Can Goats Eat Horse Feed? Simple Answer & Feeding Tips

Written By Jill Taylor

When I first started my journey with farm animals, the question: can goats eat horse feed? popped into my mind more than once. After all, I had both these incredible animals sharing the same space, and it seemed only natural that they might share meals too. But as with any responsible animal caretaker, ensuring the health and well-being of the creatures under my care was paramount.

To answer that pressing question, goats can eat horse feed, but it shouldn’t be their primary source of nutrition. Horses and goats have distinct nutritional needs, and their feeds are crafted to cater specifically to each species.

Delving into the world of animal nutrition can be complex and challenging, but understanding the basics is crucial. In this article, we will explore the differences between horse and goat feed, the benefits, and the potential risks of feeding horse food to goats, and how to make the right feeding choices for our beloved four-legged friends.

can goats eat horse feed

What is Horse Feed?

Horse feed is a general term for both commercially prepared feeds and mixes that are made at home. Sometimes the terms “horse feed” or “horse pellets” are also used to describe food for horses.

Horse feed usually consists of either oat, hay cubes, corn, barley, wheat bran, or other cereal grains. Some commercial feeds may contain protein supplements like soybean meal, meat meal, or alfalfa meal.


Can Goats Eat Horse Feed?

Goats are ruminants, meaning they have four-chambered stomachs that digest their food through fermentation. Horses also have a four-chambered stomach, but they are monogastric that rely on gastric acids to break down their food.

This is why horses need starch in their diets for energy production whereas goats do not require the same type of nutrient profile.

So while eating horse feed won’t have any negative effects on goats, it will not provide them with the full dietary requirements that they need.

Is Horse Feed Safe for Goats?

Horse feed is safe for goats, but it should not be used as a substitute for goat feed. Goats need to get the majority of their nutrients from good-quality hay and grain-free feeds.

Goat Feed vs Horse Feed

horse feed

The major difference between feeding horse feed and feeding goat feed is that horses require a starch-based diet whereas goats do not. Horses also require more protein than goats because they use protein to maintain muscle mass and aid in growth.

Most commercial horse feed will contain some sort of protein supplement because horses eat more protein than goats.

While there’s nothing wrong with feeding your horses’ leftover horse pellets, those feeds are designed specifically for horses, not goats. If you want to make sure your small herd gets all the nutrients they need, consider mixing up a custom blend of horse feed for them.

Health Benefits of Horse Feed for Goats

Adding a small amount of horse feed to your goat’s diet can offer several health benefits. You’ll be able to provide the goats with extra protein while helping them grow healthier coats, satiny hair, and bigger fat reserves.

Healthy Coat

Horses that are raised for their meat will benefit from added protein in their diets because it promotes muscle growth. While goats don’t need to bulk up on muscle, they do need to have sleek coats for showing purposes.

Goats with healthy hair generally lead healthier lives because other problems like parasites or lice are easier to spot when the animal has good hair coverage. Providing your goats with horse pellets will ensure their coats are well-nourished and silky smooth rather than coarse, dull, and matted.

Fat Reserves

Horses need large reserves of body fat because they use their fat as a natural source of energy during periods of cold temperatures or stress. Goats do not have the same climate demands as horses so it is not necessary to provide them with added fat sources.

However, goats that maintain high levels of body fat are less likely to experience weight loss and muscle wastage during times when food is scarce. So if you’re feeding your goats horse feed, just make sure they aren’t getting too much extra fat through their diets.

Are there any Risks in Feeding Horse Feed to Goats?

goat in field

While there are benefits to feeding your goats horse feed, there are also some risks you need to be aware of before making a decision.

Unbalanced Diet

Goats that eat a diet that is high in protein and low in fiber may experience digestive upset. If they do not have enough roughage in their diet, the goat’s rumen will not be able to properly break down the nutrients from their feed.

High-energy Diets

Horses require a high level of energy in their diets because they use carbohydrates for quick energy requirements like running or flying. While goats do not need carbohydrates, too much energy in their diets can make them hyperactive and lead to behavioral problems when they get bored easily.

Minerals and Vitamins

Goats need a variety of minerals and vitamins to maintain their bodies. If they do not get the right balance of these nutrients, they can suffer from malnutrition or growth issues. Feeding horse feed will ensure that your goats get the necessary levels of calcium to build strong bones and teeth, but you’ll want to provide them with other sources of salt as well.

Salt Requirements

In order for horses’ bodies to be able to properly use protein, they require high-sodium diets. This is not true for goats because their bodies break down protein quite easily even when there isn’t a lot of sodium present in their food sources.

So while it’s safe to feed your goats a small amount of horse feed, it’s important you watch their sodium intake when mixing horse pellets into their diet.

How to Prepare Horse Feed for Goats?

goat eating

When you consider horse feed for goats, the first thing you need to do is make sure it doesn’t contain any added salt. If there is salt in the pellets, it will cause some serious health problems with your goats.

Second, decide how much of this feed you want to give to your goat on a daily basis. Some people recommend that riders only provide their horses with 10 percent of their daily diet as horse feed because too much can lead to an unbalanced diet and digestive issues.

If you’re feeding your goats more than once per day, determine how many times you’ll be giving them horse pellets based on what they eat in one sitting.

How Often Should I Feed my Goats Horse Feed?

Goats need to be able to consume small amounts of feed throughout the day so they can get the nutrients they require without overeating. The exact requirements will vary depending on the type of goats you have and what their role is in your farm business.

If you’re using horse pellets as goat feed, it’s best for them to have one feeding when they first wake up in the morning after spending a night without food. They should then have access to pellets at all times throughout the day but in smaller quantities.

This way, your goats are getting enough food without overdoing it which might lead to digestive issues or health problems. To determine how many horse pellets you want to give each goat per day, make sure there are no more than four ounces per goat per feeding.

Don’t forget to supplement each feed with fresh water and hay or grass so they get the minerals and vitamins they need for their bodies to function properly.

What other animal feed can goats eat apart from horse feed?

When diving into the world of farm and domestic animal care, it’s often tempting to share feed across species. It not only seems efficient but also practical, especially when handling multiple animals. But not all feeds are created equal, nor are they universally beneficial across species lines. Let’s explore a few other common animal feeds and determine whether they’re suitable for our caprine friends.

Chicken Feed

Chicken feed, primarily consisting of grains, might seem like a decent choice for goats at first glance. While goats can consume chicken feed in small amounts without immediate harm, it’s not ideal for their long-term health. Chicken feed contains additives and certain nutrient levels specifically tailored for poultry. Regular consumption can lead to mineral imbalances in goats, particularly concerning calcium to phosphorus ratios, which are vital for bone health.

Read More: Can Goats Eat Chicken Feed: Why It’s Not A Good Idea

Dog Food

Feeding goats dog food is a big no-no. Dog food is formulated for carnivores, with higher protein levels from meat-based sources, and certain ingredients that are not suitable or healthy for ruminant animals. Prolonged consumption can lead to digestive disturbances, nutrient imbalances, and other health issues.

Read More: Can Goats Eat Dog Food: Why It’s Not A Good Idea

Rabbit Food

Rabbit pellets are primarily composed of alfalfa or other hays, making them seem a potential candidate for goat consumption. In occasional, small amounts, it might not be immediately harmful. However, rabbit food contains different vitamins and mineral ratios than what goats require. Over time, these imbalances could lead to health complications.

Read More: Can Goats Eat Rabbit Food? Simple Answer & Feeding Tips

Cat Food

Like dog food, cat food is designed for carnivores and contains high levels of proteins from meat sources. It’s not appropriate for goats. Even occasional consumption could upset a goat’s digestive system, and regular feeding can lead to severe health issues due to its nutrient composition.

Read More: Can Goats Eat Cat Food? Unraveling The Barnyard Diet Mystery

Sheep Feed

Of all the feeds listed, sheep feed comes closest to goat nutrition requirements, as both sheep and goats are ruminants. Many times, sheep and goat feed formulations are quite similar. However, there’s a significant difference to note: most sheep feeds are formulated without added copper, as sheep are very sensitive to copper toxicity. 

Goats, on the other hand, require copper in their diets. While feeding sheep feed to goats occasionally might not be harmful, relying on it as a primary feed source would deprive goats of essential copper, leading to deficiency symptoms.

Read More: Can Goats Eat Sheep Feed? Debunking Livestock Myths

Can Goats Eat Horse Feed – Final Thoughts

Goats can eat horse feed safely, but it shouldn’t be their main source of food. Horse feed lacks many of the nutrients required by goats. Horses and goats have different nutritional needs, so their feeds are made specifically for each animal.

If you want to give your goats horse feed, make sure to supplement it with healthy goat feed. Make sure to always give your goats a balanced diet that includes good quality goat food.

Related Articles: