I think most homesteaders, farmers, hikers, and outdoorsmen know about poison ivy and how problematic it can be. Any contact with the root, stem, flowers, berries, and vine of poison ivy will give you a nasty, itchy, painful rash.
Getting rid of this noxious weed can be very tricky… but why not leave it to the goats – they’re very good at clearing grassy areas. Can goats eat poison ivy?
Yes, goats love to eat the leaves, berries, flowers, and parts of the vine of poison ivy that do not touch the soil. However, poison ivy does not have any nutritional value in terms of vitamins or minerals.
It is also very low in lipids. Lipids are essential to the development of cells and bone.
Therefore, poison ivy should not comprise the bulk of your goat’s diet. It should only be available as browsing in small quantities after consuming healthy food.
I am going to navigate the ins and outs of poison ivy as food for your goats.
Clearing Out and Controlling Poison Ivy
While there are plenty of herbicides on the market to eradicate weeds and undesirable plants, mother nature has a way of reclaiming the land.
This means that the use of herbicides can be very expensive, labor-intensive, and also very frustrating.
Herbicides containing glyphosate, triclopyr, dicamba, mecoprop, and 2,4-D amine are good at killing weeds.
Unfortunately, they are also good at killing desirable plants, vegetables, and flowers. They are also not good for the soil and can significantly decrease the nutritional value of the soil.
Fortunately, as homesteaders, we can accommodate the best garden services company in the world.
Goats love to eat poison ivy. They will happily clear any patch of land of all the poison ivy. Even if it grows back, it will just be a steady part of your goat’s browsing.
Because goats do not eat anything that forces them to touch the ground with their lips, for example the roots of plants, we still need to take some precautions to prevent the regrowth of poison ivy throughout spring and summer when the plant is active.
The most effective way is to place either a layer of cardboard or a layer of wood chips on the area where the poison ivy has been cleared by your goats. Or we can bring the goats back as soon as the poison ivy reappears to munch it down.
Bringing the goats back time and time again will starve the poison ivy of the light and nutrients needed for the plant to grow.
This means that prolonged exposure to goats will rob the weeds of the energy needed to grow back causing the roots to die.
Instead of covering yourself from head to toe with protective gloves, long sleeve shirts, and long pants, or poisoning your ground with herbicides, let your goats feast on and clear your property of this noxious weed.
Nutritional Value of Poison Ivy
Poison ivy really has no positive nutritional value for goats.
Goats eat poison ivy because they enjoy the taste of the plant, and they enjoy the thick leafy texture of the plant.
If anything, poison ivy is unhealthy in large quantities.
Lipids are organic compounds that are insoluble in water. A lack of lipids can cause many health issues in goats. Lipids help cells store energy molecules and chemical messages.
If goats do not get sufficient lipids in their diets, they may develop issues with development, cell formation, birth defects, and the ability of cells to perform their functions adequately.
What Parts of a Poison Ivy Plant Can Goats Eat?
While it is safe to feed goats all parts of the plant, goats will not eat the roots. They do not eat any part of any plant that touches the soil.
They prefer to reach up to pull the leaves free. They will enjoy eating the vines, flowers, berries, and leaves.
Feeding Baby Goats Poison Ivy
The digestive system of goats is the same as that of every other mammal on the planet. They need time to develop.
It is never a good idea to give a baby goat any plant until they are completely weened. This normally takes place at rough 60 days old.
You will find that as they follow their moms around the kids will start to pull leaves off of plants as a form of copy-your-mom game.
Once they have been weened you should take your time introducing any new food and it should always be given in moderation to ensure that their gut is ready to handle the new food.
Why do Goats Not Have an Allergic Reaction to Poison Ivy?
It is theorized that evolution has played a big part in increasing the immunity of goats to toxins found in plant life. Leading to the incorrect conclusion that goats can eat anything.
It is not known scientifically why goats can tolerate the urushiol and toxins in poison ivy and other plants. There are two leading theories regarding this.
Firstly, it is believed by some that all goats have enzymes in their stomachs and guts that safely process the urushiol, rendering this toxin that causes an allergic reaction in humans to be harmless to goats.
Secondly, it is believed that the rumen present in a goat’s gut bacteria can break down toxic weeds like poison ivy.
Keeping Goats Where They Are Needed
Because goats are very adventurous and they are great explorers, it is sometimes hard to keep them penned in so that they cannot destroy crops, vegetables, flowers, or other desirable plants.
If you are going to let goats clear an area of poison ivy, they should be penned into a small area so that they cannot just keep eating as this can make them sick. A small area equals the need to share the resources in moderation.
Many homesteaders use an electric fence to keep the goats in the area they want to be cleared, and to protect the goats from predators like coyotes.
If you don’t have the finances to erect electric fences, sheepdogs are a great way to keep your herd where you want them. Goats tend to be intimidated by noisy dogs. Sheepdogs can be trained to round up your goats and stop them from leaving a specific area.
Can Goats Eat All Poisonous Plants?
Goats do have a good sense of good and bad foods to eat and will avoid plants that are toxic unless they are starving with no access to healthy food.
Poison hemlock can lead to birth defects and so it is generally avoided by goats. They can safely eat roughly 3 ounces a day without any negative side effects.
Poison parsnip can lead to painful lesions in your goat’s mouth. They will avoid this plant unless they are starving, but it is better if they do not have access to it.
Virginia creeper can cause liver damage. Goats should never eat this plant.
This Is… My Final Answer
In 2008, a group of goats managed to escape through an opening in their fence and then wandered into a high-security area under the Verrazano Bridge without triggering any alarms.
The security and the property stored there were intended to prevent a terrorist attack. The New York Daily News cleverly called the invasion “Weapons of Grass Destruction”.
This title describes goats perfectly. They will happily clear an area of any unwanted vegetation and weeds, and sometimes areas where weeding is not wanted, e.g., your vegetable garden, in a jiffy.
Be careful not to neglect the regular dietary needs of your goats by ensuring they are not filling up on poison ivy and that they are getting plenty of hay and some healthy fruit and vegetables.
So instead of contaminating your land with harsh chemicals or exposing yourself through hard labor to manually remove the poison ivy on your property just bring in the goats, they will solve the problem of this unwanted weed in no time at all.
No, it is perfectly safe to drink milk from a goat that has eaten poison ivy as none of the toxins found in poison ivy can be transferred into the goat’s milk.
No. Lily of the valley, cherry, delphinium, milkweed, oleander, rhododendrons, azaleas, and larkspur are all toxic to goats and can cause painful and even deadly situations.
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.