Goats eat all sorts of things that come off trees. They will eat leaves, twigs, fruit and even bark. That’s pretty impressive, but several trees have parts that are known to be decidedly unhealthy for most animals.
Then again, goats are known for being able to eat just about anything, supposedly. So how about acorns? Can goats eat acorns?
Yes, goats may safely eat acorns in limited quantities. Although nutritious, raw acorns contain significant amounts of tannins which might lead to digestive upset or more serious health problems. Boiling acorns can remove these tannins, and make them totally safe for goats.
Most livestock keepers are already acquainted with the dangers of acorns, but you don’t have to worry about your goats eating them so long as you take care to keep them from overindulging.
Also, it is possible to boil acorns and make them completely safe by removing the tannins that can cause harm.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about giving acorns to goats.
Caution: Acorns Contain Toxic Tannins
All acorns contain tannins, compounds which can become toxic when ingested in high quantities. They taste notably bitter when present, and many animals avoid them.
However, when present in low concentrations animals may overindulge, which can lead to problems.
On the lower end of the spectrum, tannins can cause abdominal pain, indigestion, diarrhea and dehydration, but on the upper end of the scale tannins may result in serious kidney and liver damage, and eventually death.
Acorn poisoning is very real and a known condition among veterinarians.
You should also know that dying from acorn poisoning is excruciating for the affected animal, and is up to you to prevent this unhappy outcome by closely monitoring what your animals are eating at all times, and by not overfeeding them acorns if you choose to treat them.
Health Benefits of Acorns for Goats
So acorns contain tannins, which can be pretty scary, but they are also pretty nutritious and can make a great, healthy snack for goats.
Acorns contain a good amount of vitamin B1, B2, B3 and B5, and contain a ton of vitamin B6 along with a good shot of folate.
Together, these B vitamins are essential for cellular function and health, while folate is necessary for the creation of new DNA.
Acorns also have a respectable mineral profile, with iron, calcium and zinc being present in small amounts.
However, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and potassium are abundant.
Together, these minerals will improve oxygenation of the blood, strengthen the teeth and skeleton, and help to maintain a healthy fluid and electrolyte balance in the body.
There is a lot to recommend acorns as a good supplemental food for your goats’ diet, you just need to mind the quantity and potentially take steps to reduce or eliminate harmful tannins.
Can Goats Eat Acorns Raw?
Yes, goats can and will eat raw acorns. If you have an oak tree on your property you have probably seen them grazing beneath it already, munching on those tasty acorns.
Raw acorns contain the maximum amount of nutrition, but they also contain the maximum amount of tannins, meaning you must carefully regulate how much your goats have.
Can Goats Eat Acorns Cooked?
Yes, goats may have cooked acorns. They are tasty, nutritious and much safer than raw acorns because proper cooking, boiling in particular, will it greatly deplete or even eliminate the tannins normally present.
Repeated Boiling of Acorns Can Eliminate Tannins
Keepers should know that repeated, prolonged boiling of acorns can it rapidly and significantly deplete the amount of tannins present in acorns.
A long soak in water, changing out the water every 30 minutes or so after it turns brown, is it one sure way to eliminate tannins from acorns.
An alternate method is to rapidly boil the acorns in water for 30 minutes, then changing out the water and boiling them one more time for 10 to 15 minutes.
Any discoloration you see in the water is tannins being leached from the acorns!
So long as it keepers are diligent to change out contaminated water before giving the acorns a final rinse, it is possible to feed much larger quantities of acorns to goats safely.
Beware of Pesticide and Herbicide on Acorns
Keepers of goats should also be aware that pesticides or herbicides could be present on acorns.
Some oak trees are treated with pesticides to prevent insect parasites from damaging or destroying them, while herbicides might be used on troublesome trees to eliminate them, or else used on parasitic plants that have taken up residence on the affected tree.
Either of these chemicals can be harmful for goats, and though they are supposed to be generally safe for use around people and animals, we have plenty of evidence that strongly suggests such chemicals can cause long-term and serious health problems.
As these chemicals build up in tissues over time, reproductive harm, cancer, hormone imbalances and other problems may manifest.
Accordingly, don’t serve your goats any acorns that might be contaminated with these chemicals, or allow them to graze beneath an oak tree that you know has been treated.
How Often Can Goats Have Acorns?
Goats should have acorns quite sparingly if they are raw. You can give your goats a few acorns a couple of times a week, or allow them to lightly graze acorns that have fallen on the ground, but you must keep an eye on them. They can and will overindulge.
Acorns are good for goats, no doubt about it, but only assuming that they don’t ingest too many tannins.
Preparing Acorns for Your Herd
However you’re going to give goats acorns, all you need to do is hand them over. They will happily eat them off the ground or out of a container.
You can even mix them in with other feed to make a nutritious mixture for them.
Just remember, if you’re cooking acorns you want to soak them or boil them until the water is definitely tinted brown and then change the water, repeating the process until the water no longer discolor.
Then, give the acorns a final rinse and they are ready to serve.
Can Baby Goats Have Acorns, Too?
Yes, baby goats may have acorns also but with some strict limitations. First, understand that kids are far more vulnerable to the effects of tannins than adults are.
They don’t have body mass on their sides and their systems aren’t fully developed, meaning if they eat too many they’re going to be in for a bad, bad time.
For this reason alone, you can make a good case for not giving acorns to kids at all.
Next, you’ll want to make sure any adolescent goat is old enough to the point where it is eating solid food all the time, not milk.
Assuming your kid is old enough, I would highly recommend that you give them boiled acorns for maximum benefit without the fears that are associated with giving them raw acorns.
What Should You Do if You Suspect Your Goats Have Eaten Too Many Acorns?
If you think or know that your goats have eaten too many acorns, don’t panic. Call your veterinarian right away and follow their advice to the letter.
They might want you to bring in the goat, or else they will make a house call to check on them.
Depending on the severity of the poisoning, they might administer an antidote or do something else to alleviate the effects of the toxin.
Supportive care will probably be needed for several days, so be prepared for that.
However, in cases where they might have overindulged only a little bit, or a goat is otherwise healthy, your vet might advise that you just keep an eye on the goat for a while to see how they handle it.
Some illness is to be expected, but it might not be anything that your goat will not get over all on their own.
Remember, like always, it is much better to play it safe. If you suspect your goats have had too many acorns, call the professionals straight away.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.