rolled oats, ground corn, baker’s yeast, wheat middlings, soybean meal, and ground minerals.
3. Vitamins And Minerals
Goats need vitamins and minerals to help maintain their overall health. A diet of only grass won’t provide these necessary minerals. To get mineral sources, goats often supplement their meals by foraging for twigs, leaves, weeds, and other plant material.
4. Goats also like to Nibble on Rocks
In addition, you can buy supplements to add to their food, such as calcium carbonate, zinc oxide, and bonemeal. A good mineral mix should contain trace minerals, salt, selenium, and cobalt.
5. Fiber And Protein
Goats need both fiber and protein in their diet. Fresh grasses are good sources of both but are only part of the story. A goat’s digestive system isn’t adapted to break down coarse, fibrous foods easily, so they need other sources of fiber.
These sources can include twigs, weeds, leaves, and herbs. Protein can come from legumes like clover and vetch.
6. Salt And Water
Goats need access to clean, fresh water at all times. Adults need about 1/2 gallon of water a day. Be sure to supplement their drinking water occasionally with mineral or salt licks, which can provide the necessary minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, and sodium.
By providing a balanced diet, you will keep your goats healthy and happy for years to come.
Risks of Goats Surviving on Pasture Alone
An all-grass diet does come with risks, however. If the grass your goat is eating is sparse or of low quality, it won’t get the necessary nutrients to thrive. It will cause deficiencies, weakening bones and teeth and lowering milk production.
Goats can also suffer from diarrhea, coat problems, and even blindness. Several issues also include:
Without adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, goats can suffer from malnutrition and, in extreme cases, death.
An all-grass diet for goats can lead to significant vitamin and mineral deficiencies, including vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals. It can lead to eye injuries, reproductive issues, and even paralysis.
2. Susceptibility To Disease And Parasites
Goats eating an all-grass diet that is low in fiber and high in grains may be more prone to parasites due to an unbalanced gut microbiome. An all-grass diet also limits the amount of roughage and fiber goats are ingesting and can lead to bloat due to the amount of sugar in grass.
3. Lack Of Variety
Even with a properly balanced diet, goats are creatures of habit and love variety in their food selections. Limiting goats to an all-grass diet, even with the proper nutritional balance, can cause them to become bored and disinterested in their food selection.
We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat!” But what if you were just a goat and you only ate grass? Can goats survive on grass alone? Absolutely not!
When it comes down to it, the answer is a clear no. While grass is a vital part of a goat’s diet, goats need a variety of other plants and minerals to stay healthy. So, if you plan on giving your goat a 100% grass diet, you will likely have a miserable, unhealthy goat!
It is also essential to ensure that the goats get all the necessary nutrients from the other plants and food items. Goats can be healthy and happy with the right combination of forage and grass.