When it comes to our goats, there are a lot of things we want to give them the benefit of the doubt on. But when it comes to bread – a staple in human diets for centuries – we start second-guessing ourselves. Can goats eat bread? Should they? What kind of bread is best for them? Our expert has all the answers!
There’s an old belief that goats can eat anything; however, this may not be entirely true in many cases! Indeed, in many cases, goats can be surprisingly fussy and finicky creatures with what they eat.
This is true both from a safety perspective and from a palatability forefront – which begs the question, can goats and bread go together, and if so, should goats eat bread anyway?
Can Goats Eat Bread?
First things first, the most pressing question to answer here is: can goats physiologically eat bread? Well, yes!
As a ruminant, goats can eat bread as their four stomachs are highly specialized toward a diet of roughages and forages. However, they can also handle and digest a smaller amount of starch-based feeds, which includes bread as long as they are not large quantities nor contaminated.
There’s a catch here, however. While a goat can absolutely digest bread, in small portions, you may not always be legally allowed to feed bread.
The rules vary from country to country, so we strongly recommend contacting your country’s department of agriculture to learn more about the requirements for feeding bread and bakery waste to goats.
Even if you only keep goats as pets, they are still classified as livestock animals and so must follow the regulations as such.
So, always check first what the specific regulations are in your country for feeding human-grade waste (such as old bread) to goats.
One point of interest here is that if you have ever fed your goats a specialist goat or livestock pellet, you may have actually been feeding them bread indirectly in that, as a large amount of bakery waste is used by feed mills for making cheap, affordable livestock feed.
Should Goats Eat Bread?
At this point, we now need to consider: should goats eat bread? While goats often absolutely adore bread, they should not necessarily eat it often.
Since bread contains such a high amount of starch and highly digestible carbohydrates, it can cause a spike in acidity in your goat’s stomach – remember, the rumen is designed to digest incredibly coarse fiber such as grass and stems, so bread really is a luxury it’s not well adapted for.
As such, if you do feed your goats bread (and you are legally allowed to), you should ideally choose brown bread that’s high in fiber and whole grains to slow down digestion and prevent a spike in your goat’s stomach acidity (called acidosis).
In addition, you should only feed a very small amount of bread, and if you suspect your goat might be unwell, contact your veterinarian for advice immediately – acidosis in goats can kill.
How Much of my Goat’s Diet Should be Made Up of Bread?
At this point, you may be wondering – how much of your goat’s diet should be made up of bread?
Well, ideally, none. Goats are not designed to eat easily digestible foods like bread, especially white bread.
However, if you want to feed your goat bread, a very small amount should be safe – a slice or so is unlikely to cause harm for an adult goat, but always be very careful again as there is no guarantee that feeding your goats bread will be safe.
Always Provide Plenty of Fresh Forage
If you choose to feed your goats any bread, it’s better to do so after allowing them to fill their stomachs with plenty of fresh, coarse forages such as grass, browse, hay, and/or straw.
This can help prevent the risk of a spike in rumen acidity after eating bread. Ideally, since goats are ruminants, they should have fresh forage available at all times anyway.
Never Feed Spoiled Bread to Goats
A goat will probably crunch through a piece of slightly stale bread pretty happily – but if the bread has spoiled and gone moldy or doesn’t smell fresh, don’t risk feeding it to your goats!
While goats can tolerate a very small amount of toxins in their diet, feeding moldy bread is a sure way to increase their chances of getting ill – which could, unsurprisingly, have a very poor prognosis.
If you’ve been looking for a new way to treat your beloved goats to a treat they’ll adore, bread might be one option that you’ve considered. Bread is a cheap and very filling treat for a goat, and they’ll often try to bite your hand off for it once they know what it is.
However, when attempting to feed any bread to goats, you must always check your country’s regulations on feeding bread and other such products to animals.
For example, in the UK, it may be illegal to feed bread to your goats if the bread has entered a residential kitchen or had any chance of coming into contact with meat products.
Therefore, before feeding any bread or human-grade feeds to your goats, always ensure you have the necessary licenses first.
And remember: bread should only ever be fed to goats as a treat and a very small part of their diet, as their rumens still require plenty of roughages and forage to stay working at peak performance.
A passionate owner and breeder of Boer Goats, Charlotte is ensconced in daily goat farm life at Himmon Boer Goats in the UK. A member of the British Boer Goat Society, she spends her spare time also involved with goats. You could say, and she would admit, she is somewhat obsessed!