Why Do Goats Eat Wood

Why Do Goats Eat Wood

For many types of livestock, eating wood is a worrisome indication of mineral deficiencies or lack of necessary salt. Happily, this is not the case for goats, which are known for their penchant for eating everything.

A goat will try almost any plant it can get a bite of at least once, including trees. Why do goats eat wood?

Goats eat wood because they are hardy, well-adapted foragers who can derive nutrition from almost any plant source they can chew. Like a cow, goats have a ruminant digestive system with four chambers or stomachs and a surprisingly complex internal system for extracting nutrients. Ruminants are well known for their ability to survive on food others can’t process.

Why Is My Goat Eating Wood

Your goat is eating wood because it looks and smells like food to them. Wood comes from trees, which are plants, and thus something a goat is willing to taste test.

While it may seem odd to you and me, to the goats, foraging for anything that seems like it was part of a plant once is just a lifestyle. It’s a quirk of their biology.

Can Goats Eat Wood

Goats can eat wood, though it’s not always a good idea. Some species of trees like oak and cedar are unhealthy for goats.

Although the goats are hardy and have very tough constitutions, these particular tree species may cause unnecessary digestive upset and pain.

A goat is capable of chewing and digesting wood. However, it’s better to avoid and discourage his behavior generally. Wood splinters and the chunks can be pretty sharp.

Unfortunately, that means that any wood could damage your goat’s digestive tract.

Do Goats Eat Wood Fences

Not only do goats eat wood fences, but many professionals recommend using metal fences for this reason. Goats are not discerning, and they don’t care that a fence is essential to you.

They only know that it smells like plants matter; therefore, they can eat it.

Regrettably, many wooden fences are made out of treated wood. The chemicals used in the treatment process are not healthy for animals and could make your goats ill.

Please keep this in mind if you are building a new fence for a goat enclosure.

Do Goats Eat Wood Chips

Goats are happy to eat wood chips. Since pine shavings and other wood chips are often used for goat bedding, they have ready access to the chips, and many enjoy them.

In nature, brush, twigs, and even tree branches would be part of their natural browsing and eating habits.

Domestic goats have all the same urges and instincts, but they may not have access to trees. As a result, they may chew on wood chips.

There’s no reason to be concerned about this behavior. It’s normal for goats to nibble on small amounts of wood.

Moreover, wood chips lack the bark and longer fibers that can damage their digestive walls more easily. While I wouldn’t recommend feeding goats wood chips, it’s okay if they get into a few on their own.

Ensure that the chips they can reach aren’t treated wood, cedar, or oak.

Do Goats Eat Wood Pellets

Goats will eat wood pellets. Most of the time, you encounter pellets as a part of horse bedding, but they also work when mixed with other bedding for goats.

The pellets soak up urine well and fluff up, making cleanup a little easier.

However, you should keep other wood pellets away from goats, such as those you might put into a meat smoker. Not only is it a waste of good smoker pellets, but some smoker pellets are treated to flavor the smoke.

Goats don’t need flavoring agents in their food, and you should never let them eat something unless you are a hundred percent sure it’s okay for them to digest.

What Happens When A Goat Eats Wood

When a goat eats wood it starts out in the mouth. Goats have powerful jaws and teeth that are great for grinding and mulching up tough materials like wood, hay, and grasses.

The wood combines with saliva to make a damp, but still rough wood paste which the goat can swallow.

According to Goat Nutrition, “The reticulum and rumen form a large fermentation vat that contains microorganisms, mainly bacteria, that breakdown and digest feedstuffs, including the fibrous component of grass, forbs, and browse that cannot be digested by monogastric animals. Some of the breakdown products produced through digestion of feed by bacteria are absorbed by the animal through the rumen wall and can supply a large part of the energy needs.”

After this initial process the remains, ruminal microorganisms, and undigested feed move into the omasum. This part of the goat’s digestive process reabsorbs water and breaks down large particles further.

Beyond that is the abomasum which works more like a human stomach, using acid for digestion. The goat’s body extracts nutrients here.

The final step in digestion is making poop. The waste is comprised of whatever remains your goat’s body doesn’t need including wood, other digested food, and even used blood cells.

Any water from the wood will eventually get urinated out as well.

The downside to eating wood or bark is that the pieces are especially difficult to process, even for a goat. There’s some risk of damage to the goat’s intestinal tract.

That said, many goats dine regularly on wood without issue. Please take your livestock to the vet or emergency animal hospital immediately if you suspect something they’ve eaten is causing them pain.

Helpful Tips To Know About Why Goats Eat Wood

Goats eat wood because they can and because it’s part of their nature. Goats would browse and chew on different plants in a natural setting, including trees, eating bark, leaves, and sticks.

Here are some other helpful tips to know about why a goat eats wood.

  • Goats are not picky about which woods they will eat. A bored goat may decide to chew on your barn or the siding of a wooden house. Make sure your goats have plenty of variety, healthy food, and lots of enrichment activities to keep them busy.
  • The ability to digest wood and derive nutritional value from it is a great survival skill. In winter, there’s not a lot of grass or greenery for herbivores to eat, but there are still trees available. Ruminant eaters have a distinct advantage over creatures that require less hardy food sources.
  • According to Farmhouse Guide, “Even though goats can eat and digest wood, they should not eat too much of it. Too much wood eaten by goats will encourage the growth of microbes that specialize in digesting wood while reducing the population of microbes that can digest other feeds… they might get a nutrient deficiency. They will eat less of their nutrient-rich feed and the nutrients they do ingest will be absorbed more slowly.”

Final Thoughts

It’s perfectly normal for goats to eat some wood. However, you don’t want to encourage the behavior as it can quickly become problematic or destructive.

Some types of wood, like cedar or treated wood, can cause goat intestinal distress. Plus, goats who are allowed to eat wood indiscriminately can kill trees and cause significant property damage.

Offer goats more variety in their diet, provide enrichment to keep them from getting bored, and steer them away from wood chewing activities whenever possible.

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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