If you own goats, you know that they are usually keen to try the food of other animals on your farm or homestead.
Things like chicken feed and dog food, however, are bad for them since this food contains meat. However, horses are also herbivores just like goats, and their feed does not contain any meat.
Does this mean that goats can eat horse feed?
No, goats should not eat horse feed even though it is generally not harmful. Though they are both herbivores, horses and goats have distinct nutritional requirements and their feeds are tailored accordingly. If you try to continually feed your goats with horse feed, they will eventually suffer from malnutrition.
So, horse feed isn’t harmful or dangerous to goats, but it isn’t something they can live on.
If they manage to get a little bit that the horses miss, this is nothing to worry about but you’re making a big mistake if you plan on supplementing their usual food with horse feed. Keep reading to learn more.
A Little Horse Feed Won’t Harm Goats
Goats and horses are both herbivores, plant eaters. Everything that goats eat and can drive nutrition from is going to be plant-based one way or another.
So, considering that horses only eat plant matter their feed, of any kind, only contains plant matter accordingly.
At first glance, it makes sense that goats should be able to eat this feed with no ill effects and that much is true. Horse feed will not harm your goats, and they will be able to derive some nutrition from it.
That being said, horse feed and goat feed are not interchangeable.
But it Isn’t Nutritionally Complete
Though they’re both herbivores, the biology and nutritional requirements of horses and goats are quite different and the types of feed they eat are correspondingly different with different amounts of a micro and macronutrients.
Said another way, horse feed is not nutritionally complete for goats. Edible, yes. Nutritious, yes, generally. But not nutritionally complete, not even close.
If you try to substitute horse feed for your goat’s usual feed, things will go well enough at first. But over time, their health and energy levels will start to suffer.
The effects of vitamin and mineral deficit will start to take its toll. They might even encounter digestive trouble.
At a surface level, horse feeding goat feed are very close, but not interchangeable in any way.
You Don’t Need to Worry if Your Goats Get a Little Horse Feed
That being said, if your goats ever get around your horses or vice versa, your goats will one way or another get an opportunity to eat some horse feed.
This is no cause for alarm, and a few mouthfuls, even several servings, are unlikely to harm goats in any noticeable way.
Again, the listed contents of typical horse feed, whatever kind it is, are all things that goats may eat themselves, or at least can eat without any risks.
There’s no need to call the vet, get upset or worry. That being said, you definitely don’t want to encourage the behavior and you don’t want to feed goats the stuff that horses eat willfully.
How Often Can Goats Have Horse Feed?
There’s no great metric for determining how much horse feed a goat can have before it starts to suffer ill effects.
Again, a few bites or even several servings, possibly even several servings over consecutive days, are unlikely to cause any harm.
But, your biggest risk with horse feed is malnutrition, and it’s something of a double whammy.
First, the horse feed itself, something goats will likely eat happily, does not have all of the nutrition they need to thrive.
Second, by eating the horse feed they will fill up, and won’t have any room left for the food that does meet all of their nutritional requirements.
Sure, it will give them energy, they’ll get some nutrition from it, but slowly, and surely, over time they will start to suffer the effects of malnutrition.
Can Baby Goats Have Horse Feed, Too?
Again, baby goats, like adult goats, should not eat horse feed. It doesn’t have what they need nutritionally, not everything.
But, also like adult goats, it isn’t overtly harmful to them. It doesn’t contain something that is by nature toxic or poisonous.
If your kids are old enough to be eating solid food, and they make like the adults do and gobble up some horse feed, you probably don’t need to worry about it.
That being said, kids also have somewhat stricter nutritional needs than adults do.
They are growing quickly and their systems are still developing, meaning that if they are allowed to fill up on horse feed they might miss out on the more nutritious food that they badly need.
Keep that in mind, but so long as you make an effort to keep the kids away from horse feed you don’t need to worry about it if they swipe a mouthful here and there.
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.