Goats, like most livestock, wander around, eating grass directly out of the earth all the time. So it stands to reason that most people would put 2 and 2 together and assume that it is perfectly natural to feed grass clippings—leftovers from mowing—to the goats.
You must be very careful giving grass clippings to your goats, even if the clippings are immediately proffered right after mowing the lawn. There are many reasons not to feed goats grass clippings and some reasons that make it perfectly fine.
Sure, goats eat grass, but that doesn’t mean the grass clippings you intend to feed them are perfectly safe. First of all, are the grass clippings from an area where the goats usually feed on? Has the lawn been treated with any chemicals? Third, what kind of grass is it? These questions matter, and we’ll explain why.
Grass That’s Been Treated with Chemicals
For obvious reasons, this one is a no-no. The chemicals may be labeled as “pet friendly,” and they can still cause many gastrointestinal and respiratory issues. If you have ever treated your lawn, even in the distant past, you should always exercise extreme caution.
If you have recently moved into the place, you may want to check with the previous property owners to see if they ever treated their lawn, even if it doesn’t look like it was.
After all, it’s the goats who will suffer if you don’t do your homework.
What Kind of Grass is It?
Goats can be picky regarding the type of grass they eat. Well, they aren’t necessarily picky, but their immune, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular systems may be a lot pickier than their brains.
You have a few things that should concern you with fresh grass clippings. Number one, what exactly is in the grass clippings? Fescue and Ryegrass are the stuff of nightmares for a goat’s gut.
Ryegrass is a narrow, long-bladed grass typically used in northern and southern climates to provide lawns with a “winter coat.” It may be difficult to differentiate between it and other types of grass, especially if grass knowledge is not your forte.
Fescue is more common up north, but it is popular when it comes to choices of grass for reinvigorating lawns. Unfortunately, tall fescue is more popular than Kentucky bluegrass, and it’s a horrible grass for goats.
Wherever you live, who knows if someone else used fescue grass on the lawn before your arrival unless you are a generational landowner and know the grass through and through.
It’s hard to tell what kind of grass is on the lawn.
Pollen and Dust
It’s especially problematic in the spring, but goats are just as susceptible to pollen and dust as we are, and if your grass has a good coat of the stuff, it can cause several problems. If you’ve never seen a goat cough or sneeze before, you’ll get an eyeful of it if they happen to eat grass coated in dust or pollen.
If you notice that some grass clippings are giving them these sorts of problems, you should probably lay off the clippings for a while.
No, we’re not talking about beer. Grass ferments, too, and it happens to do so very rapidly. Since grass is mostly water, the fermentation process kicks in not long after you mow the lawn.
If the grass clippings have been there for a day or two and they have that rich, thick, dank, and sweet smell, it’s probably well into the fermentation process.
Once the goat swallows this stuff, it doesn’t stop fermenting.
As the fermentation process continues in the goat’s gut, it can sometimes make them violently ill. To avoid this altogether, feed your goats the grass clippings immediately or wait until the grass is completely dried out and the fermentation process is complete.
How to Feed Goats Grass Clippings
If goats have never had grass clippings before, you shouldn’t introduce the clippings to them wholesale. It’s the same concept behind changing a dog’s food. If you go from one brand to the other immediately, it will drive a dog’s gut health crazy.
Instead, you incrementally introduce the new dog food into the old dog food. That’s pretty much how you introduce grass clippings to goats as well. Allow them a little bit at a time each day, adding more and more to their diet as time goes on.
Of course, if any of the above situations apply, you shouldn’t even bother introducing grass clippings to your goats. However, if you know it is safe, start slowly and lightly in the beginning, giving the goats a chance to adjust to it.
They may not react well to it anyway. If you introduce it slowly, you can catch these ill reactions quickly. Then the damage won’t be nearly as severe as it could potentially be.
Also, if you have goats, you may also have other livestock. Goats are not the same as horses, so make sure that you never feed grass clippings to the latter.
Cows, sheep, and chickens are generally okay, so long as you follow the same procedure as you do with the goats.
Are Grass Clippings Nutritious for Goats?
Not really. It’s more of a nice snack to offer the goats immediately after mowing the grass. If you wait until everything is completely dried up, there won’t be anything in the grass clippings that is of value to the goat.
The freshest grass clippings are very low in nutritional value. However, since grass is mostly water, your goat will at least get some water from eating them, if not much else. The one significant benefit that goats can get from grass clippings is fiber.
Fiber is suitable for almost all mammals, and grass clippings are more than adequate to clean a goat’s gut. However, you should never try and replace a goat’s daily nutrition with grass clippings, as they are not good for much more than a light snack at the end of the day.
Instead, you should mix the grass clippings with other sources of nutrients for the goats. That way, you can kill two birds with one stone. You’re getting rid of your excess grass clippings while also providing the goats with a nutritious snack.
Grass clipping also makes decent bedding for goats. However, you should be careful not to overfeed them with grass clippings because even if they are entirely safe, they can still cause a good deal of bloat in the goat (nice rhyme).
It’s only natural, and you would bloat, too, if you pounded down a ton of grass clippings that were full of nothing but water and fiber. So you may want to keep tabs on how much you give them at any given time or over the long term.
All Things Considered
In a good scenario, grass clippings are fine to give to goats. However, there are many potential risks and dangers, so you should always take the necessary precautions before giving them to your goats.
It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to the health of your livestock. If you’re ever unsure about whether or not grass clippings are suitable for your goats, err on the side of caution and don’t give them to your goats.
There are plenty of other things you can give them that will be just as good, if not better. And if you’re still unsure, you can always ask a professional. They will know what’s best for your goats and can help you make the safest decision for everyone involved.
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