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Will goats eat toxic plants?


Joined: Aug 02, 2011
Posts: 118
Hi all,

I'm a complete newcomer to goats. We got a young one from a friend yesterday who wanted to get rid of it.
I got her for the manure and to help me control the rampant blackberry population here. She's doing ok with the bramble part so far, but the dogs get her droppings before I do 

I have her picketed during the day and in a little shed during the night, but the shed is under a big hedge of cherry laurel (prunus laurocerasus) and she's wild to get at the leaves and berries. I read they contain some powerful toxins...

So are goats immune to the toxins or are they just stupid enough to eat anything?

I'm not letting her eat it at the moment, until I'm clear about the issue... Thx for any help...

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Jeanine Gurley

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1393
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
Any penned or restricted animal is more likely to eat things that they shouldn't - vs. an animal that has free access to pick and choose.

However.... I have seen goats who were free to roam a 50 acre parcel eat azaleas and become very ill.  Not sure why they were eating it when they had so many other plants to choose from.

Years ago my goats had access to wild cherry in the pasture, among other things.  I am pretty sure they nibbled them but they didn't become ill - but they didn't eat tons of it at one time either.

Not sure if this answer helps.  Under the circumstances I would probably keep her away from the tree.

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Brice Moss

Joined: Jul 28, 2010
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
goats aren't stupid but some things they don't know are toxic, the only thing I have on the place that worries me is rhododendrons,

if you have only one goat though her behavior will be all screwy out of loneliness, I would recommend getting another goat immediately they are much better in pairs or herds.

mine eat a number of plants that I know contain toxins including I've seen them take a couple leaves at a time of foxglove. thats the trick though they never eat a whole lot of any given plant any given day and their fave food is whatever they haven't been allowed to reach in a while.

Joined: Aug 06, 2011
Posts: 12
Yes, they will eat laurels and get very sick or die from careful!  We have wild laurels that creep into my pasture and I almost lost a doeling to a few small leaves, in spite of my regular pasture patrol.

Other poisonous plants will be left alone or just eaten in small, "safe" quantities. 

Joined: Aug 02, 2011
Posts: 118
OK, thanks all! My conclusion is I should definitely keep her away from the cherry laurel. Don't have rhododendrons 
I have a little taxus tree somewhere also. I'll just have to be careful where to picket her.

Mmmm, speaking of picketing, she gave me the hardest time today, she has found the way to jump (very circuslike actually) and tense the chain, and the rebound makes the ring jump off the (also metal) picket, although it's one meter high!
(I need the metal pickets because soil in summer here is very hard and I need to move her around basically every day)
I tried weighing the chain down with stones, other chains, I tried blocking the ring at soil level with a plastic screw-on thingie, blocking the top of the picket with an upturned bottle, a plastic sleeve, nothing helps!!! She does her silly goat jumps and weew! off everything flies!!! It's great fun to watch, like a magic trick, but I need a solution for this, because unpicketed she just RAIDS the trees (and the kitchen, I found her on the kitchen table this morning emptying a packet of dried chick peas!!!)

It's true she doesn't want to be alone. She's quite happy grazing picketed when we're near her, but as soon as we move away she starts her little circus routine and rejoins us about 2 seconds later 

We tried another goat for a day (Jules, a castrated male), picketed within eyesight, and Tippins was ok with that, but she didn't want to be penned up with him in the evening (although they were on the same land together still that same morning). And rightly so, he attacked her quite nastily several times. I heard the heads clonking together and rushed back: Tippins was panicked, and Jule was REALLY having a go at her. She's not quite adult yet, but he is. A territorial issue maybe, or just a lousy character? He charged both my dogs several times also while on his picket! Jules spent the night outside and I returned him in the morning... Will maybe try a hand-raised (bottlefed) female again...

It sure makes for full days. "Fruitful" will be for another day: I wasted a whole morning trying out everything I could think of to keep Missie on her picket; goats are smarter than you'd give them credit for!!!
Brice Moss

Joined: Jul 28, 2010
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
cleaver little buggers ain't they?

head cracks are usually dominance play. real fighting is marked by butting in the ribs and the characteristic jerk of the head that would result in ripping the horn into the abdomen. if one of them repeatedly stands oh their hind legs its pretty good spirited play. keep an eye out for real attacks to the ribs or abdomen for a bit while they are together and remember they have hard hard heads, dividing a stall so they can see each other without being able to fight sometimes works,

and yes some goats are just plain mean and will pick on smaller does mercilessly, I like to saolve that problem with a dinner plate if you know what I mean
Emil Spoerri

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 418
My goats eat laurel from time to time, just a few leaves at a time, never saw one of my goats sick.

Interesting story, when I lived in Indiana, my goats were free range in the woods. I drank their milk as my staple. There was tons of what is known as White Snake Root all over. I didn't know what it was at the time. I actually offered it to them as food at one point when I had them penned up for some reason. They wouldn't touch the stuff. Lucky too, cause if you drink milk from animals who eat white snake root, you can become very sick or die. Lincoln's mother died from drinking milk tainted with white snake root.

Joined: Aug 06, 2011
Posts: 12
Some laurels are more poisonous than others, and most are very poisonous during periods of rapid growth.  I lost a doe during spring land clearing efforts and learned the hard way.  She was fine in old growth but the lush spring re-growth after cutting was too much to resist.

Youngsters are especially vulnerable.  I have lots of plants in my pasture that my goats have access to that are on poisonous plant lists and I don't worry.  A few things, though, can be serious and they WILL eat them.  Please be cautious.  Not all goats are naturally wise.

Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
had some goats free ranging and one broke into the garden and attacked the rhubarb. Ate a bunch of the leaves but it didn't seem to hurt her., much to our relieved surprise.  
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