Goats are known for their ability to eat almost anything. From cardboard to tin cans, goats seem unfazed by things that would make other animals turn up their noses. But can goats really eat anything? Let’s take a closer look.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: While goats are able to eat a wide variety of foods that other animals can’t, there are some limitations on what goats can safely consume.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore what goats can and cannot eat. We’ll look at the reasons why goats are able to eat many strange things, examine how their digestive system is different than other ruminants like cows, and detail what foods and materials goats should avoid.

Why Goats Can Eat Items Other Animals Can’t

Have you ever wondered why goats are often referred to as “the garbage disposals of the animal kingdom”? It’s because goats have a unique ability to consume items that other animals simply cannot. Let’s explore the reasons behind this fascinating phenomenon.

Goats Have an Efficient Digestive System

One of the main reasons goats can eat a wide variety of items is due to their highly efficient digestive system. Unlike humans and many other animals, goats have a multi-chambered stomach that allows them to break down and extract nutrients from fibrous materials such as leaves, twigs, and even cardboard.

This remarkable digestive system enables goats to extract nutrients from food sources that would be indigestible for most other animals.

In fact, goats have been known to consume items such as tin cans, plastic bottles, and even clothing! While this might seem astonishing, their digestive system is able to break down these materials and convert them into usable energy.

Goats Don’t Overeat

Another reason why goats can eat items that other animals can’t is because they are highly selective eaters and don’t have a tendency to overeat. Unlike cows or horses, goats have a natural instinct to only consume what they need.

This means that they are less likely to gorge themselves on harmful or toxic substances.

Additionally, goats have a keen sense of taste and smell, allowing them to detect and avoid potentially poisonous plants. This instinctive behavior helps to ensure that goats only consume items that are safe for them to eat.

Goats Carefully Select Their Food

Goats are known for their curious and adventurous nature, but they are also surprisingly discerning when it comes to their food choices. They have a remarkable ability to carefully select their food, opting for plants and materials that are rich in nutrients.

Goats have been observed to graze selectively, choosing plants that are high in protein and minerals. This selective grazing behavior helps goats to maintain a balanced diet and ensures that they are consuming the nutrients they need to thrive.

It is important to note that while goats have a remarkable ability to eat a wide variety of items, it is still essential to provide them with a balanced and appropriate diet. Consult with a veterinarian or animal nutritionist to ensure that your goats are receiving the proper nutrients for their specific needs.

So, the next time you see a goat munching on something unusual, remember that their efficient digestive system, selective eating habits, and careful food selection are what make them the incredible eaters that they are!

How the Goat Digestive System Works

Goats are known for their incredible ability to eat a wide variety of plants and even some things that might surprise you. But how do they do it? Understanding the goat digestive system can shed some light on this fascinating aspect of their biology.

Four Compartment Stomach

One of the key features of the goat digestive system is its four-compartment stomach. Each compartment plays a specific role in the digestion process. The first compartment, called the rumen, is where most of the action happens.

It’s a large fermentation vat filled with billions of microorganisms that break down the plant material the goat consumes.

The second compartment, the reticulum, acts as a filter to prevent large particles from entering the rest of the digestive system. The third compartment, the omasum, helps to further break down the food and absorb water.

Finally, the fourth compartment, the abomasum, is similar to the stomach of non-ruminant animals, where the actual digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats occurs.

Ruminants vs Non-Ruminants

Goats are ruminant animals, which means they have a digestive system that is specifically adapted to process plant material. This distinguishes them from non-ruminant animals, such as dogs or humans, who have a simpler digestive system.

The ability of goats to efficiently extract nutrients from fibrous plants is due to the symbiotic relationship they have with the microorganisms in their rumen.

Ability to Extract Nutrients

Goats have developed the ability to extract nutrients from plants that are otherwise indigestible to humans and many other animals. The microorganisms in their rumen break down cellulose, a complex carbohydrate found in plant cell walls, into simpler compounds that can be absorbed by the goat’s body.

This allows goats to thrive on a diet that consists mainly of fibrous plant material.

It’s important to note that while goats have an impressive ability to digest a wide range of plants, there are still some things they should not eat. Toxic plants, certain types of grasses, and foods that are high in sugar or starch can be harmful to goats and should be avoided.

For more information on goat digestion and their unique abilities, you can visit extension.purdue.edu or uaex.edu.

What Goats Should Not Eat

While goats are known for their voracious appetite and ability to eat a wide variety of foods, there are certain things that they should avoid consuming. It is important for goat owners to be aware of these items to ensure the health and well-being of their animals.

Poisonous Plants

Goats should never be allowed to graze on or consume plants that are known to be poisonous. Some common examples include rhododendron, azaleas, oleander, and yew. These plants can cause a range of symptoms in goats, including gastrointestinal upset, neurological issues, and even death.

It is crucial to thoroughly inspect grazing areas and remove any potentially harmful plants.

Meat and Animal Products

Contrary to popular belief, goats are herbivores and should not be fed meat or animal products. Feeding them such items can lead to digestive problems and nutrient imbalances. It is important to stick to a diet that consists primarily of forage, hay, and possibly grain, depending on the specific nutritional needs of the goats.

Processed Foods and Junk Food

Just like humans, goats can be tempted by the taste of processed foods and junk food. However, these items should be strictly avoided as they are not suitable for their digestive system. Goats require a diet that is high in fiber and rich in nutrients, so feeding them foods like chips, candy, or fast food leftovers can have negative impacts on their health.

Stick to a balanced diet that is appropriate for their dietary needs.

For more information on what goats should not eat, you can visit https://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/small-ruminant/nutrition/feeding-goats-a-basic-overview/. This website provides a comprehensive overview of goat nutrition and offers valuable insights into what should and should not be included in their diet.

Best Practices for Feeding Goats

Provide Ample Forage

Goats are natural foragers and thrive on a diet rich in forage. It is important to provide them with ample access to fresh grass, leaves, and other vegetation. This not only helps to satisfy their natural grazing behavior but also provides essential nutrients and fiber for their digestive health.

Additionally, forage helps to prevent boredom and keeps the goats mentally stimulated.

Offer a Balanced Diet

While forage is a crucial part of a goat’s diet, it is important to supplement it with a balanced diet. This includes providing them with good quality hay, which is a rich source of fiber. In addition, goats require a balanced combination of grains, legumes, and protein-rich feed.

It is recommended to consult a veterinarian or a livestock nutritionist to ensure that the goats are getting all the necessary nutrients in the right proportions.

Give Free-Choice Minerals

Minerals play a vital role in the overall health and well-being of goats. They require a variety of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and selenium to support their growth, reproduction, and immune system.

It is essential to provide goats with free-choice minerals, which means they have constant access to mineral supplements. This ensures that they can regulate their intake according to their individual needs.

Ensure Adequate Clean Water

Water is essential for goats’ overall health and proper digestion. They should always have access to clean, fresh water. It is important to regularly check their water sources to ensure that they are clean and not contaminated.

During hot weather or when lactating, goats may require more water, so it is crucial to monitor their hydration levels and provide them with enough water to stay properly hydrated.

For more information on goat feeding practices, you can visit extension.purdue.edu.


While goats have an incredible ability to eat a wide variety of foods, even items that seem inedible, they do have limitations on what can be safely included in their diet. Understanding how the goat digestive system works gives insight into why they are able to consume so many odd foods.

When caring for goats, it’s important to provide them with adequate forage, a balanced diet, free access to minerals, and clean drinking water. Avoiding poisonous plants and steering clear of processed human foods will help keep goats healthy.

Though the idea of a goat eating a tin can may seem astonishing, ultimately goats do best when fed a natural diet that meets their nutritional needs.

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