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Fun facts about goats grazing habits

Estimated reading time: 10 minute(s)

Goat is one of the world’s smallest domesticated livestock, have been actively managed for food and fiber earlier and longer than cattle and sheep. The goat is a a multipurpose animal to provide milk, meat, hide,  fur and manure for soil. 

Goats are animals that easily adapt to different pasture types, so therefore we often refer to them as “opportunistic animals”.

Goats are primarily browsers. They browse shrubs to a far greater degree than sheep or cattle. Goats used to spend 61% of their active feeding time browsing and 39% grazing grass and forbs.

Browsing lifestyle

  • Goats are very active foragers, able to cover a wide area in search of scarce plant materials. 
  • They have mobile upper lips and tongues that enable them to pick small leaves, flowers, fruits and other plant parts even between thorns thus choosing only the most nutritious available feed.
  • Ability to stand on their hind legs stretch up for long period to browse tree leaves.
  • They can even climb trees in order to reach parts of tree they prefer.
  • Utilize rough, mountainous area which sheep and cattle avoid.
  • Goats do not graze so low on the ground as sheep and cattle do, goats preferred grazing range is between 10-150 cm grass heights.

The goat’s ability to select higher quality feedstuff.

  • Mainly tree, shrub leaves and grasses.
  • Browse is the preferred feed of goats.
  • The preference of goats for consuming browse can be used on the control of bush encroachment.
  • Control the re-growth of chopped-down bushes.
  • Goat browse vegetation from the top downwards while sheep follow the opposite pattern.
  • 80% of intake can be browse.
  • Where browse is not available, goats are capable of utilizing grass and other crop residues such as cereal straws
  • Can walk long distances in search of feed.
  • They choose forage.

Feeding habits of goats

  • Can distinguish between sweet, sour, bitter and salty.
  • Show a higher tolerance for bitter tasting feed than most other ruminant e.g. cattle.
  • Goats are usually blamed for the deterioration of veld actually caused by other animals.
  • Do not thrive well on single feed for long time.
  • Prefer to select from a variety of feeds.
  • Nibble at shoots and leaves of growing plants, reject stems.
  • Less susceptible to intestinal disease.

Feeding habits of goats depends on the following:

  • Ecology.
  • Season of the year in the same location.
  • Availability of forages.
  • Diurnal patterns: In general, morning feeding periods are dominated by browsing while grazing is the dominant activity during the afternoon. 

Grazing lifestyle

  • Goats exhibit very rapid seasonal shifts between shrubs, grasses and forbs, depending on availability and their seasonal nutritive value.
  • Select grasses when the protein content and digestibility are high, but to switch to browse when the latter overall nutritive value may be higher. 
  • Goats are capable of adapting their grazing preferences to the availability of grass and bush.
  • When bushes decrease, the goats feed increasingly on grass.
  • Less selective in their grazing habits.
  • More flexible on their grazing habits.
  • Consume certain pioneer grasses, hardy grasses and unpalatable shrubs refused by sheep.
  • Can efficiently digest coarse and fibrous feeds.


Sheep, goats and cattle and other livestock animals have different grazing behaviors

Among the ruminant species, goats are able to survive and even flourish in extremely hostile environments. These factors  combined with dietary versatility, adaptability and a hardy constitution have made goats a primary livestock animal for most of the world. Goat farming can be profitable occupation of a farmer and, in some rural areas, plays an important role to control bush encroachment.


Select & Start Your Own Industry, by NPCS Board of Consultants & Engineers, pag. 217

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