Thursday, March 29, 2012

What My Goats Eat

Goats can eat anything!! Right? Hummm, I don't know about that. They will choose premium hay over stemy hay every time. They have very sensitive digestion as ruminants and guard their choices well. Given the freedom to chose what they browse on these are some of their choices....
Banjo Eating Licorice Fern
 Banjo enjoying some licorice fern. I observed that Lucy chose the licorice fern as a snack about 2 weeks before the boys decided to try it. Perhaps its because licorice fern often grows up the tree trunk and Lucy is taller and can reach them better. Maybe the boys are slow to trust and Lucy is just a pig.

Lucy Eating Male Alder Catkins
Lucy LOVES her male Alder catkins. What in tar nation is an Alder catkin? They are the reproductive parts of the Alder tree. The image below shows the male and female catkins. Lucy only likes the male catkins, probably because they have more nutritional value. BTW, you can eat them too, check out the website below.

Male Alder Catkin on left, Female Alder Catkin on right

Alder catkins contain protein, simple sugars, fat, starches, amino acids, over 40 vitamins and minerals and trace amounts of glucose oxidase, an antibacterial compound. Found this info on this site, thought the site was cool for other info too.

Lucy and possible a patch of Pacific Star Flower
 What is this? Lucy loves it too. I think its Pacific Star Flower but can't be sure. She nabs all she can get her lower teeth into. 

Note: Turns out Lucy and Banjo are eating Pacific Waterleaf

Banjo Eating Pacific Star Flower

Liken The Lichen
All the kids like lichen! They do have a preference over some than others. Lucy likes this kind (not sure of it's name) and lettuce lichen, lobaria pulmonaria I think.
Banjo enjoying some yummy lichen
 Though the boy like the lichen too, they like the small green fuzzy lichen. I guess identifying lichen is difficult and requires chemicals or a magnifying glass. If I say "like" or "lichen" one more time this will start feeling like a Dr. Sues story. Like, I know right!

Huck testing the fungus among us
 They do like the mushies! Gotta find a better hiding place for Arlen's Shiitake, they ate them all. Huck is nibbling on some of these tasty fungi on a rotten log. I've noticed that they will eat lichen and fungi but not moss.

A close up of the unknown fungus [insert ominous Wild Kingdom tune here]
 Not sure what rotten log or what fungus this is but the goats are still alive after eating.
Little Rascal

Of course they eat grain too! In fact they will eat grain until they bloat and get sick if we don't ration it.  We hang the chicken feeders up high when the goats are visiting but, they still seem to think they can reach it (actually, Lucy can). Look above Banjo's head, you can see one of the feeders there.

Hay Box Mayhem
They eat hay! Not just any hay, these guys are picky and want green leafy hay with some weeds, no stems please! And yes, that is Huck in the hay box, however, they don't go in the hay box since their hens (three hens like the goats and hang out with them) started laying in there. (also, I moved the mineral feeder to a better place, no more stepping in it)

Snacking on scraps
 They eat a great many things including table scraps but they pick through it and mostly eat the squash and peppers. 

Eating invasive Blackberries
There are native Blackberries and invasive Blackberries. Both are edible but some came from Europe and are not native to the area. The goats eat any and all kind of blackberry. We'll have to identify the native ones and manage the goats access to them. We want them to enjoy but not destroy.

Cedar makes great breath freshener
The goats love Cedar trees. They will nibble the needles and bark like it was a big chocolate cake. We noticed them ringing the bark on some of the smaller Cedars in the chicken paddock from the beginning. We guard those and let them munch the bigger, more established trees out back. They have the nicest smelling breath after munching on some vitamin cedar!

Coffee, can you blame them?
 First only Banjo was a freak for coffee, then Huck started in on it. Lucy still doesn't care for it. Oh, and they like it warm so don't bother offering your cold coffee up. Also, if its super cold out, they love for you to bring them warm water to drink.

Little Cuties
The myth that goats will eat anything comes from witnessing things like the photo above. Though it appears as if they are eating or trying to eat Arlen's tape measure and belt, they are not. Most goat owners will attest that they "mouth" everything but they do not eat everything. I've noticed that my goats use their mouth as a tool much like we would use our fingers as a tool. They get information from things by "mouthing" them. Its curiosity mostly. 

Little Secret

I personally think they express or communicate with their mouth. This photo appears as though Banjo is telling Mesa a secret but, the little secret is he's attempting to bite her ear (he opted not to in the end). The boys will bite Lucy's ears to protest her hogging the food or the best position in the hay box. They attempt to bite Mesa's ears to bully her and/or challenger her. If I sit with them for evening visits, inevitably Banjo will find my ears and try to bite them. Perhaps Banjo just wants my attention or he's being playful? Banjo likes to hold my finger in his mouth like a small child holding their parents finger. Lucy "mouths" my fingers when I am leaving for the evening, maybe to say good bye or to ask me not to go. Who knows?

Stinging Nettle (note the arrow)
 They won't, however, eat Stinging Nettle. That's fine with us, we'll eat it. They eat things they shouldn't like Rhododendron and sward fern too, both on the toxic species list. It is agreed that Rhododendron is a no no by most goat owners and I don't let them eat it if at all possible. However, I've found that ferns seem to have little effect on them, therefore, I don't prevent them from nibbling while browsing.  

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