I often get questions about the diets of various animals, and, specifically, “Is what I am giving my animals safe or toxic?”
This is a very serious concern for all homesteaders and pet owners, because nobody wants to see their beloved animals suffer. If your animal does ingest something poisonous, you will want to know what to do and how to treat it.
That being said, is it safe for goats to eat the ubiquitous tomato plant?
The answer is both yes and no. Yes: it is safe for your goat to eat the fruit (i.e. the actual tomato), but in moderation. But, you must never let your goats eat the leaves and stems of a tomato plant, as these are very toxic for them.
It is always important to check the area where your goats are housed, and any area they could break into, for toxic plants of any kind. If you do not, the outcome could be very tragic.
It is impossible to completely goat-proof a property! Goats will find a way to get out or in if they get curious. Goats are curious and naughty by nature – it is what makes them so darn sweet.
Goats are browsers. They enjoy scouting out anything yummy to eat. They like to eat leaves and brush over grass. Which means you should be careful what you plant.
Here are some tips to help prevent your goat from eating tomato plants – and to keep it healthy.
What Parts of the Tomato Plants Are Toxic to Goats?
Essentially, any green parts of the tomato are toxic to goats.
While ripe tomatoes are perfectly fine for goats to eat – and actually have some vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients (like vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, and potassium) that aren’t bad for goats and can be beneficial – anything green is dangerous.
So what falls into this category?
You’ll want to avoid things like the tomato leaf, tomato vines, and unripe tomatoes. These all contain solanine, a toxic chemical.
The leaves and stem of a tomato plant contain high levels of alkaloids which are highly toxic to goats. They are part of the nightshade family, which is very toxic for many animals. However, in very small quantities, most goats will not get life-threateningly ill.
They would have to consume at least half a plant to really be in danger of poisoning. But they will still need treatment to alleviate pain, neutralize the poison, and recover quickly.
Prevention is always better than a cure. So, what can you do to protect your goats and how do you treat them if they have ingested the leaves and stems of a tomato plant or other toxic plants? Let’s take a closer look…
How To Prevent Your Goat From Eating Whole Tomato Plants
The number one rule for goat ownership is:
NEVER TRUST A GOAT!
Goats are curious, but just as the saying goes: curiosity killed the cat, the same holds true for goats.
They love to rip things up, pull up plants from the ground, chew on wood, and even destroy outdoor furniture. They browse for their food. They can easily jump fences, climb on roofs, or even climb trees.
That is why goat-proofing your property is very important. To do it, and to protect your tomato plants, you could:
- Keep your tomato plants in a greenhouse
- Do not grow your tomato plants near fences where goats could reach through for a snack
- Grow your tomatoes in a very securely fenced-in area
- Keep your goats in a fenced-in area or barn
- Make sure there are plenty of safe plants to keep them busy
- Do not feed the goats tomatoes at all so that they do not associate the delicious fruit with the forbidden plant
- Or do not plant or grow tomatoes
How Do You Know If Your Goat Has Ingested Tomatoes
If you have tomato plants that the goats could get to if they are determined, it is a good idea to also monitor the plants daily. If you see they have been nibbled on, you will need to take action quickly.
Why? Because toxic plants like tomatoes act quickly on goats…
If your goat has ingested the forbidden parts of the plant, they will demonstrate at least some of these symptoms:
- Foam or froth around their mouths
- Sometimes they may vomit
- Cry out
- Appear to be confused
- Pant and struggle to breathe
- Shake their heads a lot
- Develop the shakes
- Have diarrhea
- They will have difficulty with their eyesight – they may bump into things
- Stagger and stumble
- Have seizures
- Go into a coma
- Eventually, die
What To Do If You Know Or Suspect That Your Goat Has Ingested A Tomato Plant
There are a number of remedies to treat your goat if he or she has ingested toxins. Some are more effective than others.
For me, the very first thing I would suggest you do is to call your vet. Your vet would be able to advise you on what to watch for, provide valuable insight into home remedies, or advise you to bring the goat straight in for treatment.
Here are a few things you could try:
- Call your vet.
- Check the goat’s mouth, and remove any remaining pieces of the offending plant.
- Don’t leave the goat in the sun, take it to a quiet, warm, dry place.
- Try to walk the goat around as much as possible.
- Mix 15ml Renco (rennet), 15ml milk of magnesia (Mylanta), and 5ml brandy, and give this to your goat with a drench, or syringe.
- Mix ½ cup cooking oil, ½ cup strong, black tea (let it cool), 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon ground ginger and give the mixture to your goat with a drench or syringe.
- Give your goat clean tepid water.
- If it is vomiting, change its water after each time it vomits.
- Lift the front legs to help release gases that cause bloating and cramping.
- Treat with twelve capsules of activated charcoal mixed into tepid water, and administer with a syringe or drench every two hours until vomiting and diarrhea stops.
- Mix one whole can of beer, two tablespoons of Epsom salt, and one tablespoon of baking soda; give the goat this mixture every three to four hours until the vomiting stops – use a big syringe or a drench to give the mixture.
- Mix ¼ cup of olive oil, ½ cup of strong, cold black tea, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 4 capsules of activated charcoal, 1 tablespoon of probiotic powder (Probios), and 1 tablespoon of Supernatural Silver (supplement, colloidal silver), and administer it using a drench or syringe every hour.
- Put a teaspoon of baking soda on the goat’s tongue every hour.
- Your vet may administer atropine sulfate.
If you do not see an improvement in 24 hours, I recommend you call your vet out, or take your goat to the vet. Hydration is very important in any alkaloid poisoning.
Your vet will probably put up a drip to hydrate the goat, and administer medication to help clear out the toxins.
When you see your goat is starting to get more interested in food, start it back off solids very slowly. Give small portions several times. You do not want to give your goat too much, and have it vomit it all out again.
Are Tomatoes Toxic to Sheep and Other Ruminants?
Sadly, yes. As is the case with goats, sheep and other ruminants (like cattle) should not have too many green tomato parts (red, ripe tomatoes are fine).
Believe it or not, ingesting too much green tomato leaf or vine can cause symptoms of poisoning even in humans – in short, it’s not good for anyone.
The acid in tomatoes can also cause issues for goats and sheep.
When eaten in large amounts, the acid can upset the delicate balance of microbes in the rumen, leading to gastrointestinal distress. symptoms include bloat, diarrhea, and reduced appetite. In severe cases, the acid can lead to ulcers and death.
However, these problems are typically only seen when ruminants are fed large quantities of tomatoes or other acidic fruits.
What Other Foods Are Toxic to Goats?
In addition to tomatoes and other nightshade plants, like eggplant, peppers, and potatoes, there are several other foods that are toxic to goats. These include garlic, onions, chocolate, and caffeine.
While some of these foods may not be harmful to humans, they can be deadly to goats. For example, garlic and onions can cause anemia in goats, while chocolate can cause heart problems.
Caffeine, meanwhile, is a stimulant that can lead to agitation and restlessness in goats. If you suspect that your goat has eaten any of these foods, it is important to contact a veterinarian immediately.
With prompt treatment, most goats will make a full recovery. However, if left untreated, these conditions can be fatal. Don’t risk it! There are plenty of other foods you can give your goats instead.
Which leads me to…
What to Feed Goats Instead of Tomatoes
If you want your goats to get a yummy treat every now and then, remember – fresh pasture is probably one of the best things you can give your animals. You don’t really need to provide anything beyond that.
But if you like hand-feeding your goat and want to give them some scraps, that’s fine – just avoid the tomatoes.
Some other great treats for goats include things like apples, celery, grains, carrots, cabbage, and even bananas. Sugary fruits like bananas and even grapes should be fed sparingly, though, since your goats don’t need all that sweetness.
You can feed brassicas like cabbage and broccoli but do this in small quantities, as they can contain too much sulfur and fiber for your animals. This can cause digestive issues.
Goats love leafy greens such as kale and spinach. They also enjoy root vegetables like carrots and turnips. In addition, goats like to eat peas, beans, and other legumes. In fact, they will often eat the entire plant, including the stems and leaves.
While there are many different types of vegetation that goats enjoy eating, it is important to make sure that they have a balanced diet.
Goats should have access to hay or pasture, as well as fresh water. They also need a mineral supplement to ensure that they are getting all the nutrients they need.
As a homesteader and animal lover, I can’t stand to see an animal suffer. Sadly, with toxins from the nightshade plants (of which tomatoes belong), the animal will experience a great deal of pain and discomfort.
With animals, I am always amazed with their will to survive. Goats in particular love life and will put up a good fight to survive.
Unfortunately, sometimes medicines and home remedies fail, and the goat dies anyway. There is no way to really tell if a goat will live or die with your help to keep it alive. It really depends on the individual goat’s will to survive.
This is why prevention is always better than cure…
Make sure your goats do not have any access to your vegetable garden. If they get in there, you will lose your garden and your goat will get sick.
If poisoning does occur, do not give up hope. Your goat will fight to survive, and with your help and support, he or she will have a good fighting chance.
Try out some of these remedies for yourself, and let us know how things worked out for your goat. Also, let us know what you use for treating goats that have eaten the leaves and stems of tomato plants in the comments below.
Tomato skins are a good source of fiber for goats. They also contain essential nutrients like vitamins A and C. Just make sure they’re ripe and not still green.
Goats should not eat tomato leaves or any other part of the tomato plant itself. These contain solanine, a toxic compound.
Goats will typically eat any plant that is soft enough to chew, including leafy greens, root vegetables, and even some fruits and grains.
Some of the most common offenders include rhododendrons, azaleas, and yews. These plants contain compounds that can cause gastrointestinal upset, heart arrhythmias, and even death.
Goats should not eat any nightshade plants, such as tomatoes, potatoes, or eggplants, as well as sweetened foods or caffeine.
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.