Why Do Goats Eat Tree Bark

Why Do Goats Eat Tree Bark

Goats need shade in summer just like any other creature, but if you let them too close to your trees, they may eat the bark off. Once your goats strip a ring of bark off a tree, it will die because it cannot pass nutrients properly.

This isn’t good for the tree and the goats. Why do goats eat tree bark?

Goats eat tree bark because they are incredibly well-adapted foragers with strong stomachs and a big appetite. Goats are browsers, and because they don’t know any better, will consume almost anything in sight. They eat whatever looks like it might be good food, which includes bushes, trees, and plants.

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Why Do Goats Eat Bark

The most straightforward answer to ‘why do goats eat bark’ is ‘because they can.’ It sounds like a foolish answer with little thought behind it, but if you’ve ever been around goats, it’s apt.

Goats have no discernment at all. They put any organic plant matter they can find, from tree bark to your favorite cotton shirt, in their mouths and chew.

Goats don’t necessarily seek out trees as a food source and strip the bark. Unfortunately, their feeding habits are a lot less thoughtful than that.

Mostly goats eat whatever looks like it might be good. A goat will eat two to seven pounds of hay per day, depending on the type of goat and whether it produces milk.

In the absence of hay or the presence of other available snack foods, goats will eat the plants they find. The positive side of this is that goats will eat a lot more than tree bark.

They can help control invasive, fast-growing species like kudzu.

Regrettably, a goat’s weird habit of chewing tree bark is very destructive to the tree. Moreover, it’s not a good idea to allow them to continue.

Instead, redirect your goats to a healthier meal somewhere away from the trees. Otherwise, you’ll end up with accidentally ring barked trees.

The practice of ringbarking or stripping a ring of bark all the way around a tree can kill it.

As Trees Down Under explains, “Originally, people used ring barking as a way to control the tree population and thin forests without felling the tree. In simpler terms, ring barking kills trees. The portion above the ringbark dies if the tree does not recover from the wound. It also compromises the immunity of the tree and places it under stress. Moreover, phloem disruption also alters the food and nutrient appropriation of the tree.”

Is Bark Bad For Goats

Goat stomachs are evolved to digest grasses and hay. While that won’t stop them from eating other plants if they can reach them, it’s generally best to have your goats eat what is natural rather than anything or everything available. Bark can be very bad for goats.

Your goats probably enjoy tender new tree bark. However, the older bark tends to be tough and can damage their intestinal lining or stomachs.

Moreover, a few species of trees, like oaks, especially white oaks, can cause toxicity if your livestock swallows too much of them.

If you suspect or find evidence that your goats have had a lot of white oak bark, you may want to take them to see the vet. Happily, eating oak bark doesn’t usually cause permanent damage.

However, according to River Road Veterinary, “Acorn poisoning most commonly occurs in sheep but can also affect horses, cattle, and goats. It is caused by eating an excessive amount of acorns, oak leaves, or branches from an oak tree… The poisoning that is caused by the acorns can do severe damage to the gastrointestinal system, liver, and kidneys.”

Keep your goats away from oak trees for their health and that of the trees. Likewise, cedar bark can cause your goats to have stomach trouble, so it’s best to avoid that as well.

How Much Tree Bark Will Goats Eat

Some goats will only chew on a little bit of tree bark. Especially when they are well-fed, eating random things such as tree bark becomes somewhat less attractive to goats.

However, they never wholly stop eating whatever looks nice to them. It is usual for goats to do exploratory foraging and continue eating all day.

A small goat may only eat a pound or two of food on an average day. However, larger goats and mainly milking goats are prone to bigger meals.

If your milking goat can eat seven pounds of hay or kudzu, then she can probably also eat seven pounds of bark, though it wouldn’t be as tasty or easy to get.

How To Stop Goats From Eating Tree Bark

If goats have access to tree bark, they will eat it. Although goats don’t always ringbark trees, they will still chew on them if they share space.

Unfortunately, it’s not favorable for their health, so I’ve collected a couple of different ways to stop and reduce goats from eating tree bark.

  • Provide lots of healthy food. As I mentioned, this will not stop the goats from chewing, but it can significantly reduce their assault on your trees until you can do more to stop them.
  • Install fences to keep goats away from the trees. Depending on your setup, simply placing a high fence between the goats and the trees might be enough to do the job. However, it would be best to keep in mind that goats are superb climbers and jumpers.
  • Protect the tree trunk with a screen. You can opt to wrap the tree from ground level to well above where the goats can reach when they stand on their hind legs with a mesh screen.

Helpful Tips To Know About Why Goats Eat Tree Bark

Goats eat all the time, and when they have access to trees, they eat tree bark. Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly a healthy habit for the goats or the trees.

Here are more helpful tips to know about why goats eat tree bark.

  • Animal repellant may help keep your goats away from trees and stop them from eating the bark, but it’s not a guarantee. Because goats have an extremely strong stomach and strong personal odor, scent-based deterrents aren’t the best option.
  • Chewing on the bark isn’t the only way your goats will damage trees. They also enjoy rubbing their horns against the trunk and may even strip the leaves if they are within reach.
  • Plastic mesh tree guards that work well on deer are also less effective against goats. Plastic isn’t a goat’s favorite food, but it won’t stop them. More importantly, the jagged plastic pieces can cause your goat’s internal trauma as it passes through their digestive tract.

Final Thoughts

Goats don’t think much before they eat. If something looks like a plant or smells like food, these foraging herbivores will taste test it.

Even extremely well-fed and cared for goats will chew on tree bark. It’s in their nature. Unfortunately, letting your goats chew on the trees is terrible for both.

Trees die if you strip a ring of bark around the trunk, and goats can have digestive damage from eating tough, woody bark. The best solution is to keep your goats away from your tree trunks with fences or protective metal mesh.

Ted Smith

My name is Ted Smith and I’m the creator of AnimalThrill.com. I have a passion for educating people about animals and wildlife. I have been working with the National Wildlife Federation for the past 10 years and I became a wildlife blogger to help people become excited about animals and encouraged to care for these wonderful creatures.

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