Goats are notorious for eating everything. But just because they eat it doesn’t mean it’s safe or healthy for them (laundry being a great example!). If your goats have accidentally eaten some grapes or you’re thinking about feeding them grapes, you may be wondering, can goats eat grapes? Is it safe?
We can tell you emphatically, yes. Grapes are safe for goats– in moderation. But before you convert your pasture land to a vineyard, let’s talk more about what moderation means cause too much of a good thing can be bad.
Can Goats Eat Grapes?
Let’s start by talking about goat digestion. Goats are ruminants, which means they digest their food in multiple stomachs. There are microbes in their stomachs that help them digest the plants they eat using fermentation. But unlike other ruminants that are grazers, goats are browsers. That means they like to wander around and eat many different plants.
If your goats are currently consuming a healthy diet, then there should be no concerns about adding grapes to their diet as a treat. They are in no way toxic, and in fact, the whole plant is edible, including the stems and seeds.
The only thing to really worry about is the sugar content in grapes. While your goats may love their juicy sweetness, they need to watch their sugar intake just like we do. Too much sugar and carbohydrates in your goats’ diet can lead to rumen acidosis (1). This occurs when there is rapid fermentation of carbohydrates in the first stomach. While this condition is usually found in goats that are switching from forage to grain, high sugar foods like grapes can be a factor.
While grapes have some health benefits for your goats, to keep them healthy, you should limit sugary fruits like grapes to a once a week snack. And if they are unable to forage, make sure you are also feeding them the best hay for goats.
Types of Grapes
There are many different types of grapes out there. They have different flavors, some sweeter, others tarter, as well as coming seeded and unseeded. Just like you have your favorite variety, you will find your goats also have their preferences. Try feeding different types to your goats to see which they prefer.
Here’s a list of the different varieties of grapes:
- Cotton Candy
- Flame Seedless
- Red Globe
- Black Muscat
- Thompson Seedless
- Autumn Royal
Can Goats Eat Grapevines?
Yes, goats can eat grapevines. In fact, if you have them growing in your garden, you will find they are a favorite for goats. Goats can quickly devastate your grapes if you aren’t careful — leaving only the vines and fruit that are out of reach.
You need to plant your vines out of reach of your herd if you hope to have them survive. Either train your vines to grow up tall or enclose the area well. Luckily, the whole plant is edible, so there is no danger for your goats if they do manage to break in.
Health Benefits of Eating Grapes
Packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, grapes are full of health benefits. Let’s take a closer look at how grapes can aid your goats.
High in Vitamins
Grapes are high in vitamins like vitamin C, and K, as well as a variety of B vitamins. All of these vitamins are beneficial in your goat’s diet, just like they are healthy in your diet. Feeding your goats grapes is one way to introduce more of these vitamins into your goat’s diet.
Keep in mind, just like us, goats can only absorb up to a certain amount of each vitamin. There is no need to feed excessive amounts of vitamins as they will simply be processed out in the urine.
High in Minerals
Not only do grapes contain vitamins, but they are also high in essential minerals like copper. While dietary copper is essential for everyone, goats have specific copper needs. Copper deficiency in goats can cause many problems. If you think your goats are deficient in copper, perhaps try adding some grapes to their diet.
High in Antioxidants
Grapes contain high levels of many anti-oxidant compounds. These compounds help repair damage that is done to cells by free radicals and oxidative stress. Consuming foods high in antioxidants can help prevent many chronic health problems.
In general, grapes that are red and purple in color tend to have more antioxidants than other grapes.
Grapes in other forms
We now know goats can eat fresh grapes and grapevines, but what about grapes that have been processed? There are lots of different ways grapes can be eaten besides fresh, like juiced, jammed, and dried. So let’s find out.
What About Juice and Wine?
Grape juice is delicious, and goats think so too. However, the truth is this sugary juice isn’t the best option to feed your goats. While small quantities are acceptable once in a while, goats should really only drink water.
Wine is grape juice that has been fermented and contains alcohol. While your goats have fermentation going on in their stomachs all the time, they should avoid fermented alcoholic beverages. Now, if your goat accidentally sneaks a sip from your wine glass, they aren’t going to die. But while the idea of drunk animals may seem funny, the truth is it’s no joke.
How About Raisins?
Raisins are grapes that have been dehydrated. They, like grapes, are sweet and delicious. And just like grapes, goats can and will eat them. When deciding on your portion size, remember that raisins are smaller than grapes, so a little bit goes a long way. I mean, think about it. You fit a lot more raisins in your hand than grapes.
Jams and Jellies
Most jams and jellies are made by adding sugar to fruit. Grape jam and jellies are no exception. Because of the high sugar content, it’s probably best to avoid feeding jam and jelly to your goats. As we mentioned, excess sugar content can upset goats’ delicate digestive systems.
How to Prepare Your Grapes
For the most part, grapes don’t need any special preparation in order for your goats to eat them. In fact, if you have grapes growing, you will see that they are happy to eat them off the vine or even the ground. Younger goats may have a harder time eating them, so you may want to cut them up to feed them to your kids.
Grapes can be a healthy, delicious snack for your goats. They are high in essential vitamins and minerals that your goats need. However, they are also high in sugar. Too much sugar isn’t good for your ruminant’s digestion. To make sure your goats stay healthy, limit the number of sweet, sugar snacks they eat. Allowing them to forage or have free access to quality hay will ensure proper nutrition.
- Grain Overload in Goats. Retrieved from: https://news.okstate.edu/articles/communications/2020/grain-overload-in-goats.html
Rachael and her husband arrived on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua in 2011. There they founded El Jardin de la Vida, a tropical micro food forest, focusing on Sustainable Living Education. She teaches others to build with natural materials, live off-grid, and appreciate slow food.