Goats are curious animals, constantly sampling new foods to see what they like and don’t like. As a goat owner, it can be nerve wracking trying to keep track of what they can and can’t eat. If you are wondering, can goats eat tomatoes? Is it safe? We are here to help.
To answer your question, yes, goats can eat tomatoes. But only the ripe fruit, so no green tomatoes for your goats. They also shouldn’t eat the rest of the plant as large quantities can be toxic.
To understand the whole tomato story, let’s dive deeper into what parts of the tomato plant your goats can eat safely. We’ll also explain how to recognize signs of toxicity in case your goats have broken into the tomato patch.
Keep reading to learn more!
Can Goats Eat Tomatoes?
Generally, when people are talking about tomatoes, they are referring to the fruit of the tomato plant. (Yes, technically, tomatoes are fruit even if we use them as a vegetable). Whether fruit or vegetable, tomatoes are delicious and commonly found both in home gardens and refrigerators. Which means when you are looking for a snack for goats, tomatoes probably come to your mind pretty quickly.
But just because a food is good for us doesn’t mean it is healthy for goats to eat it. Luckily, in the case of tomatoes, as long as they are ripe, goats can eat them just fine. In fact, tomatoes in moderation can be a healthy snack for your goats. Tomatoes are high in vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants. However, goats should only be fed tomatoes as a snack combined with the best hay or other forage.
Can Goats Eat Tomato Plants?
While goats can eat the ripe fruit, they shouldn’t eat the green parts of the tomato plants. Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family and contain compounds called alkaloids, which can be toxic to goats and other livestock when they are consumed (1).
“Unripe tomatoes and the green parts of ripe tomatoes contain a solanine-like alkaloid (saponin) called tomatine that may be toxic to insects, dogs and, to a lesser extent, herbivores (diarrhea, vomiting, intestinal irritation).”
To make sure your goats stay healthy, you should try to keep them away from your tomato plants. Overconsumption of tomato plants has led to death in goats (2)
Can Goats Eat Tomato Leaves?
Goats can not eat tomato leaves. As we mentioned, the leaves, as well as the stems and vines of the tomato plants, can be toxic to goats. Goats should never eat any green parts of the tomato plant, including green fruit. The toxins in the fruit decline as it ripens, but in the other parts of the plant, the concentrations do not decline.
How Much Is Too Much?
If your goat nibbles on a tomato leaf or eats a bit of green tomato, chances are it will be ok. However, gorging on tomato plants can kill your goats, so if you think your goat has eaten any quantity of your tomato plants, you do want to monitor them to see if they show any symptoms of toxicity.
Call a vet immediately if your goat begins expressing any unusual behavior after eating tomato plants!
If you spend time with your goats regularly, you will be able to recognize anything atypical in their demeanor easily.
What Are The Symptoms of Toxicity?
If your goat eats your tomato plant, they are going to experience gastrointestinal distress, including vomiting and diarrhea. They may also appear confused or depressed and weak, with dilated pupils and labored breathing.
If your goat is experiencing any of these symptoms, call your vet immediately!
If your goat is behaving normally, then your goat will be fine. However, you will want to make sure your goats don’t continue to eat your tomato plants. Just because you got lucky once doesn’t mean you will get lucky a second time.
How To Prevent Goats From Eating Tomato Plants
Goats are notorious for being everywhere you don’t want them to be and eating everything you don’t want them to eat. So, it can be challenging to keep goats from eating your tomato plants. But if you dream of raising goats and growing tomatoes, there are some tricks you can use to help protect your plants and, most importantly — your goats!
You can start by trying to safeguard your plants. One way to do this is to build a strong fence around your tomato garden. Now when I say strong, I mean strong. Determined goats can easily bust through a fence if it isn’t sturdy enough. If you don’t trust your fence building skills, you can also try to keep your tomato plants in a greenhouse. Your greenhouse should be rugged enough to withstand a goat.
Another option is to try fencing in your goats. When building your fence, you do need to keep in mind how high goats can jump, as this determines how high your fence needs to be. But the truth is if you dream of keeping a garden and goats, a fence somewhere is essential.
Oh, and if you don’t want your goats to get into your tomato garden, certainly don’t feed them ripe fruit. If your goats develop a taste for tomatoes, your garden will only be that much more tempting.
In the end, if you try all of the above and your goats are still trying to eat your tomatoes, you may have to give up on your tomato dreams. After all, you want to make sure your goats stay safe!
While ripe tomatoes can make a tasty treat for your goats, the green parts of the plant are toxic. If you hope to grow tomatoes in your garden, it’s best not to feed the fruit to your goats. If your goats develop a taste for tomatoes, then they may find your tomato garden all the more alluring.
While nibbling on a leaf or two may only cause some gastrointestinal distress, if your goat eats too much of the tomato plant, it can become seriously ill to the point of death. To ensure your goats don’t eat your tomato plants, you should build a good fence either for the plants, the goats, or maybe even both.
If you don’t have any tomato plants around, there is less concern for your goats. So if you want to give them tomatoes as a snack, go ahead. Just make sure they are good and ripe!
- Feeding Tomatoes to Livestock. Retrieved from: https://u.osu.edu/beef/2017/08/02/feeding-tomatoes-to-livestock/
- Toxic Plants Dangerous to Goats. Retrieved from: https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/media/sfylifasufledu/orange/ag-nat-res/docs/pdf/toxic-plants_goats060210.pdf
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.