Poisonous Plants for Goats | Living the Country Life

Poisonous Plants for Goats

Goats are known for their stomachs of steel, but some plants can make them sick.


Radio interview source: Jean-Marie Luginbuhl, Extension Meat Goat Specialist, North Carolina State University

Listen here to the radio story (mp3) or read below

When our goats are out on pasture, it's like a buffet for them, with plenty of grasses and brush to munch on. As far as we know, there's nothing out there that can make them sick.

Jean-Marie Luginbuhl is an extension meat goat specialist at North Carolina State University. He believes goats can sniff a plant and decide whether or not to pass, but sometimes the temptation is too great. Water hemlock grows in wet areas, and is the first to become green in early spring. Eager goats wanting a taste may bite off the crown. Unfortunately, the results are fatal. Quite often, Luginbuhl says the toxicity level of a plant depends on conditions such as the stage of growth. For example, Black Cherry leaves are fine when they're green but deadly when wilted.

"Somehow, when you have storm damage, if you have frost, and branches break, and the green leaves wilt, there is a glucocide in the leaves that is going to be changed into hydrocyanide and sugar. So of course because of the sugar, the leaves are going to be sweeter, and they attract animals"

Other plants to watch out for include black nightshade, azaleas, rhododendron, and a lot of ornamentals. Luginbuhl says if you feel your goat has eaten something it shouldn't have, there are signs to watch for.

"Goats will never vomit, so an animal that is vomiting has eaten some bad stuff. A sick animal tends to stay away from the group. A sick animal is not going to be social. They don't eat, they have diarrhea, they hold themselves funny, and look like maybe their stomach is upset."

Some toxic plants create a reaction that results in a sunburn. Buckwheat, Lantana, and St. John's Wort are a few that cause photosensitivity.

Learn more about poisonous plants for goats.


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