Goats, despite their reputation, are surprisingly picky eaters. Known as “browsers”, they are fairly notorious for only picking out the choicest bits of vegetation to eat while they roam.
Some owners have been surprised to find their goats turn up their noses at produce they thought would be a sure winner. How about broccoli? Will goats eat broccoli?
Yes, goats can eat broccoli, and it is a generally healthy addition to their diet so long as it is fed in moderation. While packed with vitamins and minerals, excess consumption can lead to a dangerous buildup of sulfur in the bloodstream, causing all sorts of damage.
But so long as goats aren’t allowed to overindulge, this is not a problem.
Good to know. Broccoli is definitely a healthy treat for goats, but you don’t want it to become a fixture in their diet. Broccoli is a great example of “too much of a good thing” turning harmful.
Still, that’s no reason to keep it from your goats as long as you use a little common sense. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.
Health Benefits of Broccoli for Goats
Broccoli, as you likely know already, is a nutritional powerhouse, and has almost everything a body needs, including a terrific assortment of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, beta-carotene, many B vitamins, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
Minerals are also well-represented, with calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and zinc all being present in abundance.
For goats, the benefits are many: Vitamin A is essential for good vision and also helps keep the skin and mucous membranes healthy.
Beta-carotene is an important antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage, while the B vitamins are all critical for proper metabolism and energy production.
Folate helps the body make new cells and is especially important for pregnant does that are growing a kid inside them.
And the list of benefits goes on! Vitamin C is an important immune system booster, helping goats fight off infection and disease.
Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant that helps keep cells healthy. Vitamin K is necessary for proper blood clotting.
Calcium is vital for strong bones and teeth, as well as for proper muscle function. Iron helps the body make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood.
Manganese is needed for healthy bones and connective tissue. Magnesium aids in energy production and metabolism, while phosphorus is important for strong bones and teeth.
Potassium helps regulate fluid balance in the body, and, finally, zinc is necessary for a healthy immune system, among other things.
As you can see, broccoli provides many important nutrients that goats need to stay healthy and thrive.
However, it is important to remember that too much of a good thing can be harmful, and this is especially true when it comes to sulfur-containing vegetables like broccoli.
Caution: Too Much Broccoli is Harmful for Goats
While broccoli (and other sulfur-rich veggies like cabbage and Brussels sprouts) are healthy for goats in moderation, too much can lead to a condition called “sulfur toxicity”.
Sulfur is an essential mineral that goats need in small amounts, but too much can cause a potentially fatal build-up of sulfides in the bloodstream.
The symptoms of sulfur toxicity are nonspecific and can be easily mistaken for other illnesses, which is why it’s so important to be aware of the dangers.
Symptoms include lethargy, reduced appetite, and stunted growth in young or adolescent goats. Most alarmingly, it can also cause nervous tissue death, including brain tissue!
Now, this is only a risk if your goats are allowed to eat way too much broccoli. In moderation, it is no problem.
Can Goats Eat Broccoli Raw?
Yes, and this is a good way to serve it to them, especially the crowns. Raw broccoli will have maximum nutrition benefits and is still easy enough to eat and digest for most goats.
Can Goats Eat Broccoli Leaves?
Yes. Broccoli leaves are highly nutritious and often greatly favored by goats.
Can Goats Eat Broccoli Stems?
Yes, but they are tough to digest and even tougher to chew and swallow for most goats unless cut up into smaller chunks prior to serving.
Large chunks of broccoli stem might be a choking hazard for goats. Cooking is also a good idea, see next section.
Can Goats Eat Broccoli Cooked?
Yes, though cooking will reduce the vitamin and mineral content of all parts of broccoli somewhat.
However, cooking can make broccoli much easier to digest and allow it to be more reliably digested.
The stems, in particular, will soften significantly when cooked and will be easier for goats to chew and swallow.
Never Feed Broccoli to Goats that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
If you are going to cook broccoli for goats or give them leftover cooked broccoli, you must never give them any prepared with harmful ingredients that they cannot have.
Things like salt, butter, cheese sauce, garlic, onions, oils, and spices can all be harmful to goats.
These ingredients might make broccoli tasty for us, and even for goats, but they are still bad for them.
Beware of Pesticide on Grocery-bought Broccoli
Be aware that grocery store-bought broccoli is likely to have been treated heavily with pesticides and they can be very harmful to goats.
Though such pesticides are supposed to be non-toxic for humans and mammals, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Most worryingly, many of these pesticides are carcinogenic or known endocrine system disruptors.
So, if you are going to give broccoli to your goats that you’ve bought from the store, wash it very thoroughly first to remove as much pesticide residue as possible.
Or, better, buy organic varieties. Better yet, grow your own organic broccoli in your own garden.
How Often Can Goats Have Broccoli?
The big question you probably have after reading all of the cautionary notices about broccoli so far is “how much broccoli can my goats have?”.
In general, giving your adult goats about a cup of broccoli a day is a safe bet, and you don’t even need to give it to them that often for them to reap the benefits.
You can easily get away with giving them broccoli once or twice a week and they’ll still enjoy it.
Preparing Broccoli for Your Herd
You are smart to prep broccoli before giving it to your goats. Prepping raw broccoli is as simple as chopping it up into smaller, more manageable pieces. This will help them eat it more easily and prevent choking hazards.
You can also cook broccoli to make it even easier for goats to digest. As we mentioned before, cooking will reduce the overall nutritional content of broccoli somewhat, but it is still a very healthy treat for goats.
To cook broccoli for your goats, simply chop it up into smaller pieces and then boil it for about five minutes. You can then add it to their normal feed or give it to them as is.
Again, whatever way you serve broccoli to your goats, make sure that you do not add any harmful ingredients.
Can Baby Goats Have Broccoli, Too?
Yes, but you will want to wait until they are old enough that they are eating all solid food, and then be sure to reduce the quantity even farther than normal.
Young goats are even more vulnerable to sulfur toxicity than adults, so you don’t want to risk that.
If you have any doubts, just don’t give them broccoli in the first place- there are plenty of other things they can eat with no worries.
Make Sure You Clean Up After Giving Your Goats Broccoli
One last thing. Clean up any leftovers when your goats are finished with the broccoli. That assumes they don’t eat it all up, of course.
Broccoli will spoil quickly when left on the ground in the open, and can easily make goats sick if they eat it like that. It can also attract pests.
Not for nothing, it also smells horrendous, and you don’t need any more nasty smells when you have goats around!
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.