Can Goats Eat Milkweed? Simple Answer & Feeding Tips

Can goats eat milkweed? Yes, goats can and will eat milkweed, although it can be toxic to them. Milkweed is a low toxicity plant, meaning your goat would have to eat a lot of milkweed to get sick.

Goats are pretty smart and they know what’s bad for them. As long as there are a variety of alternative plants for them to forage, they shouldn’t go near milkweed.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about feeding milkweed to your goats.

can goats eat milkweed

What is Milkweed?

Milkweed is a weed that grows in fields and along stream banks. It is also the plant that Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on and the leaves of which are what turn into their chrysalis when they hatch.

If you’re like me, your first thought was: ‘well I’ll just cut down all the milkweed in my yard and prevent it from growing in our field’. This will not work; milkweed spreads by seeds and underground stems. Cutting down an individual plant will only send up another one somewhere else.

What does Milkweed Look like??

Milkweed plants are rather beautiful, but I think they’re best suited for their place growing along rivers and streams instead of being grown in someone’s pasture or backyard. They have dark gray-green leaves on long stalks which produce bright purple flowers that look like little bells. These flowers grow in clusters at the top of each stalk.

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Can Goats Eat Milkweed?

Yes, Milkweed is one of the many plants that goats eat. Milkweed has a very low toxicity level to goats. However, like all other types of forage and feed; monitor your goat’s intake of milkweed to ensure they’re not getting too much of it.

Is Milkweed Safe for Goats?

While goats will eat milkweed, it’s not something you want them to make a habit of eating. Milkweed is considered low toxicity which means that your goat would have to eat a large amount of the plant before getting sick.

Milkweed is fine for goats in small quantities. Make sure they don’t eat too much of it, and it should never be included in their regular feed.

What are the Symptoms of Milkweed Toxicity in Goats?

goat eating

Goats get sick from eating poisonous plants such as milkweed because these poisonous plants cause them to develop photosensitization dermatitis (a skin sensitivity) and/or ruminal tympany (an inflated goat).

Photosensitization Dermatitis: This basically means that the poison causes your goat’s immune system to overreact and affects their skin and vision. They won’t die from this, but it is a horrible condition to have to deal with.

Ruminal Tympany: This means that the goat can’t burp which leads to an increase in pressure within their rumen. It’s basically built-up gas from being unable to escape from the rumen as they normally would through burping.

This is painful for the goat, and you should seek veterinary care if your goat has either of these conditions due to poisoning by plants such as milkweed or other poisonous plants/trees.

Signs of both photosensitization dermatitis and ruminal tympany include going off feed, not eating, frothy mucus coming out of its nose (if a photosensitivity reaction), excess salivation (which can lead to frothing around the mouth).

Read More: Can Goats Eat Poison Ivy? 4 Awesome Benefits

Health Benefits of Milkweed for Goats

Small amounts of milkweed can actually be beneficial for your goat’s health as you’re more likely to see them eat it if they’re deficient in some nutrients.

Milkweed has been proven to lower lactic acid levels and provide a good source of Vitamin E, which helps goats stay healthy and active. Many farmers rely on milkweed as a winter food source because it is so nutritious and easy to digest.

If you want to feed your goats milkweed, make sure you cut the stalks down and place them outside near their shelter so they won’t have far to go when they feel like munching on some leaves.

Are there any Risks in Feeding Milkweed to Goats?

Just like anything else, make sure you keep your goats away from the poisonous parts of the plant (the pods) and limit their intake to smaller quantities. If they eat too much or any part of the pod then it could cause them serious problems.

There is always some risk when feeding your goat plants that can be toxic in large amounts, but this article should help you feel more confident about how much milkweed is safe for your own goats.

Read More: Can Goats Eat Avocado? The Answer Might Surprise You!

How Often Should I Feed my Goats Milkweed?

goats sticking out tongue

You shouldn’t really feed your goat milkweed as there are much better plants they could have. However, if your goat happens to find some milkweed on your property or they are deficient in some nutrients then you can feed them small amounts of the plant.

You don’t want to make it a regular part of their diet in case they develop an allergy, but if they eat it in small quantities occasionally they will have no problem.

Milkweed is best for helping sick goats with lactic acid build-up and other diseases. It does not provide enough nutrition for your goat to survive on, so this should never be their main source of food/forage.

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

How Much Milkweed is Safe to Feed?

Again, monitor your goats’ milkweed intake because it’s easy for them to overdo it without meaning to if they’re especially hungry or there’s just a large amount available to them.

If they eat around 1-3 stalks of milkweed (the entire stalk, not just leaves) per day in small quantities then this should be safe for them to do. If you notice any changes in behavior or appetite after feeding milkweed to your goats then stop doing it immediately.

Milkweed is mostly safe but it can cause issues when given in large amounts (it could even potentially poison your goat). That’s why it’s important that you limit your goat’s access to the plant and monitor how much they’re eating on a regular basis.

Can Goats Eat Milkweed – Final Thoughts

So, can goats eat milkweed? Yes, they can. However, it’s important to remember that milkweed is a low toxicity plant, so your goat would have to eat a lot of it to get sick.

It’s also important to provide plenty of other plants for them to eat, as milkweed can be pretty bitter.

As long as you keep an eye on your goats and make sure they’re getting enough nutrition from other plants, feeding them milkweed shouldn’t be a problem.

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Jill Taylor Happy Farmyard

Jill Taylor

Jill is a full-time homesteader who enjoys learning about sustainable living and practicing self-reliance. She'll most likely be found tending to her many animals including chickens, ducks, goats, and alpacas. You find out more about her on LinkedIn.