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  • Writer's pictureredrocksstud

The Truth About Goats! And How They Compare To Sheep!

Updated: Sep 14, 2023


Goats and sheep are both ruminant animals, which means they have a complex digestive system designed to efficiently process plant material, primarily cellulose, found in grasses and other vegetation. While both goats and sheep share some similarities in their dietary needs, there are several reasons why goats typically require a more varied diet compared to sheep:

  1. Browsing vs. Grazing Behavior:

    • Goats are natural browsers, which means they prefer to eat a wide variety of plant materials, including leaves, twigs, shrubs, and even some woody plants. They are more adapted to eating a diverse range of vegetation compared to sheep, which are primarily grazers and prefer grasses.


  1. Nutritional Requirements:

    • Goats have higher energy and protein requirements than sheep. They need a more nutrient-dense diet to meet their energy demands, especially when they are lactating or growing.

    • Goats also have a greater ability to digest fibrous and coarse plant material, allowing them to extract more nutrients from a varied diet.


  1. Dietary Preferences:

    • Goats are known to be more selective feeders than sheep. They will often preferentially eat certain plants, including some that sheep may find unpalatable or toxic. This selective feeding behavior necessitates a more varied diet to meet their nutritional needs.


  1. Adaptability:

    • Goats are generally more adaptable to different environmental conditions and forage sources. They can thrive in a wider range of habitats and are more likely to consume a variety of plants to meet their dietary needs.

    • Sheep, on the other hand, may be more focused on grazing grasses and may not readily consume a diverse range of vegetation.


  1. Health Considerations:

    • Goats are more prone to certain mineral deficiencies and imbalances, such as copper deficiency. A varied diet can help ensure they receive a broader spectrum of essential nutrients, including minerals.

    • Sheep have different nutritional requirements and are less susceptible to some of the same mineral imbalances, which may allow for a less diverse diet.


  1. Foraging Behavior:

    • Goats are often more active foragers than sheep. They may explore their environment more and seek out different types of plants to eat. This behavior encourages a broader diet.


  1. Medicinal and Parasite Control:

    • Goats have been observed to self-select plants with medicinal properties or anti-parasitic effects when they have internal parasites. This behavior is called "browse medicating." It further emphasizes the need for a varied diet to allow goats to find these beneficial plants.


While goats generally benefit from a more varied diet, it's essential to ensure that the plants they consume are safe and non-toxic, as they can be sensitive to certain toxins. Providing a balanced diet that meets their specific nutritional requirements is crucial for their health and well-being. If you need more help you can message us and we will offer you a consult to sort out your animals nutritional needs.

But what about their bad reputation???? How do Goats compare to Sheep? Goats have gained a reputation for their unique grazing and browsing behavior, which can sometimes be seen as problematic in certain contexts. Understanding the reasons behind this reputation can shed light on why goats are both celebrated and criticized for their foraging habits.

Selective Grazing and Browsing:

  • Goats are natural browsers, and they exhibit selective grazing and browsing behavior. They prefer to eat a wide variety of plant materials, including leaves, twigs, shrubs, and woody plants. This can be advantageous in certain situations as they can help control invasive and unwanted plant species, such as brambles and multiflora rose.


Ecological Benefits:

  • Goats can be used as a natural and eco-friendly means of weed and brush control. They can help reduce the need for chemical herbicides and mechanical equipment for vegetation management, making them an environmentally sustainable option.


Negative Reputation:

  • However, goats also have a reputation for being "escape artists" and "destructive" grazers, which can be attributed to their browsing behavior. Here are some reasons behind this negative reputation:


  • Fencing Challenges: Goats are notorious for their ability to escape from enclosures, including fences. Their agility and curiosity often lead them to test the boundaries of their confinement, causing frustration for their owners.

  • Selective Eating: While goats are effective at clearing unwanted vegetation, they can be choosy eaters. They may prefer certain plants over others, leaving some less desirable plants behind.

  • Bark Stripping: Goats have a tendency to strip the bark from trees and shrubs, which can harm or kill these plants. This behavior can be detrimental to forested areas or landscaped spaces.

  • Overgrazing: If not managed properly, goats can overgraze pastures and rangeland, leading to soil erosion and the degradation of grazing areas.



Management Solutions:

  • To mitigate some of these issues associated with goat behavior, proper management techniques can be employed:

    • Fencing: High-quality, well-maintained fencing is essential for containing goats. Electric fencing can be particularly effective in deterring them from attempting to escape.

    • Rotational Grazing: Implementing rotational grazing practices can prevent overgrazing and allow pastures to recover.

    • Supplemental Feeding: Providing supplemental feed can help ensure goats receive the necessary nutrients and reduce their reliance on browsing undesirable plants. A good balanced mineral supplement will eliminate many of the unwanted behaviors and lead to happier and healthier goats.


Education and Expectations:

  • Owners and managers of goats should have a clear understanding of goat behavior and the benefits and challenges associated with their grazing habits. Having realistic expectations and a well-thought-out management plan is essential for successful goat ownership.

Goats' grazing and browsing behavior can be both an asset and a challenge, depending on the context. While they can provide valuable vegetation control services and have ecological benefits, their selective eating and escape tendencies can pose challenges. Proper management practices and education are key to harnessing the positive aspects of goat behavior while minimizing the negative impacts.


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