SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Feeding goats

Goats are ruminant herbivores and differ from sheep and cattle in that goats are browsers.

Goats are ruminant herbivores and differ from sheep and cattle in that goats are browsers, therefore show different feeding behaviours. Being a browser means that goats prefer to browse and eat a variety of plant parts and plants, such as shrubs, bushes, trees (e.g. willows and tree lucerne), hedgerow plants and plant weeds – as opposed to pasture. Although, they will still eat a lot grass if that is all that is available for them.

Goats also tend to avoid food that is dirty or that other animals may have been in contact with or walked over it

Each day, a goat’s diet should consist of:

Good quality hay

  • This should form at least half of a goat’s diet and be provided throughout the year.

  • Use hayracks as opposed to hay nets, as goats can become tangled in nets.

Browse or forage

  • This should make up 25-50% of the goats’ diet (depending on their physiological stage) and include grasses, leaves and branches and other non-poisonous, green plant material.
  • Try to feed a variety of different types of forage to keep your goat’s life interesting, but remember that there are some plants that are poisonous to goats. If there is any doubt as to whether a plant is safe for your goats – do not feed it to your goats.
  • Assume that all garden shrubs are a potential danger to goats.

Pelleted goat feed can also be considered a safe enjoyable part of your goat’s diet, and can help to prevent any mineral or vitamin deficiencies.


  • Fresh, clean water should be available at all times for your goats.

  • Water containers should be positioned so that goats are unable to knock over, defecate or urinate in their drinkers

Supplementary feed

  • Concentrates (e.g. grains) can be given in small amounts to growing or milking goats, or when forage is in short supply, but should not form the main component of your goat’s diet, as this can cause obesity and other health problems.

  • Depending on whether your goat is pregnant, a milking goat, young or sick or underweight, they may require supplementary feeding – in this case contact your veterinarian for further advice.

  • Speak to your veterinarian about the nutritional requirements of your goats and they need any additional supplements.

A properly fed goat will be much healthier (and happier), and able to fight off sickness and parasites much more easily

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