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WHY Goats Eat Broadleaves and WHY It’s Better for Them

Goats Require Much Different Food Than Other Farm Animals

Goats will eat broadleaves much better because of the netted veins

Goats are unlike any of your other farm animals. Like a cow, it does chew its cud. But a cow can take 2-3 days to fully digest their food. A goat? Well, they’re speedy little creatures and will digest their food in as little as 11 hours. That’s a really fast turnaround! It’s it’s the key to to why goats eat broadleaves. 

And this is a very important key to what they should be fed and why. If they are digesting their food that quickly, that means they need to be eating multiple times a day. But what they eat is equally as important as to how many times a day they eat. Their food needs to be easily digestible so that they can glean as much nutrition out of it as possible. 

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You will come to find that, out of all your farm animals, goats eat the highest percentage of their body weight. And yet they will waste the most hay. However annoying it is, they aren’t eating the stemmy hay because of the high lignin content. They know that stemmy hay isn’t nutritious enough for them and they just don’t have enough time to digest it fully to get all the nutrients out of it. 

You may have some cows or sheep and you “put them out to graze” and they happily eat the grasses provided in your pasture. But a goat doesn’t graze like cows and sheep. They browse. They will instinctively go straight to the broadleaf plants before they even think about eating a blade of grass. 

Why is that?

As a human, we don’t think about the veins of a plant, unless we specifically decide to study them. Which is what we’re going to do right now! 

A goat however, isn’t running through the pasture yelling to its comrades, “Go for the netted veins, guys!” A goat couldn’t put this “netted vein” issue into words, but they eat the broadleaf plants because they have those netted veins as apposed to parallel veins like a blade of grass contains. Everything between the netted veins is easily digestible by the goat and contains the most nutrients. The goat’s micro-organisms in their rumen are what break down their food and the faster they can do it, the better outcome for the goat. Remember they only have 11 or so hours to get all of their digesting completely done!

Broadleaf plants also have their growing points at the top of the stems (as opposed to growing at ground level). So the goat is eating from the top down, which is a wonderful safeguard protecting them from worm infestation. As a bonus, goats will eat the seeds off of plants for their great energy source.  

If you like learning about stuff like this, you’ll like to read this: More information about goats eating broadleaf plants and Dietary Needs of Goats: Realistic Realities 

You can see in the image below what these veins look like. 

different veins in leaves that goats will eat

Plants also have something in them called lignin. Lignin is the “support system” of the plant. It helps hold up the plant so it can reach the sun and get as much photosynthesis completed as possible. But the higher the lignin, the less a goat can digest it. So the older a stem of grass, the more lignin in it, the stemmier it is. And we all know that goats don’t eat stemmy grass or hay. 

You can see where lignin is located in a plant’s cell wall in the image below. 

High Lignin in plants makes it not highly nutritious and edible by goats

If you’re testing your hay, which is wise to do, you’ll find that you can test how much Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF), or lignin, is found in your grass and hay. It’s best to have it at least below 39 but below 35 will be even better. 

When a goat is out in pasture, they will eat what’s best for them, but when that is gone, they will go to the next and last best thing: grass. But as grass is growing, it grows from the bottom, which is where a goat will eat from that blade of grass. The problem with this is that if they are eating right next to the ground where the new grass is growing, they are also picking up a boat load of parasites. Worms can crawl up a stem of grass up to 6 inches high, so when a goat is eating right next to the ground, they are easily picked up by the goat. Parasites are the leading cause of death in goats because of this. 

As you can see, there is a lot to know about what you’re feeding your goats. And by knowing this, you may change what you’re feeding them or at least understand why a goat is so picky about what they eat. At least it helps me not be so flabbergasted and annoyed when they’re wasting some of the hay I feed them everyday. 

Understand this, get your goat feeding program correct and you’ll have much healthier goats because of it!

But guess what? Your goat learning has only just begun. Keep learning: Raising Goats Resource Pag

You also won’t regret getting these goat books on your book shelf: 



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