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|PLANTS THAT GOATS WON'T EAT||
It has been said that "goats will eat anything" and there are times when this statement could almost be true. I receive on an average, two to three emails a week asking what type of plants can be planted that goats will not eat. Suddenly the statement that goats will eat anything becomes pretty difficult to dispute.
Goats are curious animals when it comes to food. For the most part, they will "sample" a variety of browse in their search for food either by tasting or smelling the plant. It can also be presumed that the "visual" appearance of a plant or flower can either attract or deter a goat. And it is during this sampling that they will make a determination (seasoned goat keepers often refer to this as "memory triggers") of what plant source they can and will ingest, and what they will not ingest. But even though these memory triggers may direct their browsing habits, there are other factors that determine whether or not your prize flowers become a goats lunch or dinner.
A goat that is being fed a proper, well balanced diet, complete with all the vitamins and minerals necessary to meet their daily nutritional requirements is going to be less likely to eat plants that he or she should not, including any one of the variety of poisonous plants. On the other hand, the goat that is receiving inadequate nutrition is going to ignore any formed memory triggers and eat just for the sake of being hungry. So there exists a very crucial balance that MUST be met before trusting a goat in any gardening or landscaping projects. And even so, there are no guarantees.
The proof is simple. Many islands scattered throughout the world have undergone goat management/eradication plans simply because the goats have either nearly or entirely destroyed all vegetation upon these islands. And in some cases, plants the goat have destroyed are listed in the poisonous plants list. Albeit, the majority of these island dwelling goats are wild, placed in the days of yesteryear when Spanish mariners left them behind, hoping to return and use them for a source of milk and meat.
Still, one would have to think that there are surely some plants that goats will show no interest in. Actually there are a few. Up to this point in time, I have found four plants that goats will apparently bypass (but perhaps not before taking a small nibble or sniff): None of these plants are ideally a landscapers dream. And while I am sure there are other plants that remain safe from the goat cud, I have found very few.
UPDATE -- Since my initial writing of this article, I've had some reports of more plants that goats will not eat, so for the sake of creating a list, I will begin adding them here:
Let's breakdown the possibilities.
Consider the list of poisonous plants and the levels of toxicity and side effects they are known to cause. It is from this list that you will get the majority of plants that goats are "less likely to eat" and will possibly be able to plant to adorn your landscape. There are quite a few plants such as Rhodedendrons and Azaleas that will cause a nearly immediate adverse reaction when ingested. These should be avoided at all costs and if the desire to landscape with either of these persists, make sure they are situated in an area where you know the goats cannot have access to.
However, one must be extremely careful in planting any of the poisonous plants, even if situated where goats cannot access them. Especially if they are the type of plants where the wind may scatter leaves, seeds or twigs into the areas where the goats are located. For example, you may have Avocado trees on your property. In most cases, Avocado leaves can be fatal when eaten. If the wind happens to blow some Avocado leaves into your goat area, you might as well have planted the Avocado trees right in the goat pen - same effect. Even though listed as poisonous, goats will eat Avocado leaves.
On the chance that you find a variety of plants that you know your goats will not eat, you should be aware of the goats ability to trample and eradicate any such plants with their hooves. I've personally seen this a number of times with my own goats. The Mullein for example. They won't eat it, but they will paw at it or use the long stalk that protrudes upon plant maturity as a way of scratching the area between their horns. I've also seen them paw at it relentlessly as if to say, "I can't eat this plant so I'll get rid of it!"
Another concern with trying to landscape around goats regards the herbicides, fertilizers and pesticides that may be required for optimum growth of these plants. Certain products will pose as much a danger if not more, to the health of the goat. And while a one-time spraying may appear to not be of concern, consider that many of these products will leech into the soil and create a potential hazard within the vicinity.
The age of the goat will also be a factor in determining plants that can be used in landscaping. Older goats that have formed memory triggers will certainly have a better instincts as to which plants they can browse and which they find less of an attraction or taste for. Younger goats however, are still in the process of forming memory triggers and tastes, and may prove to sample a large variety of your landscape before they learn.
In my opinion, the person wanting to landscape is going to have better results if trees are used instead of flowers. The young trees will need to be sectioned off and protected from the goats until they achieve height - the tallest goat should not be able to reach the lowest limbs and leaves of the tree. Also, certain trees are more susceptible to the bark being eaten or rubbed. Softer wood trees especially. Bark eating can usually be eliminated by providing adequate vitamin and mineral nutrition as well as the addition of a "head scratching post" for goats who engage in that behavior. Keep in mind that certain trees are also listed in the poisonous plants section and must be planted with care to avoid potential poisoning hazards.
I would strongly suggest planning well ahead before attempting to garden or landscape, paying close attention to all the possibilities I have listed within this article. Overall it will save you time, money and the lessen the risk of an ill or dead goat. As I research this subject and receive more data from other goat owners, I will update this article from time to time.
|About the author: Gary Pfalzbot is a Service Connected Disabled Veteran and the webmaster of GoatWorld as well as some other web sites. He has raised goats over the years, been involved with 4-H (as a young boy) and currently resides in Colorado where he and his wife Pam raise a few breeds of goats and other animals, and primarily author the GoatWorld web site to continue to inform, educate, and promote the industry.|
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