You are searching your refrigerator, looking for a tasty treat from your goats. When you open the vegetable crisper, you see a mound of green leafy lettuce. You think, “Perfect, just what my goats want.”
But then you are plagued by a moment of doubt — can goats eat lettuce? Is it safe?
Luckily, your instincts are correct. Goats love lettuce. But too much of anything can be a bad idea. Keep reading to learn the health benefits and risks of feeding your goats lettuce.
So without further ado, let’s talk lettuce.
Can Goats Eat Lettuce?
While their diet should primarily be made up of forage and the best hay for goats, goats love treats. If you are looking for a good treat for your goats, you can’t go wrong with lettuce. Lettuce is perfectly safe for goats to eat.
You will find that your goats go wild over these leafy greens. The best part about lettuce is that it is healthy for goats too. But just because it’s good for them doesn’t mean your goats should only eat lettuce.
Lettuce can be fed as a snack to supplement a balanced diet of hay and forage.
Goats are grazers, so their diet should be varied. Too much of any one food can upset their digestion, so make sure you limit how much lettuce they eat. But giving your goats the occasional lettuce treat can be a great way to motivate them and make them more affectionate.
What Kinds of Lettuce Can They Eat?
When you walk through the supermarket produce section, you will find many different types of lettuce. You may be wondering if your goats can eat all of them. And the answer is yes. Goats can eat all kinds of lettuce.
Some types of lettuce your goats can eat are:
- Red leaf
- Boston Bibb
But just because they can eat all kinds of lettuce doesn’t mean they will like them all. Just like you probably have your favorite type of lettuces, your goats will be the same. They tend to prefer more flavorful lettuce varieties, like romaine, as opposed to the bland and watery iceberg lettuce.
Not only do some types of lettuce taste better, but some varieties are also healthier for goats. Iceberg lettuce is well known for being mostly water and having low nutritional value. Romaine, on the other hand, has significantly more vitamins and minerals.
We’ll talk more about the health benefits of lettuce later, but first, I want to talk about other green leafy vegetables.
Cruciferous Vegetables — The Other Leafy Greens
When we talk about lettuce, we often use the term to include other green leafy salad greens. It’s essential to realize for goats, we must distinguish our vegetables a bit more closely to keep them healthy. While goats can eat lettuce without any problems, they should avoid excessive consumption of green leafy vegetables belonging to the cruciferous family.
A lot of what we think of as salad greens or even “lettuce” actually falls into this family. Here are some examples of common vegetables in the cruciferous family:
- Collard Greens
- Bok Choy
Now goats love green leafy vegetables as much as they love lettuce, and a few kale leaves now and again aren’t going to hurt them. On the other hand, if your goats break into your garden and eat the whole kale patch, you might want to keep an eye on them.
That’s because cruciferous vegetables contain goitrogens. Goats that consume excessive amounts of goitrogens can wind up iodine deficient. Kids are more likely to suffer than grown adults, so you should avoid feeding your kids any vegetables in the cruciferous family to be safe.
How Much Lettuce Can Goats Eat?
Unlike cruciferous vegetables, goats can eat lettuce without worrying about suffering severe health problems. If the goats break into the lettuce patch, you can cry about the lettuce, but you don’t need to worry about your goats. That being said, your goats shouldn’t rely on lettuce as their primary food source. Ironically enough, too much lettuce can make goats fat. So lettuce should be fed as a snack or a treat.
If you don’t already feed your goats treats, you should. Treats are great motivators for your animals. For example, suppose you are training your goat to pull a cart. In that case, you will want to have a wide selection of treats, including vegetables like lettuce, available to reward positive behavior. I also like to feed my goats treats while I milk them. I find it helps keep them more docile.
You can feed your goats individual lettuce leaves as is. But sometimes goats, kids especially, can struggle to eat the whole leaf, so you can chop the leaves up to make them easier to eat. You can also mix up the chopped leaves with other vegetables or fruits and serve your goat a salad (I would just avoid the salad dressing).
You should avoid feeding your goats any spoiled or moldy food (you wouldn’t eat — why would your goat). You should also always try to avoid foods that have been treated with chemical pesticides and fertilizers — organic produce is best. Make sure you wash your lettuce before feeding it to your goats to remove any lingering residue that may be on the leaves.
Health Benefits of Lettuce
We all know lettuce is healthy for us to eat (I mean, that’s the idea behind salad, right?). But you may not know that lettuce is also healthy for goats. They need a variety of vitamins and minerals in their diets, just like we do. While they get the majority of their nutritional needs from their forage, hay, and grain, you don’t want to feed them snacks that are just empty calories.
Lettuce is packed with vitamins and minerals that are essential for healthy goats. Even iceberg lettuce, considered low on the nutritional scale, has plenty of vitamin A, C, and K and essential minerals like potassium, folate, and iron.
But other lettuces have even more nutritional value. When choosing the healthiest lettuce, look for the darkest leaves. So red leafed lettuces are more nutritious than green lettuce. And darker lettuces, like romaine, have more vitamins and minerals than iceberg lettuce.
Many of the vitamins and minerals in lettuce are essential for growth and development. This makes lettuce s excellent snack choice for growing kids and pregnant and lactating does.
Lettuce is a readily available vegetable that is a healthy snack for goats. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals essential for healthy growth. The darker the leaves, the more packed with nutrition, so choose romaine over iceberg lettuce if you are looking to increase the vitamins and minerals in your goats’ diet.
Not only is lettuce healthy, but goats also love to eat lettuce, making it a great choice to motivate your stubborn goats for training or milking. Chose high quality lettuce to feed your goats — they don’t want to eat yucky old food any more than you do.
Be careful to feed your goats actual lettuce and not leafy greens in the cruciferous family. While a few kale or cabbage leaves won’t cause a problem, too much can cause serious health problems in goats.
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.