Things You'll Need
Hacksaw or pruning shears
Pine branches or pine needles
Heavy gloves (optional)
Goats can make lively, fascinating pets. Although some people think of goats as "lawnmowers with legs" that keep a lawn clipped short, in reality goats are better at clearing land of small trees and brush. As natural "browsers," goats' feeding habits are closer to those of wild deer than of cattle and sheep, which are "grazers." Pine needles are a healthy treat for goats and, in fact, may be beneficial snacks for them.
Use a hacksaw or pruning shears to remove shoots and branches from pine trees, cutting them off smoothly at the point where they join a larger branch or tree trunk. Not only does this protect the goats from sharp edges, it is healthier for the pine trees as well. Never break branches off by hand; this can cause wounds to the pine tree that allow disease and insects to enter. You can feed branches from most types of pine tree to your goats, including white pine and Ponderosa pine. However, never feed your goats yew branches; the yew plant is toxic to goats.
Scatter the branches generously around the goats' grazing area. The goats will enjoy finding them and snacking on them, and may benefit from the added exercise.
Strip pine needles from the branches and offer them by hand to smaller goats or to goats you think may get pushed aside in a snacking free-for-all. Most goats love pine needles and will climb over each other to get them. You may want to wear gloves to avoid getting pine sap on your hands.
According to the 7M Farm website, evidence indicates pine needles can help protect goats from intestinal parasitic worms. Pine needles also may help treat loose stools. The website for the Food & Fertilizer Technology Center for the Asian and Pacific Region states Korean goat farmers use pine needles as a restorative agent for their goats' digestive disorders. If your goat has severe or persistent diarrhea, however, call a veterinarian. Goats with digestive problems can get very ill quickly .
Encourage your goat to come to you by waving a pine branch enticingly and calling the goat's name. The Fias Co Farm website says goats--particularly wethers, or neutered males--respond well to positive reinforcement and can learn their names and even to come when called.
Along with yew trees, hemlock is toxic for goats. For more information on toxic plants, see Resources.
It is possible for pine needles to give goat's milk a bitter taste, although not all goat owners agree on this. If you keep a goat as a milker, you may want to avoid feeding her pine needles.
Although pine needles can cause pregnant cows and bison to miscarry, results of a study printed in the November 1992 "Journal of Animal Science" showed that feeding pine needles to pregnant goats did not result in miscarriage. To be safe, if your doe is ready to kid, you may prefer to limit her access to pine needles.
goat. pygmy goat image by L. Shat from Fotolia.com
Carol Sarao is an entertainment and lifestyle writer whose articles have appeared in Atlantic City Weekly, The Women's Newspaper of Princeton, and New Millennium Writings. She has interviewed and reviewed many national recording acts, among them Everclear, Live, and Alice Cooper, and received her Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Warren Wilson College.