Goats - Feeding preferences
Goats do not eat everything!
Goats are highly responsive (opportunistic) in exploiting ephemeral types of feed. They are able to climb low branches of trees and are adept at covering steep rocky ground at speed.
They are very selective and able to target the leaves and flowering parts of herbaceous species including Orchids, Gorse flowers (which they are able to extract from amongst the spines of the leaves), ferns and fruits, including hazel nuts.
Goats greatly enjoy eating certain wild plants and hedgerow cuttings. Some are safe but others must absolutely be avoided, as they can cause fatal poisoning.
Do not feed: Alder, yew, rhododendron, laurel, privet, laburnum, honeysuckle, walnut, evergreen shrubs, green-stuff from flowers including delphiniums, hellebores, or any bulbous plants such as daffodils or tulips.
And Avoid at the utmost: hemlock, buttercup, bryony, dog’s mercury, ragwort, mayweed, foxglove, celandine, the nightshades and old man’s beard.
The golden rule is ‘when in doubt, don’t feed’. Owners should also take care not to leave clippings from poisonous plants/trees lying around. Over-feeding brassica plants like cabbage, cauliflower or brussel sprouts will affect the taste of the milk and meat but they are not poisonous to goats.
Rushes are targeted in the spring, soft rush may be effectively controlled at this time of the year by mob stocking at high densities of greater than 10 goats per hectare.
Goats - Foraging Characteristics
1. Impact on vegetation structure
Goats do best when they have access to a wide range of plant species and a structurally diverse habitat, as they can either graze or browse.
We find that allowing your goats this different type of grazing access will keep them under control so that the goat does not get 'bored'.
Goats have narrow muzzles and a flexible upper lip which allows them to be highly selective. In addition, they are agile and good climbers, allowing them to access a greater range of forage than sheep.
Goats graze a sward to a typical 6cm height (3cm for sheep), but browse and graze to approximately 2 m with ease, by going bipedal and climbing.
In grass, tall herb and scrub mosaics grazed by sheep, the first two are targeted; where just goats are kept, the grass layer is somewhat ignored but the scrub and tall herb layers are targeted instead.
However, as goats can be more selective than sheep, they often target grass seed heads (e.g. of wood false-brome) before they eat the leaves.