Raising goats in your homestead or farm is fun until one of them starts feeding on the trees’ leaves and stripping off the bark of the trees.
While that’s a normal thing for goats, that can damage the trees in the long run, so you probably wonder how to keep goats from eating trees.
But don’t worry!
In this guide, we’ll help you goat-proof your trees to protect them from your ruminants.
Specifically, you’ll discover:
- 9 tips on how to stop goats from eating trees
- 4 reasons why goats feed on trees and tree bark, and
- 11 trees goats love to gorge on
So, if you want to protect your trees from your voracious ruminants, you came to the right place.
After all, we curated this guide to help you.
So without further ado, let’s discuss how to stop goats from eating tree bark.
How to Keep Goats From Eating Trees?
If you have a massive area for your goats, you probably wouldn’t mind them eating the trees.
But if you want to protect fruit trees and other valuable kinds of trees in your area, here are some ways to protect them from your ruminants.
1. Set Up a Fence
If you have a separate pasture area for goats and for your garden or fruit trees, it’s best to set up a fence to keep your goats from accessing the trees.
However, goats are intelligent creatures and excellent escape artists, so they will surely look for some ways to reach the trees they want to access.
They might try to climb, get through holes, or crawl under woven wire or wooden fencing.
Some are even smart enough to learn how to open the gates.
So we recommend choosing solar-powered electric fences that are at least 4 feet tall to contain your goats in one area.
Naughty goats might get electrocuted, but they’ll soon realize that they better stay in their area to avoid it.
2. Wrap the Trees
If fencing isn’t practical in your area, here’s another tip on how to protect trees from goats: goat-proof your trees.
This is effective, especially for large trees.
However, you must ensure that the wrap isn’t too tight because goat-proofing can inhibit tree growth.
There are three wrap materials for goat-proofing you can choose from:
Plastic green screen
You can easily find this in your local pet store or hardware; installation is a breeze.
Simply wrap them around the trees and hook them with wire or plastic strips.
Hardware cloth or rabbit wire
This is tougher and more rigid than plastic, and you can easily attach them to trees or posts in the ground surrounding the trees.
However, the downside is it’s more expensive and doesn’t fit the way plastic gutter covers do.
And if you attach it directly to the tree, it might inhibit the outward growth of the tree.
Hard-plastic tree guards
This is another cost-effective option for goat-proof trees.
Tree guards come in different designs and help keep deer, goats, and rodents from stripping bark off the trees.
But how high should the wrap or tree guard be?
Since goats can stand on their hind legs to reach higher areas, the wrap should be at least 5 to 6 feet high.
However, if the trees are short, the wraps won’t be enough to protect their leaves and branches.
3. Fence the Plants
If fencing the whole area costs a lot and wrapping the short trees doesn’t work for you, it may be better to build a fence around the trees.
You can use hardware cloth or welded wire fencing for this, but it should still be 5- to 6-foot-tall.
As for the staking material, it should be 12 to 18 inches away from the tree’s trunk.
4. Provide Proper Nutrition
Goats eat tree bark in excess, but if they have other options to satisfy their cravings for the lacking nutrients in their diet, they’ll leave the trees alone.
5. Give Them Cut or Dead Trees
Now we’re down to our fifth tip on how to keep goats away from trees.
If they still crave trees, don’t worry; your goat is not a hopeless case.
Give them cut or dead trees that can satisfy them, or add twigs to their regular feed.
It can help reduce their chances of attacking live trees in your farm or garden.
6. Attach GPS Collars
If fencing is too expensive, here’s another clever trick to keep your goats away from eating trees and tree bark—attach a GPS collar to your ruminant’s neck.
But how can it help you protect your trees from your ruminants?
GPS collars track the goats’ location and warn them when they get close to trees.
This can also help you observe your ruminants from afar and manage them in an effective way in protected areas.
7. Utilize Bitter Apple or Dog Spray
Another clever way to prevent goats from eating trees is by spraying bitter apple or dog spray on the surface of the wood or bark.
This trick is also effective in discouraging ferrets from biting people and dogs.
8. Elevate Your Troughs
Since goats are browsers, they prefer eating their food way above the ground.
So make your feed more attractive by elevating the troughs.
This can also help you stop them from eating wood or tree bark.
9. Give Them Some Boredom Busters
Some goats attack trees out of boredom.
So, prepare toys that they could play with when they’re bored.
There’s a wide range of options you can choose from, and you don’t even have to spend a single buck because you can DIY some goat enrichment toys such as:
- scratching posts
- hay feeder
- multiple steps and ramps
- headbutting toys like inflatable punching bags
Why Do Goats Eat Trees?
We know goats aren’t picky, but why do goats eat tree bark?
Here are some potential reasons why ruminants attack trees.
1. Lack of Feed and Nutrient Deficiency
Goats usually feed on hay, fruits, cereals, straw, commercial goat feed, and fresh grass.
But they will eat wood or trees if they don’t have enough feed to eat and if they’re experiencing calcium deficiency in the hope of satisfying their nutritional needs.
That’s why you need to make sure their needs are met.
2. Habit or Influence
Just as the feather-picking habits of a hen can be picked up and imitated by other chickens, goats may also develop habits from seeing other herd members.
So if one of your goats eats wood, others who saw her will follow and develop the habit of feeding on trees.
Bored goats may also try to eat trees or tree bark just to entertain themselves.
They may also push the fences, chew on posts, or develop aggressive or territorial behavior due to stress or anxiety.
That’s why they need toys for mental stimulation.
4. Restricted Space
Keeping your goats locked up can make them feel restricted, urging them to vent their frustration in the woods, or they might try to eat their way out.
But have you ever wondered how goats’ habit of eating tree bark affects their system and the trees?
We’ll dig into that below.
What Happens When Goats Eat Trees?
Goats start off by browsing on the leaves and shoots of the trees; then, they work their way down to the bark by stripping them off.
And sometimes, they even rub their horns on the trees.
While goats may seem to enjoy doing it, that actually damages and eventually kills the trees.
They can’t deliver nutrients and water to the trunk, branches, and foliage, and they will eventually dry up without the bark.
But that’s not the only concern.
Even though goats can digest wood, they may still suffer from upset stomachs, especially when they eat too much wood.
Some types of trees, like the cedar bark, can cause digestive issues in goats.
And if your ruminants keep on eating tree bark, they may experience nutrient deficiency and may lose interest in their nutritionally balanced feed.
What Trees Do Goats Like to Eat?
In this section, we’ll discuss what kinds of trees goats love to feed on.
If you’ve planted them inside your goat’s pasture area, it’s best to goat-proof them if your ruminants haven’t touched them yet.
The hazel tree is a deciduous shrub or small tree native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa.
It is known for its distinctive, elongated, oval-shaped leaves that are slightly serrated along the edges.
The hazel tree produces edible nuts enclosed in a woody, husk-like shell.
These nuts are often used in cooking and baking and are popular as a snack.
Though the Hazel tree is safe for your herd, note that some parts of the Hazel tree, such as the leaves and branches, can be toxic to goats if ingested in large quantities.
Therefore, limiting their access to hazel trees and monitoring their grazing habits around them is recommended.
It is always best to consult with a veterinarian or livestock specialist for specific advice on the safety of hazel trees for goats in your region.
An Elm tree is a deciduous tree native to Europe, Asia, and North America known for its distinctive shape and large leaves that turn yellow in the fall.
Many goats like to feed on the leaves and bark of this tree.
But, it’s still best to consult with a veterinarian or an expert in goat nutrition to determine which trees are safe for goats to be around.
This tree, also known as sallows and osiers, is a deciduous and shrub type of tree in the genus Salix with 350 species.
It usually grows in cold and temperate regions with moist soil.
Willow’s bark and sap have water with salicylic acid contents.
It is also soft, usually pliant, tough wood with slender branches and large, fibrous, often stoloniferous roots.
Goats love this kind of tree because it’s one of their alternative foods when grass runs out in winter.
Raspberry plants are small fruit-bearing shrubs or cane that produce delicious red or black berries.
They are usually grown in gardens or farms for their sweet and juicy fruit, which can be eaten fresh, used in baking and cooking, or turned into jams and preserves.
Raspberry plants are easy to grow and care for and can be a great addition to any home garden or orchard.
But is this tree safe for your goats?
Besides raspberry fruit, its leaves are also edible and safe for your goats.
In fact, it provides many health benefits to your herd.
The Bramble plant belongs to the rose family, Rosaceae, along with raspberries and blackberries.
Though it has thorns, it produces a juicy and delicious fruit.
It has perennial crowns and roots with biennial canes where the fruits grow.
Goats love picking these plants and enjoy gorging on them.
The Ash or Fraxinus belongs to the Lilac family, which has 45 to 65 species.
This is a medium-sized deciduous tree with subtropical and evergreen species.
The wood of this tree is used to make handles for axes and spades, hockey sticks, oars, flooring, and rackets.
But they’re more than just that.
They also make good food for goats; ash leaf consumption can also help enhance goats’ productivity.
Hawthorn, or Crataegus, is also a member of the Rosaceae family.
It mostly grows in temperate regions of Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North America.
Its fruit can be chutneys, liquors, wine, ketchup, jams, fruits, leather, sweets, and jellies.
And when it is dried, it can be used in bread.
Hawthorn are like berries, which explains why any goats love this plant.
In fact, its white flowers are also edible for goats.
Blackthorn and Hawthorn are from the same family of Rosaceae and grow in the same regions.
However, it has become locally naturalized in New Zealand, the Pacific Northwest, Tasmania, and New England areas of the United States.
Blackthorns can be used to make syrups and tonics, which are helpful to cleanse blood, improve digestion, and relieve rheumatism.
A dog rose tree is a flowering plant that produces beautiful pink or white flowers.
The plant is also known as Rosa canina and is a member of the rose family.
It is commonly found in Europe and Asia and is often used in landscapes and gardens due to its attractive appearance.
The dogrose tree is also used for medicinal purposes, with its fruit and leaves used to treat various ailments.
It is a lovely and useful plant in your garden or outdoor space and a great treat to the members of your herd.
Sycamore is a deciduous tree commonly found in North America, Europe, and Asia.
It is known for its large, broad leaves and distinctive bark, peeling away in patches to reveal a white or cream-colored layer underneath.
Sycamore trees can get quite tall, with some reaching heights of up to 100 feet.
They are also used in landscapes and gardens because they are attractive and provide shade for outdoor spaces.
They are nontoxic, so they’re perfectly safe for your goats.
However, sycamore seeds are poisonous to animals, so that’s something you should be wary of.
Limes belong to the citrus family, along with lemon, which bears round and sour, acidic juice fruit.
The fruit is beneficial because it’s a very good anti-oxidant that helps reduce inflammation and prevent chronic illnesses.
But is it safe for your goats? Yes.
The leaves and fruits of limes are safe for goats.
However, the fruits are acidic, so we don’t recommend giving them to your ruminants.
Now that you know what trees goats enjoy the most, let’s discuss what they should avoid.
Although goats have natural instinct that helps them avoid toxic plants and trees, it’d still help if you know which trees are harmful to them.
So, let’s dig into that.
What Trees Can Goats Not Eat?
As a general, you need to avoid evergreens which contain high amounts of tannin and resin that disrupt the rumen microbes.
Other trees goats should avoid are:
- Bitter almond
- Black locust
- Chinaberry tree
- Golden chain tree
- Holly trees and bushes
- Honey mesquite
- Kentucky coffee tree
- Laurel trees and shrubs
- Plum branches and leaves
- Ponderosa pine
- Red maples
- Red pine
- Rhododendron (highly fatal)
- Savin juniper
- Sugar gums and many eucalyptus
- Wild cherry
- Both African and Japanese Yew
You may find some of these trees in your region or even in your own property or homestead, especially the Prunus family consisting of plums, cherries, peaches, apricots, and almonds.
However, you need to keep your goats away from them because they can cause significant distress to your ruminant when consumed wilted.
On the other hand, bitter almond leaves contain cyanogenic diglucoside amygdalin, a compound that releases toxic hydrogen cyanide in animals.
FAQs About Keeping Goats’ Eating Habits
Why is my goat chewing on wood?
Goats are natural browsers, not grazers; that’s why they prefer eating feed that is way above the ground, like tree barks and branches, than those below them, like grasses.
So if you want to attract goats and prevent them from eating wood, you must elevate your troughs.
Is it normal for goats to eat bark off trees?
Don’t be surprised when you spot your goat gorging on the bark of the trees because they’re naturally voracious eaters who consume almost anything in sight except the toxic plants.
While it’s completely normal for them to chew on the wood and bark of trees, that doesn’t mean it’s good for them because it can also cause adverse health effects.
Why are goats always chewing?
Goats are chewing cud all day long to break down their food further and stimulate digestion.
This ruminating process is a natural part of their digestive process and is a sign that your goats are relaxed and happy.
How do I stop my goats from eating my plants?
One of the most effective ways of deterring goats from eating flowers and plants is by applying cow, goat, pig dung or anything unpleasant to the plants.
But it may not be practical all the time, so it’s best to put up a fence that will prevent them from getting near the plants.
Final Tips on How to Keep Goats From Eating Trees
And that’s a wrap for this guide on how to keep goats from eating trees.
We hope this has been helpful for you!
As stated earlier, you must set up a fence, wrap your trees, attach a GPS collar, or apply bitter apple to protect trees from goats.
If you think your goat attacks trees out of boredom, it’s best to provide them with toys.
But if they lack nutrients, add more nutritionally balanced feed to their diet.
It’d also help if you could give your ruminants more space so that they won’t feel restricted.
This way, you can protect trees from goats and keep your ruminants’ guts healthy as well.