Can Goats Eat Gourds? Is it Safe?

Although the old popular conception that goats are literal eating machines that can eat absolutely anything isn’t true, when it comes to different kinds of plants, it most definitely is.

goat enjoying some alfalfa

Goats can eat nearly anything that grows, from leaves, grass, bark, and even sticks to all kinds of vegetables. But believe it or not, goats can’t eat quite every kind of vegetable out there.

How about something odd like a gourd? Can goats eat gourds and are they safe for them?

No, gourds are not safe for goats to eat. The vast majority of gourds have lots of toxins that can make goats extremely sick or even kill them. This toxin is designed to protect gourds from herbivores like goats, so most goats will instinctively avoid them.

Gourds are one of those things that goats just cannot eat and it should not try. There are a few exceptions which I will get into below, but the vast majority of gourds are dangerously toxic to goats.

Gourds Contain Toxins to Prevent Mammals from Eating Them

Gourds are one of those vegetables that are typically out of mind until fall starts to close in. For most folks, they’re more commonly used as a decoration rather than a food source, and in this capacity, gourds have a pretty distinguished history.

As it turns out, many civilizations around the world use them for the same purpose, and also for crafting various tools and other utilitarian items.

But gourds, predominantly, are just not edible because of the toxins they contain. This toxin is called cucurbitacin, and it is both extraordinarily bitter and poisonous.

Like most plant toxins, it’s designed to protect the plant and prevent it from being eaten.

In the case of gourds, this toxin works like a charm! There are hardly any animals that eat gourds, and goats are definitely not one of them.

Your Goats Will Probably Not Show Interest in Gourds

Goats will typically and instinctively avoid eating gourds. Throughout the long millennia of history and countless generations of goats they have learned to avoid certain kinds of plants in general, and gourds are one of them.

Aside from the toxin, most gourds are so dense and so hard that they represent a formidable obstacle even for the virtually invulnerable teeth and mouths of goats.

And assuming even that a goat had access to the softer flesh inside, the toxin they contain it makes them smell and taste horrible, bad enough to even deter a goat!

But, this little tidbit of trivia does not mean you can rest easy: goats are known to be stubborn and sometimes downright dumb, and there are plenty of cases reported where goats eat things that they absolutely shouldn’t and otherwise would typically avoid.

If you leave a gourd around where a goat might try to eat it, or if they get into some that are growing naturally around your property, it could poison them. Those consequences can be severe, and I’ll talk about those in a minute.

Are Gourds Safe for Goats When Raw?

No, gourds aren’t safe for goats to eat when raw, at all.

Can You Cook Gourds to Safely Feed Them to Goats?

No, sadly. Cooking a gourd does nothing to reduce or neutralize any of the toxins it contains that make it dangerous for goats.

Some Gourd and Gourd-relatives Are Safe to Eat

There are always exceptions to rules, but it is these edge cases that merely prove the rule. In the case of gourds, we find that some varieties and their close relatives are actually edible by goats.

One of the most famous is the common pumpkin, and also various kinds of squashes. Pumpkins are also a perennially popular fall decoration, and they’re also used in countless recipes, from soups to delicious pies.

Even though pumpkins have trace amounts of the same toxin that true gourds contain, these amounts are so small that they are virtually meaningless for people and goats alike. Accordingly, your goats can have pumpkin as a snack.

A good rule of thumb to follow is that if a gourd or squash is considered safe for people to eat, it’s also safe for goats.

What Does Gourd Poisoning Look Like?

If your goats get into just a little bit of toxic gourd, chances are they won’t experience any profoundly bad effects except for a loss of appetite and potentially upset stomach.

But be warned that anything more than a very small dose can have it serious consequences for them.

Symptoms of cucurbitacin poisoning include profound vomiting, diarrhea, listlessness, total loss of appetite and most notably hair loss.

High dosages will cause nervous system damage, including brain damage, organ failure and death outright.

Serious stuff, and like I said above, do not take it for granted that your goats can in fact be trusted to avoid trying to eat gourds. It’s up to you to take care of them and do what’s best for them.

Baby Goats are Highly Vulnerable to Gourd Toxins

As is the case with most toxic foods and poisons, baby and adolescent goats are disproportionately vulnerable.

Ingesting even the slightest bit of toxin that these gourds contain is enough to make a baby goat extremely sick or even kill it.

What’s worse, even if it’s just enough to give them an upset stomach and cause diarrhea, the resulting dehydration can be fatal on its own.

Because of this, you must never let a baby goat go anywhere near a gourd.

Call Your Vet if You Suspect Your Goat Has Eaten a Gourd

If you know, or have reason to believe, that one of your goats has eaten from a gourd, you need to be on your guard.

Don’t panic, of course, but do assess the situation. If the event happened very recently, go ahead and call your vet for advice.

If you think it happened a while ago, carefully observe your herd: if any of the goats are showing signs of sickness or acting strangely, the toxin is likely affecting them.

Call your vet, and make preparations to either get the goat to them or get the vet to come to you.

Serious poisoning is treatable but generally requires veterinary intervention in the form of an antidote and typically intravenous medications and hydration.

The longer the toxin stays in a goat’s system and works them over, the worse their prognosis will be.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *