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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:
Wild Sage Grass
Certain varieties of Nightshade
Russian Knapweed (Russian Knapweed is known to be toxic to horses).
Let's breakdown the possibilities.
- 1) Plants that goats will not eat or at least not take a small sample of.
- 2) Plants that goats are less likely to eat (including any listed poisonous plants).
- 3) Plants that goats will readily eat (including any listed poisonous plants).
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!"
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About the author: Gary Pfalzbot is a Service Connected Disabled Veteran and the web master 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.