If you have goats, you know by now that they are pretty adventurous eaters.
Though they are pickier than most people think they really do eat all kinds of greenery and plant life, including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. They even eat a few things that might really surprise you.
How about gourds? Maybe they aren’t just for decoration or making instruments after all. Can goats eat gourds?
No, goats shouldn’t eat gourds. All true gourds contain high amounts of cucurbitacin, a toxic compound that is designed to protect the plant from herbivorous animals, including goats.
Gourds taste profoundly bitter, and ingesting significant quantities can lead to severe illness in goats.
It turns out that goats generally shouldn’t eat any vegetable that people can’t eat as a rule of thumb. Gourds are one such example.
Save these things for decorations when autumn rolls around. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about gourds and goats.
Gourds Contain Cucurbitacin, a Deterrent to Herbivores
Gourds are nothing more than the fruits of various plant species in the Cucurbitaceae family. Even if you aren’t familiar with them, you have doubtless seen these oddly shaped and profoundly colorful fruits every time fall rolls around.
A common fixture in folklore and culture around the world, they’re often used for art, displays and even for making musical instruments in the form of drums and other contraptions.
However, as a rule these culturally significant crops are not edible. That is because they all contain high amounts of a toxic compound known as cucurbitacin.
This stuff makes gourds taste profoundly, intensely bitter, even rank and nasty. This is a defense mechanism intended to protect the fruit from being eaten by animals.
Looks like it definitely works, because there are precious few animals that will eat these things, and that includes people.
Pumpkins and Squashes are Not True Gourds
It must be pointed out that while some people categorize pumpkins, squashes and other related vegetables as gourds broadly, they are not true gourds even if some of them do contain cucurbitacins.
Take pumpkins, for instance. They are also an iconic and decorative fall vegetable, but they are edible where true gourds are not because they contain far less of the toxic compound than gourds do.
Accordingly, both people and goats alike can eat pumpkins or dishes made from pumpkin with no ill effects.
You would have to eat so much pumpkin, including the seeds, to receive even a mildly toxic dose you would be far more worried about your stomach bursting than other harmful effects!
Goats can have pumpkins and other similar vegetables just like we can, but they can’t have true gourds.
Most Goats Will Instinctively Avoid Eating Gourds
So we know that the active defensive compound in gourds is designed to protect the plant from being consumed by herbivores.
Gourds are a successful plant species, so it stands to reason that this compound is doing its job. It follows, then, that most goats will instinctively avoid eating gourds.
Aside from having the aforementioned compound, gourds also tend to be quite hard and difficult to break into thanks to their tough shell.
But, on the offhand chance that a goat does open up the fruit to get it the flesh within, or a person mistakenly tries to serve a gourd to goats, they will encounter a flesh that is absolutely nasty.
Over countless generations, goats and all sorts of other herbivores have learned that gourds are just not good eating, and will, as a rule, avoid them.
That being said, you can never be certain that a goat knows what is good for itself and you should never allow them to take an interest in gourds, or attempt to serve gourds to them in any way.
Stranger things have happened then an animal pressing on in eating something that tastes disgusting.
Can Goats Eat Gourds Raw?
No, raw gourds are not safe for goats to eat in any way.
Can Goats Eat Gourds Cooked?
No, they cannot. It is a worthwhile question, if cooking gourds renders them safe to eat, but sadly this is not true.
Cooking does not debilitate or neutralize cucurbitacins effectively enough to make them safe for goats to eat.
Symptoms of Cucurbitacin Poisoning
Although small doses of cucurbitacin are unlikely to be harmful or cause anything more than a mildly upset stomach, significant doses can be quite harmful, even fatal. In fact, severe poisoning is referred to as a toxic squash syndrome.
Symptoms include nausea vomiting, diarrhea and hair loss in mammals, but severe instances can cause neurological damage, organ failure and death.
Again, though your goats are highly likely to avoid gourds of their own volition, you should never take a chance that they could wind up ingesting them. The consequences could be fatal.
Baby Goats are Especially Sensitive to Cucurbitacins
As you might expect, baby goats should never have gourds the same as adults, and furthermore they are especially sensitive to the toxic compounds contained in them.
A relatively small dose is enough to cause irreversible harm to a baby goat, and even if they get off comparatively lightly with vomiting and diarrhea, this will quickly lead to dehydration which can be fatal on its own.
Never give gourds to baby goats, and take pains to prevent them from coming into contact with them just in case they could somehow wind up eating from them.
What Should You Do if Your Goats Eat Gourds?
If you suspect that, somehow, one of your goats or multiple goats have eaten gourds, don’t panic. Quickly assess and try to figure out how much they managed to eat. A few small bites are unlikely to cause any serious harm.
However, more than that could be calls for alarm depending on the concentration of the compounds in the individual gourd.
If you have any doubts whatsoever, or notice any symptoms or odd behavior in goats that may have eaten gourds, call your veterinarian right away and follow their instructions.
They might advise that you bring the goat in for observation and treatment, or else could make a house call to assess the animal themselves.
An antidote might be administered if available, but care is likely to revolve around IV administration of fluids to help protect the kidneys and liver while hydrating the affected animal.
For significant poisonings, a period of observation will likely be recommended.
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.