It’s important to balance the diet of a goat. For their own health you never want to feed them only grains or let them feed solely on pasture grass. Goats are “ruminants” just like cows, sheep and deer. In layman’s terms this means they have four compartments in their stomachs that are able to process plant matter into a usable food source (trust me when I say I’m simplifying this). Roughage is an important part of this process for goats. On the farm roughage can come from different kinds of hay, and in nature it takes the form of various types of leaves, shoots, twigs, even tree bark. I love letting our animals be as close to nature as possible without allowing them to completely strip the land down to bare dirt. This is where proper pasture rotation and land management comes into play. A few months ago we started taking the goat herd on daily browse walks, opening up the gates and letting them wander through the fields and woods at will to consume their needed natural roughage.
Do we still feed them hay? Of course we do but much less than we did before. A favorite on the menu this week has been the young tender leaves and berries of the creeping springtime blackberry canes. I’m continually amazed at how they’re able to strip off the leaves and not get stuck by the needle-like thorns, while I’m always getting two thorns jabbed into my skin for every single blackberry I pick.