Get ready because I am about to blow your mind, especially if you are new to the world of goats:
Goat don't eat tin cans!
Jokes aside, when Grover and Sonny joined the Farmette a few months ago, we quickly had to find the answer to the question: "What do goats eat?" I was pretty certain there wasn't a goat food aisle at the grocery store... turns out, goats are foragers and have to work for their dinner.
Contrary to popular belief (and the stereotype perpetuated by Lupe on Ferdinand- love that movie), goats won't eat everything. They might TRY to eat everything, but they won't actually consume it. (I'm sure there is an exception to every rule.) Sonny and Grover love to nibble on e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g; including, but not limited to: zippers, buckles, hair, fingers, boots, tools, chains, paper... but I haven't had to do the Heimlich yet.
Goats are mostly browsers and will eat almost anything in your yard when it comes to grass, weeds, shrubs, trees, and flowers- but they eat in patches instead of grazing. Meaning, don't expect them to keep your grass neatly mowed or manicured and don't expect them to get their full dietary needs met from foraging alone.
So, What do Goats Eat?
The healthiest diet for a goat is being out on open pasture to eat fresh, green grass (and weeds and shrubs and bushes and that kind of stuff), so they’re getting exercise and good nutrition at the same time.
Supplemental Food for Goats
Goats need hay, grains, and a variety of vitamins and minerals to maintain a well-balanced diet. Goats don't like to eat food if it has fallen on the floor or been soiled, so keep the food off the ground in a manger or feeder. Not only do they not like it, but there are a lot of organisms that can live in the ground and when you dump hay or grain on the ground you are asking for parasites, etc.
Goats, especially wethers, are susceptible to kidney stones. Our breeder recommends adding 1 tsp of ammonium chloride to their grain pellets after they're four weeks old. (Affiliate link: We buy this brand on Amazon.) In the early days we sprinkled powdered milk in as well to entice them, but after we dropped the daily bottles they were plenty hungry for their grain.
Do Goats Need Vitamins?
Yes, vitamins and minerals are important parts of a goats diet. Our breeder recommends copper and selenium supplements if there is a deficiency in the ground. We purchased a salt block and these loose minerals, which we keep in a shallow bowl that's available to them at all times.
Toxic Plants for Goats
Be aware that many ornamental shrubs- such as azaleas, rhododendron, mountain laurel, and ferns are toxic to goats. Keep your goats away from these plants if you have them and be sure to talk to your veterinarian to find out what other plants you need to be concerned about in your yard or area.
What Else Shouldn't My Goats Eat
In addition to toxic plants, goats also don't need "sweet feed" or alfalfa, even though they love it, because it is too rich for them. In our area, we feed Coastal Bermuda hay.
Treats for Goats
We haven't started giving our goats treats yet because they are so young, but I asked our breeder (who has been raising goats for over 20 years) what some of her goats' favorite treats are and this was her response:
They love Doritos! Some like animal crackers, raisins, saltines, peanuts, and corn chips. Potato chips are one of their favorites. White bread is high on their list also. But all of these should be a rare treat.