There are few things cuter than the antics of goats. They love to goof around climbing trees, jumping on each other, or just hopping about playfully.
But cuter still is when they find a tasty treat to eat that gets the lips wobbling. They only eat fresh food and love anything sweet and tasty. So, can goats eat carrots?
Yes, goats can eat carrots, but in moderation. Plus, preparations need to be made to ensure that your goats do not choke on the carrots and that they do not consume too many. It is safe for goats to eat all parts of carrots.
Be aware that, once they’ve tasted carrots, they will look for more. Sometimes they will look for more in your vegetable garden as they love this tasty treat.
Eating carrots has both benefits and disadvantages. If properly prepared and given in moderation, carrots make a wonderful treat.
This article will tell you all about the risks, benefits, safety, and preparation to inform you on how to safely feed your goats carrots.
How Goats Digest Food
Understanding how goats digest their food is important because their digestive system and their anatomy is different to many other livestock animals.
Preparation of their food can be safer if you understand how goats eat. Carrots can be very harmful and can even cause death if they are fed incorrectly.
Goats are herbivores; they only eat plants, no dairy (after they have been weaned), no meat, no eggs, and definitely no bacon and eggs.
Goats are ruminants, which means that they have 4 chambers in their stomachs that process their food by repeated fermentation and regurgitation. As food is repeatedly fermented and regurgitated through the 4 chambers, the extra time ensures that all the nutrients from what they have consumed can be absorbed.
For eating carrots, fruit, and other vegetables, the 4 chambers allow the goats to absorb all the vitamins and minerals in the carrots, fruit, and other veggies.
They do not have teeth in the front upper jaw which makes biting hard pieces of food very dangerous and makes them vulnerable to choking.
They cannot bite pieces of a carrot off and will choke if they swallow a large piece or a whole carrot.
They pull leaves, flowers, berries, fruit, and vegetables off of plants and then use their strong molars to chew their food.
Their jaws do not open very wide at all. This puts them at greater risk of choking on large, hard items.
Grass, hay, and leaves are what goats need for a healthy digestive system and nutrition. But, as browsers, they are very picky and learn quickly what tastes good and what does not taste good.
The Importance of a Balanced Diet
Ask any goat if he or she would like a carrot and the answer will always be yes. But it should never be given in excess. You should only feed your goat 2 to 3 carrots a week.
Goats are browsers. They do not eat vegetation that touches the ground. They enjoy tall grasses, shrubs, and leaves and will go to great lengths to try new things out. Vegetation is vital to digest food.
Treats, like carrots, should never replace the vegetation or hay you feed your goats and should never be fed in large amounts.
Domestic goats need 2 to 4 pounds of hay per day and whatever they can browse to keep their digestive systems running smoothly.
As ruminants, goats have four chambers in their stomachs. They regurgitate their food and digest it by a fermentation process that helps them absorb all the nutrients from the food they eat.
If you plan on supplementing their hay and browsing meals, or just to give them a treat, moderation is key.
Don’t give them a lot of a fruit or vegetable immediately. Start them on just a few pieces until their digestive system learns to process this new treat, and then limit the amount they eat so that they are not too full to eat the hay their bodies need to function.
When it comes to feeding my goats hard fruit and vegetables like carrots, I prefer to handfeed the treats to ensure that no greedy goat gets too much by steeling from more passive goats.
The Right Way to Feed Carrots to Your Goats
Moderation, moderation, moderation; but just as important, if not more important, is preparation in terms of the size of each piece.
All parts of the plant can be eaten by goats and can be served raw or cooked. It should not be served if cooked with butter, sugar, salt, or other spices that are not healthy for goats.
Only feed your goats 2 to 3 carrots a week.
Goats’ jaws are not designed to open very wide. They are at great risk of choking if they bite off a piece of solid food.
Because goats do not have front teeth on their upper jaws – lucky mommies – they cannot bite off big pieces of carrots. They have strong molars for chewing their food.
Always chop up carrots into very small pieces. I like to slice the carrot lengthwise to reduce the risk of swallowing a round piece whole and choking on it, and then slicing the carrots into small pieces that they can enjoy chewing on.
For kids, the size of each piece is very important, chop those carrots again and again, put them in a food processor or juicer, or shred them with a normal grater.
The carrot tops can be handfed or placed in their feeders. They are not overly fond of carrot tops, and they will definitely not touch them if you just toss them on the ground. Carrot tops are great for preventing gas or painful bloating.
If you like, you can mix the chopped carrots and carrot tops in with their hay. They will also happily accept carrot peels, which have a high fiber content and will lower your goat’s risk of choking on a piece of carrot.
Baby Goats – Kids – and Carrots
Baby goats (kids) should never be given carrots until they have been fully weaned by their mothers.
Their digestive systems are very sensitive and need time to develop after they have been weaned between 14 to 28 days. A good rule of thumb is do not feed any supplemental food until the kids are at least 30 days old.
When they are roughly 30 days old, they will slowly begin to eat solid food like leaves, grass, and hay.
When they reach 60 days old, it is safe to start introducing very small amounts of fruit and vegetables if they have been cut into very small pieces.
Kids are at greater risk of choking than adults as their mouths and teeth are smaller, and they have not quite figured out the limited space in their mouths to effectively chew their food.
Carrot tops are okay for kids, but only in moderation as they contain nitrates and oxalic acid which are toxic to all aged goats.
If you really want to treat the kids, it is safe to give them carrot juice that has been diluted with a lot of water. Again, do not give too much as this can cause diarrhea.
Nutritional Value of Carrots
Carrots are full of vitamins K, A, and B. They are a rich source of fiber, beta-carotene, and potassium, and are potent antioxidants.
The fiber content in carrots is great for their digestive systems and to prevent constipation.
Vitamin A is important for vision, to boost the immune system, boost reproduction, and to ensure healthy growth and development.
Vitamin K makes proteins needed for bone development and blood clotting.
Vitamin C boosts the immune system by building up antibodies.
Vitamin B is essential for brain health. It protects and preserves cellular development and function. It also helps break down carbohydrates and transport nutrients throughout the body.
Lutein and beta-carotene are important for maintaining good vision and are essential for good heart health.
Potassium is essential for nerve function, muscle contraction, heart health, and to remove waste products out of cells.
Carotenoids are good for eye and heart health.
Crunching away on carrots can also keep teeth clean and promote gum health.
Carrot Greens (Tops)
The carrot greens (tops) are very safe for goats to eat. However, they are not a favorite for all goats.
Some goats absolutely do not like carrot greens. Why eat greens when the carrots are where the sweet crunchy taste is?
Carrot tops should be given in moderation as they contain nitrates, oxalic acid, and glucosinolates which are toxic to goats.
Feeding carrot tops can be – almost – as good as feeding them the pieces of carrots.
Hand feeding can be a great way to bond with your goats, making it easier to get their cooperation for milking and vet or medical treatments.
Carrot greens that are fed in moderation can help prevent bloating in goats. Bloating can be extremely painful and is caused by excess gas building up in the rumen.
Never drop anything goats can eat on the ground. They do not like to eat anything that touches the ground.
If you do not want to hand feed the carrot greens, you can mix them in with the goat’s hay.
One benefit that many dairy goat keepers will talk about is the taste of the milk of goats who eat carrot greens. Because of the sugar content of carrots and carrot greens, the milk tastes sweeter and more delicious.
If you feed your goats carrot greens, they must be free of pesticides. Simply washing them before feeding is risky as you may miss some pesticide.
It is better to grow food organically for your goats to ensure that no harm will come to your goats from pesticides.
The Downside of Goats Eating Carrots
As I mentioned above, over feeding treats like carrots can lead to an unbalanced diet that will upset the digestive system of your goats.
Carrots also have a high sugar content that can lead to unhealthy weight gain.
Eating too many carrots can lead to bloating.
Goats can develop digestive issues like an increase in excess gas and flatulence.
Carrot tops contain high levels of glucosinolates which can affect milk productivity, fertility, and body condition if your goats are given too many. It can have a negative effect on the digestive system of goats.
Eating too many carrots can cause a metabolic disease called urinary calculi. This results in stones, the calculi, that are made up of phosphate salts, which then block the urinary tract.
This is very painful and uncomfortable as these stones block up the urinary tract, making it hard, or even impossible to urinate.
Consuming too many carrots can cause a painful, itchy allergic reaction around the goat’s mouth, tongue, and throat.
Other Safe Treat Options
There are plenty of other fruit and vegetables that are safe to feed your goats in moderation. Try feeding them some:
This is… My Final Answer
It is safe to give your goats carrots in moderation if they have been properly prepared by chopping, dicing, slicing, processing, or juicing the carrot.
Not all goats enjoy the taste of carrots, but those who do… MODERATION!
Don’t throw the peels and leaves away; they will always be a healthy snack. Use your treats time for a me time. Grab a drink for yourself and hand feed your goats and watch them eat their tasty carrots.
Goats are always a fun, energizing, amusing, and relaxing way to start the day or to relax at the end of the day when you just need to unwind.
If you have any questions about what your goats can and cannot eat, ask in the comments below.
It takes 14 to 16 hours to fully digest a carrot.
There are several things you could try but calling your vet should be step 1. Try lifting your goats front legs and massage the goats’ throat.
Your vet should see your goat as soon as possible as the goat may have an esophageal injury that will need to be treated with antibiotics. Your vet may have to flush the blockage to remove it.
Di-Anne Devenish Seebregts was raised in an environment where daily life consisted of hiking, environmental conservation, growing fruit and vegetables, and raising poultry for meat and eggs.
She combined her passion for the writing word with her love of the pride that comes with not relying on others. She raised three children (who are now adults) to value the environment, and understand the value of being self-sufficient.
Find out more about Di-Anne on our About Us page.