Goats live mostly on a diet of hay, grass, bark, silage and similar plant matter, but they will eat a surprising variety of vegetables, including some that you might not expect.
Goats need vegetables to round out their diet and get nutrients that they may not get out of their usual food or get in large enough quantity. How about squash? Can goats eat squash?
Yes, goats can eat typical cultivars of both summer and winter squashes with no issues, and many are highly nutritious. However, be aware that wild squashes and ornamental ones have high levels of curcurbitacins, toxins which can be harmful to goats in larger quantities.
Pretty much all the squashes that you and I enjoy goats can have without any issue. But, you’ll need to be aware of the hazards posed by certain ornamental varieties or wild squashes.
So long as you were careful about selecting and preparing squash for your goats, they will definitely enjoy squash as a tasty treat. Keep reading to learn more.
Health Benefits of Squash for Goats
There’s a wide variety of edible squash out there, and the nutritional value varies somewhat depending on the type and the cultivar.
Generally, though, you’ll be able to depend on squashes containing a good selection of vitamins and minerals that goats need.
Squashes contain a little bit of vitamin A equivalent and beta-carotene and a decent selection of most of the B vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5 and quite a lot of B6.
Squashes also contain a good amount of folate, vitamin C and a little bit of vitamin K.
The mineral content of squash is also respectable, with iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc all being present in meaningful quantities.
Also of note is the fact that your average squash is about 95% water by weight, meaning they can make for a hydrating treat in the summer.
Most goats will be pretty enthusiastic about eating any variety of edible squash, and you can take heart that you aren’t feeding them junk food.
Caution: Ornamental and Wild Squashes May be Toxic
Squashes can definitely make a healthy treat for goats, but it isn’t all good news. Many ornamental varieties of squash along with wild growing ones may contain curcurbitacins.
These compounds are a plant steroid that can give squash a nasty bitter taste, designed to deter animals from eating it, but can also cause significant harm when ingested in high quantities.
Some humans have even died from eating the stuff, so goats will prove to be just as vulnerable.
Sometimes called toxic squash syndrome, these compounds can result in nausea severe vomiting and diarrhea and hair loss.
Severe instances can result in death from complications or organ damage. Talk about nasty stuff!
Now, goats will generally be picky enough that they should not eat a squash that is extremely bitter, but you can’t count on them to look out for their own best interest in this way.
A better option is for you to sample or taste test any squash that you are preparing for them to eat.
If the squash tastes good or even neutral, it is safe, but if you notice a nasty, soapy bitter taste, spit it out and throw the squash out with it- that bitterness indicates the presence of cucurbitacins!
Can Goats Eat Squash Raw?
Yes, goats may eat squash raw and for certain cultivars this might be their preferred way to eat it.
It will maximize the nutritional benefit of the squash, and that is enough by itself to recommend it to them raw.
However, some squashes with tougher skin or flesh might be a bit too much for goats to handle when raw.
Can Goats Eat Squash Cooked?
Yes, goats may safely eat squash that has been cooked. Cooking might be preferable to serving raw squash considering it will make it more appetizing to the average goat.
But, like we mentioned above, cooking will deplete the vitamin content and even some of the minerals.
That’s something to keep in mind if you’re trying to improve your herd’s overall nutrition.
Never Feed Squash to Goats that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Since we are talking about cooking, it must be pointed out that you should never serve squash to your goats that has been prepared with harmful ingredients.
Lots of things that you and I can enjoy with squash are bad for your goats. Things like salt, sugar, butter, oil and so forth can all cause problems.
Feeding the stuff to your goats in any quantity but particularly when fed regularly will lead to issues like weight gain, serious digestive upset or even more devastating conditions like inflammation of the intestinal tract or an outbreak of harmful bacteria in the stomach.
It is fine to cook squash for your goats, but it should only be plain, no additional ingredients.
Beware of Pesticide on Grocery-bought Squash
Another potential hazard for your goats exists in the form of pesticide residue that might be present on grocery store purchased squashes.
As sad as it is to consider, basically every type of produce available to us today at retail has been heavily treated with pesticides from inception to harvest.
Though they are nominally supposed to be washed and despite us having plenty of assurances from government agencies to the contrary, these pesticide residues have proven harmful time and time again to both humans and animals.
And what’s worse, they typically tend to build up slowly in tissues of the body over time with repeated ingestion.
Eventually, sufferers can expect cancer, reproductive harm or failure, endocrine system problems and more.
Accordingly, you should try to buy organic varieties of squash whenever possible assuming you don’t grow your own.
In any case, make it a point to thoroughly wash any squash prior to serving it to your goats, or take the time to peel it entirely in order to help cut down on pesticide ingestion.
How Much Squash Can Goats Have?
Squash is definitely a healthy option for your goats but that does not mean it is something that they can have all the time.
Squash makes a good supplemental food, something like a healthy treat for them, but never a staple.
Assuming your goats are living on a good diet of grass, hay or silage about 25% of their total calorie intake can be made up of supplemental but nutritious foods in the form of fruits and vegetables.
Squash can make up a portion of that 25%, but shouldn’t be the whole portion.
Preparing Squash for Your Herd
The number one thing to keep in mind when preparing squash for your goats is to consider how difficult it will be for them to access the soft flesh within.
Assuming the squash is broken open, they are liable to eat the whole thing if the skin itself is not too tough but the flesh is what they are after.
You can break down raw squash into chunks or even dice it up into small pieces to make it really easy for them to eat.
Cook squash can be chunked or cut into cubes before or after cooking. Notably, cooking squash will soften the skin significantly, enticing goats to eat the entirety.
Can Baby Goats Have Squash, Too?
Yes, baby goats can have squash also with a few small considerations. First, any kid that can be fed at squash will be old enough to eat solid food for the entirety of their diet.
If they are still suckling milk, they aren’t old enough to try squash yet.
Also, keep in mind that baby goats are even more vulnerable to choking and general digestive system problems since they are still growing.
You want to reduce the quantity they are allowed to have even further, compared to adults, but also cut it up into even smaller pieces so they don’t struggle to chew or swallow it.
But, assuming those conditions are met baby goats can enjoy squash all the same.
Make Sure You Clean Up After Feeding Squash to Your Goats
Make it a point to clean up after your goats when you serve them squash. Squash is one of those foods that they are unlikely to eat up totally, and squash will also rot quickly when it is left lying around in the sun.
Any rotting produce might harm your goats if they come back around and eat it later, and it will also attract both rodent and insect pests, neither of which you want to hanging around your property or bothering your goats.
Clean up all the leftovers when they have had their fill and you can avoid both of these problems.
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.