Kale is famous, or you might say infamous, for being one of the healthiest leafy vegetables that you can eat.
However, it is not beloved because of its bitter taste and tough texture. Despite this, you might think that kale could be an ideal nutritional supplement for goats.
They love greenery, and don’t seem to mind tough food after all. So, can goats eat kale?
Yes, goats may eat kale but only in limited quantities. Kale is potentially toxic for goats due to the presence of glucosinolates. Overconsumption could damage red blood cells and eventually cause anemia. However, when fed in moderation kale is packed with vitamins and minerals that will benefit goats.
Pretty interesting. I would have guessed up front myself that goats could eat kale with absolutely no problem.
But, even too much of a good thing can often cause harm, and kale is no different.
So long as you aren’t giving it to your goats all the time you really don’t have anything to worry about and it can be a great boost to your goats’ nutrition. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.
Health Benefits of Kale for Goats
Kale is nothing short of a nutritional powerhouse, particularly when it is raw.
Containing a well-rounded profile of protein, carbohydrates and fiber, it also has nearly every micronutrient that a body needs, both vitamins and minerals.
Kale contains bunches of vitamin A equivalent, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and folate along with a ton of vitamin C, A good amount of vitamin E and a frankly astounding amount of vitamin K. The only thing that is notably absent is choline, which is present only in trace amounts.
However, there’s a lot more to love when you look at the list of minerals that kale contains.
Calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc are all present in abundance. Notably, kale also contains a little bit of selenium and some sodium.
Like most leafy vegetables of this type, kale is mostly water, averaging about 84% water by weight.
Combined with the potassium content in kale, this makes it a great option for giving your goats a big boost of nutrition and hydration on a hot day.
Caution: Excess Kale Consumption Can Harm Goats
But things aren’t all good news when it comes to kale. As good as it is, as much nutrition as it contains, it can be potentially toxic to animals if they are fed too much.
These compounds are called glucosinolates. Over time, and in quantity, these compounds will damage red blood cells, first making them less effective at carrying oxygen around the body and eventually rupturing them.
This will manifest as sluggishness, disinterest, and a red tint in urine but eventually can lead to collapse, anemia and organ failure, and goats. At any rate, it isn’t good, and you must be aware of the symptoms.
However, these compounds are most concentrated in young plants, so as long as you are feeding your goats mature kale and then only sparingly, you really won’t have anything to worry about.
Can Goats Eat Kale Raw?
Yes, goats may eat raw kale and this is usually the best way to serve it to them. Raw kale is easy enough for most goats to eat and it contains maximum nutrition.
Can Goats Eat Kale Cooked?
Yes. Goats can also eat kale that has been cooked, and for picky eaters, young or infirm goats cooking the tough kale leaves might be a way to make it more appealing to them.
However, cooking does deplete the nutritional profile somewhat, particularly vitamins but also minerals, and even the protein content of kale.
This is a trade-off that you will have to decide whether is worth it or not depending on the condition of your herd and their preferences.
In short, kale is at its best when it is raw, but cooking it is still an acceptable way to serve it to goats.
Never Feed Kale to Goats that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
On the subject of cooking, you should never feed kale to goats that have been prepared with harmful ingredients they cannot have, or used as an ingredient in a dish that they shouldn’t eat.
Things like butter, oils, salt, sugar, meat, salad dressings and so forth are all unacceptable for goats.
At best, your goats could be facing some serious weight gain from all the extra calories, but at worst they could be facing serious, even deadly, conditions brought about by those ingredients.
High blood pressure, a harmful bloom of intestinal bacteria, diarrhea and other bad outcomes are all possible.
If you’re going to give cooked kale to your goats, it should be plain, without any additional seasonings or ingredients.
Cooking Does Not Significantly Reduce Glucosinolates in Kale
Something else to keep in mind concerning the cooking of kale. Cooking kale does not significantly reduce the presence of the glucosinolates that are capable of harming red blood cells as described above.
Unfortunately, there is no good way to neutralize these harmful compounds prior to feeding them to goats.
The only thing you can do, if you’re going to feed kale to goats, is strictly watching the quantity that every given goat is allowed to have.
Beware of Pesticide on Grocery-bought Kale
Assuming you aren’t growing your own kale for serving to your goats, you must be aware of the likely presence of pesticides on store-bought produce.
Pesticides are used pretty much on every commercial fruit and vegetable these days, and though they are supposed to be cleaned prior to making it to the market, and despite assurances from government agencies that they are safe, it turns out they can cause quite a bit of harm.
Regular ingestion, even small or trace amounts, has a tendency to build up in tissues inside the body, and over time can lead to such destructive effects as reproductive harm, cancer, metabolic issues, and more.
Your best bet, if you’re going to buy kale from the grocery store, is to look for a certified pesticide-free organic variety, or else you’ll have to thoroughly wash any that you bring home for feeding to your goats.
How Often Can Goats Have Kale?
Feeding your goats too much kale is a sure way to cause serious health problems for them.
Kale is extremely nutritious, however, and so long as you feed it to them in moderation they won’t have any problems while being able to benefit from that nutrition.
A safe bet is to feed your goats a small quantity of kale no more than once a week. It should never be a mainstay in their diet or even be a treat that you feed them semi-regularly.
Kale is definitely an every once in a while sort of treat or supplement.
Preparing Kale for Your Herd
You have a few options for preparing kale for serving to goats depending on whether you want it given to them raw or cooked.
If raw, large goats might be able to tear off bites from a whole head easily enough, so you can make a great case for chopping it up into smaller, bite-sized pieces that look something like a salad.
If you want to give them cooked kale, you might consider lightly roasting it before chopping it up or even chopping it up and then steaming it.
Either approach will make it significantly more appealing to the average goat, also making it easier to chew which can be an important factor for young or infirm goats.
Can Baby Goats Have Kale, Too?
Yes, baby goats may have kale like adults do, but with some significant restrictions.
Kids are even more vulnerable to the buildup of glucosinolates in the body compared to adults and will experience negative, even crippling effects far more quickly.
This means you cannot afford to make any mistakes when it comes to the portion you allow kids to have.
Also, you should wait until kids are at least a month and probably closer to a month and a half old prior to letting them try kale for the first time.
There are still getting milk from mom, they aren’t old enough to try kale. Kids should have switched completely to eating solid food reliably, and all the time, before you give them any treats or supplemental food.
Make Sure You Clean Up After Feeding Your Goats Kale
Last thing. Make it a point to clean up any leftover scraps of kale after your goats are done with it.
It will rot quickly, and if your goats come back around to nibble on it later the moldy, rotting kale might make them sick.
Also, any rotting vegetable matter has a tendency to attract pests, rodents and insects, and you don’t want any hanging around your property or bothering your goats. Clean up after them when they are finished and that won’t be an issue.
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.