By Patricia Grotenhuis
Many storybooks show goats eating everything around them, including tin cans. It’s a common myth.
When I was 9, I bought my first goat, and had my own herd for 14 years. I did see the goats eat a number of things over those years, but they had a very definite eating pattern – which didn’t include tin cans.
If they did come across a tin can, they would probably get much more enjoyment out of stepping on it and listening to the sound of the tin crinkling than anything else.
Goats are browsing animals, not grazers like cattle and sheep, so goats like treats of leaves, cedar branches, and weeds in their pasture, much like a deer. They take a lot of time to search out the best snacks. They will often stand on their hind legs to reach the best part of foliage that may be out of reach to other types of livestock like sheep.
If they lived in a natural habitat, outdoors in a range-like area, their eating habits allow them to survive even the toughest times of the year, when they can resort to eating woody plants to maintain their protein and energy needs.
They would also eat a variety of plants growing in their pasture. At times, the young corn field would prove too tempting for the fence to be able to hold them back.
When I arrived with grain and hay to feed them twice daily, they would be so excited that they’d bunch around my legs. Often they were so close that I could barely walk at times. They definitely loved to eat, but only nourishing things like grasses, grains, and leaves.
I do remember my goats eating one strange thing, though – thistles. Not the big thistles that were up around my waist but the young, tender ones. Rotating the goats through different pasture fields was a much easier way of controlling those prickly thistles than trying to cut them down later. The goats ate them like they were a delicacy.
Goats do nibble a lot. My toque was constantly being ripped off of my head by a playful doe or kid while I was trying to break ice off of the water tank or filling the feeders with grain. They would also pull at my jacket or shirt on a regular basis. They never did eat the material, though. They were content just to nibble.
Yes, goats do eat a lot of things, and like to nibble, but tin cans just don’t fit into their diets.