SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Feeding goats

Goats are herbivores, but they differ from sheep and cattle that only eat grasses, as goat are browsers.

Being browsers means goats prefer to select specific parts of a variety of plants, and particularly like to eat plants that are higher up, such as shrubs, bushes and hedgerow plants. For this reason, goats do not make good ‘lawnmowers’ as they will not just eat grass, but prefer to reach up (into trees or shrubs) to forage.

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

Good, quality hay

  • This should form at least 50% of a goat’s diet and be provided throughout the year.
  • Use hayracks not 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 grass, leaves and branches and other non-poisonous, green plant material.
  • Try to feed a variety of different types of forage to keep your goats life interesting, but remember that many plants are poisonous to goats. If there is any doubt whether a plant is safe for your goats – do not feed it.


  • Fresh, clean water should be available for your goats at all times.
  • Water containers should be positioned so that goats are unable to knock over, defecate or urinate in them.

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 be a main component of your goat’s diet, as this can cause obesity and other health problems.
  • Speak to your veterinarian about whether your goats need any additional supplements.
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