Most people think that goats, like many other herbivores, eat mostly grass as the primary part of their diet. But goats, unlike cows, actually prefer a varied diet of plant matter along with grass.
Goats will eat leaves, twigs, vegetables, flowers, fruit and more on their day to day rounds. But how about ivy? Can goats eat ivy?
Yes, goats may eat ivy safely, including the leaves, vines and berries. Goats may also eat poison ivy without any ill effects on their skin or stomach. However, ivy should only be a supplemental item for your goats, and you shouldn’t let them eat it all the time.
Pretty interesting stuff. Ivy is either a classy and alluring ornamental or an absolutely invincible menace depending on where it is growing, but goats can and will wipe it out, getting a little bit of nutrition in the bargain.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about feeding ivy to your goats.
Health Benefits of Ivy for Goats
Verifiable nutritional information about various types of ivy is difficult to come by. That being said, we know that ivy will supply at least some vitamins and minerals, along with fiber, carbohydrates and moisture to goats.
Goats are not true grazers, and instead are better categorized as browsers, meaning they like to wander and explore, picking out the choice bits of food that they want to eat or that they need in their diet.
Goats all over the world will eat pretty much any ivy they can reach when they are hungry, and some even show a marked preference for it.
No matter what kind of ivy it is, so long as you don’t let your goats over indulge they won’t experience any ill effects, even if they are eating something that is normally pretty harmful to people, like poison ivy.
That sounds like a win-win, considering your goats can eliminate troublesome infestations of ivy while getting some of the nutrition that they need.
Can Goats Eat Ivy Raw?
Yes, goats can eat raw ivy and this is probably the best way to allow them to eat it. Ivy doesn’t require any extra preparation on your part, and it will have the best overall nutrition possible when it is raw as opposed to cooked.
Can Goats Eat Ivy Leaves?
Yes, ivy leaves are safe for goats and this is their preferred part of the plant. Easy to chew and swallow, crisp and nutritious, the leaves will probably disappear first when your goats start eating it.
Can Goats Eat Ivy Vines?
Yes, though some goats seem to avoid the vines themselves. Though they are edible and nutritious, they are chewy and maybe difficult for goats to remove from whatever surface they are growing on.
This is of little concern, however, if you are depending on your goats to eliminate ivy. By removing all of the leaves from the vines the plant will begin to die off.
Can Goats Eat Ivy Berries?
Yes, goats can and will eat any berries that are growing seasonally on ivy.
Can Goats Eat Poison Ivy?
Believe it or not, yes, goats can safely eat poison ivy. Although that sounds like a literal nightmare if not a death sentence to you and me, the hazardous compound produced and poison ivy, urushiol, does not affect goats externally or internally.
Accordingly, goats will happily munch away on the leaves, vines and berries that are present on poison ivy with no ill effect whatsoever.
Caution: Goats that Eat Poison Ivy Can Spread It
However, before you jump for joy at the idea that you can use your goats as a living weapon against a nasty infestation of poison ivy on your property, think twice.
Just because goats can eat poison ivy, even rub it all over their own bodies, without any problems that dangerous oil that causes outbreaks of rash on humans will persist on their fur, their lips and their faces and can be transferred to any other surface that the goats have contact with.
This could be something like a fence or gate, or it could be you the next time they come up to you for a chin scratch.
That oil does not break down rapidly or readily, and will remain harmful for some time after the goats have contact with poison ivy.
If you’re going to allow your goats to eat poison ivy, you either need to stay away from them and be mindful of any surfaces that they have had contact with or have a plan for decontaminating them afterwards.
Can Goats Eat Ivy Cooked?
Goats can eat cooked ivy, but there’s no good reason to cook it for them. Cooking will significantly reduce whatever nutritional value that ivy has, and your goats will be just as happy eating it raw.
Save yourself some time and aggravation by skipping out on cooking ivy.
Beware of Pesticides and Herbicide on Wild or Unknown Ivy
Another concern for goat owners that are going to let their herd munch on ivy. Many types of ivy are treated with either pesticides or herbicides depending on its classification.
For invasive ivy, poison ivy and any others that might become a pest or eyesore they might be hit with herbicide and in order to kill it off and get rid of it.
Conversely, any ornamental ivy will be sprayed with pesticides in an effort to protect the plant from insects that could damage it.
Either one of these chemicals are bad news for your goats if they ingest them. Both have a track record of causing long-term health issues after they build up sufficiently in mammalian tissue.
If you don’t want to worry about your goats getting cancer, having reproductive problems or other serious harm you must know what any given ivy has been treated with before allowing your goats to eat it.
If it is ivy on your property, you know if it is safe or not. Otherwise, try to find out or just play it safe.
How Often Can Goats Have Ivy?
Ivy can be thought of as a nutritious snack or perhaps a supplement for goats.
It isn’t going to be a primary part of their diet, but they will get nutrition from it and most of the time they seem to enjoy eating it, or at least eating the leaves.
Therefore, you should allow your goats to snack on ivy where they find it a few times a week, but no more. They should be eating plenty of other, more nutritious foods in the meantime.
No matter how much ivy is growing on your property, keep in mind that it is not nutritionally complete.
Even if they have all that they can stand, they won’t get everything that their bodies need from eating it.
Preparing Ivy for Your Herd
You don’t need to do a thing to prepare ivy for feeding to your goats. Simply turn them loose and let them eat it wherever it happens to be growing.
Alternately, you can harvest the ivy yourself, chop up the vines into stalks of convenient length and then serve it to them in a bundle.
Remember, if you’re going to let them eat poison ivy you must have a plan for dealing with the aftermath, either avoiding or decontaminating the goats and every other surface they could have come into contact with.
Otherwise you will get contaminated and experience a rash!
Can Baby Goats Have Ivy, Too?
Yes, baby goats can have ivy also so long as they are old enough to be eating solid food all the time. If they are still eating half food and a little bit of milk, or are strictly living on milk, they shouldn’t be eating ivy.
Also, bear in mind that kids have pretty serious nutritional requirements. They grow quickly, and have a rapidly developing systems that are sensitive to change, upset or malnutrition.
You can definitely let a young goat eat ivy, but never let them eat it to excess or they might not be getting the nutrition they need from their usual food.
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.