There are many poisonous plants that most ruminants avoid but not goats, this leads to the question, “Can goats eat poison ivy?” Knowing that the plant can take over a pasture in a short while, and clearing it manually can be a problem since it contains oil that is an allergen to many people, causing rashes that last days; can goats help to remove them without causing any harm to themselves?
Yes, goats can eat poison ivy and help to get rid of that pesky plant in the pasture. Because of its oil that causes an allergic reaction in many humans, it may be impossible for you to cut this plant and bring it to your goats in their shed. They should rather go to the field and eat the foliage off.
You will understand why goats can eat poison ivy, the nutrients they get access to when they eat this plant and the safety of poison ivy for the different ages of goats. You will also know if goats can also eat the seeds of poison ivy.
Do Goats Enjoy Eating Poison Ivy?
Yes, goats eat poison ivy and they enjoy doing so, as though it is a regular plant with no hazard attached to its consumption. While other ruminants, such as sheep and cattle, cannot consume poison ivy without causing themselves to fall sick, goats browse the plant and feel no adverse effect it is known to have.
Goats enjoy poison ivy so much that they can help to control its growth in the pasture. The trick is to make them start early. They eat the leaves and when the leaves grow back, they repeat the process, forcing the plant to use up its root reserves to grow foliage. This helps you, as a homesteader, to easily manage the pasture or garden once the problematic weed, poison ivy, is gone.
They seemingly enjoy eating poison ivy because they are not sensitive to the allergen, Urushiol, contained in every part of the plant. They readily eat the leaves of the plant – whether it grows as a shrub or climbing vine – the fruits, and seeds of the plant.
Is Poison Ivy good to serve as a treat?
Treats for goats are fruits or food materials that are served to them in small quantities. They help to provide nutrients that are not sufficiently available in the main food materials of goats’ diet. Poison ivy is not easily harvested by humans due to its allergenic properties. However, goats can feed on them in the pasture.
Poison ivy can serve as a treat to goats, mainly because they are not usually around on the pasture for so long. This is because when goats feed on them, it takes some time before they grow back. However, when the goats feed on them, you can expect them to have more of the nutrients the main food materials, such as grains and hay, have in small quantities.
Can goats eat poison ivy seeds?
Poison Ivy plant produces fruits that are classified as berries. The fruits are produced in clusters and they bear resemblance to grapes. They are white and have seeds that are shaped like pumpkins, although smaller, with pale yellow rinds.
The fruits and seeds contain Urushiol but as goats, and most animals with coats on their skin, are insensitive to it, they can easily eat them as treats. Other animals, such as birds, that eat the fruits and fruits of poison ivy are usually unable to digest the seeds, thereby spreading the seeds. However, goats can easily chew the seeds and do not cause the spread of the plant.
Due to the small size of the seeds and the impossibility of having a human monitor their feeding while on the edge of woodlands, eating poison ivy, it is dangerous to allow younger goats to join the poison ivy-eating expenditure, as they may choke on the seeds.
Is poison ivy safe for young goats?
Adult goats can safely eat poison ivy – leaves, stem, and fruit – but it becomes tricky with younger goats, especially those that have just been weaned. While it is important to introduce them to these food materials early enough, their digestive system is not mature enough to try on poison ivy in the amount the adults can ingest.
Young goats are expected to be fed with milk, naturally from their doe-mothers or artificially with bottle drinkers. As they grow older, they can try on other treats and grains, in small quantities. However, with poison ivy, they should be exempted from consuming them till they are weaned.
Although there is no scientific research that states that poison ivy is unsafe for young goats, it is better to allow their digestive system to grow stronger to help them handle the allergen in the plant.
Preparing poison Ivy for your goats
It is unusual for a homesteader to harvest poison ivy for the consumption of his or her goats. They will rather have them go to the edge of woodlands where the plant grows and leave their goats to feed on them. However, in cases where the homesteader finds it safer to bring the leaves, stems, fruits, and seeds of poison ivy to their goats, their skin must be protected from contact with the plant.
You may want to separate the fruits from the leaves. Your goats may choose to eat the leaves and ignore the fruits or it may be the other way around. To avoid wastage, serve them the leaves, attached to the stem, first. You can serve them the fruits some other time.
If this method of feeding goats with poison ivy is employed, the homesteader can monitor the goats’ feeding, and the younger goats can be introduced to the plant earlier. Also, it reduces the stress of having to clean the goats after their adventure into the wild for poison ivy.
Feeding Poison Ivy to goats in moderation
The question of how much poison ivy should a goat consume has a vague answer. It is difficult to determine how much poison ivy a goat can consume before it can be passed as being beyond moderate. The idea of feeding goats with poison ivy is to help them supplement for insufficient nutrients in their diet. Generally, there are more vitamins and minerals in leaves and fruits than in some seeds, such as maize grains. Therefore, since there is limited information on the nutrients one can find in poison ivy, it is difficult to determine which nutrients goats can get from it.
However, ensure that your goats do not have access to poison ivy more than thrice a week. In other words, have your goats in the wild, eating poison ivy leaves, fruits, and seeds for as long as they remain interested in it. Afterward, lead them away from the site and have them return only after one or two days. This will help them process the unfamiliar biochemicals in the plant.
In cases where you harvest the plants for them and feed them in their barns, you can ration the quantity of poison ivy they eat so that they can have it about three times, or more, a week. For the younger goats, maintain the twice a week frequency.
Can poison ivy replace a goat’s daily food intake?
Poison ivy is a plant that is available all year. Its leaves, stems, fruits, and seeds are edible and safe for goats. However, they are not meant to replace goats’ daily food intake. Goats are herbivores and they depend on different parts of plants to supply the nutrients they need. Although poison ivy is a plant, it cannot supply all the nutrients your goats need to function properly.
Feed your goats with poison ivy as a treat and not as a replacement for their daily food intake. This is mainly because poison ivy isn’t abundant in all essential nutrients. Also, although goats are unaffected by Urushiol, they should consume it in little quantity, to be on the safe side.
Alternative fruits to feed your goat
While it may seem insufficient that your goats eat poison ivy only a few times a week, they can feed on other fruits and vegetables on days they’re off poison ivy. Some of these fruits include pumpkin, strawberries, watermelon, and grapes, among others. These fruits are abundant in vitamins and minerals that improve the productivity of your goats.
Vegetables your goats can use as mineral supplements include carrots, potatoes, and cabbage, among others. They will help your herd improve their overall health.
Poison ivy is widely known for its cause of dermatitis in humans, due to the presence of the biochemical, Urushiol. However, it has been established that some herbivores, including goats, are not affected by this chemical. This makes it possible for you to reduce the population of the noxious weed by allowing your goats to eat them.
Goats can eat the leaves, fruits, and seeds of the plant. Although there is insufficient information about the nutrients poison ivy contains, they will help to improve the health and productivity of your herd. Allow your goats access to poison ivy about thrice a week and the young goats, twice a week.