Your goats no doubt love to eat a wide variety of foods. Mine certainly do! A common question often asked by new goat owners is ‘Can goats eat tomatoes?’
Once upon a time, back when I was a new goat owner, I wondered the very same thing myself.
As I’m sure you know, there are lots of things that your goats can eat, and there’s a pretty long list of things that your goats can’t eat.
And as a responsible goat owner, it’s important to know which foods fall into the safe category for your goats and which foods are known to be unsafe for goats.
So, what’s the deal with tomatoes? Are tomatoes safe for goats to eat, and do goats like to eat them?
Generally, tomatoes are perfectly safe for your goats to eat. But make sure you feed tomatoes to your goats in moderation, because too much of anything can upset your goat’s digestion.
It’s a good idea to introduce new foods to your goats slowly; this is especially true when you’re giving baby goats (kids) new foods.
There are some myths about goats and tomatoes, that get repeated and repeated and repeated. In this goat owner’s guide I’ll clear those up for you.
Are Tomatoes Really Safe For Goats To Eat (Aren’t They Nightshade Plants)?
Tomatoes are one food that causes a lot of confusion for new goat owners. And that’s understandable.
Tomatoes are indeed in the nightshade family of plants and you often hear, quite rightly, that nightshades are dangerous for your goats, and that they can even be deadly.
And that makes you wonder about the do’s and don’ts of feeding your goats tomatoes and tomato plants, potatoes and potato plants, eggplant, and so on.
The reason nightshade plants can be dangerous for your goats (and for humans) is because of the sometimes-toxic substances they produce, called glycoalkaloids.
The main glycoalkaloid in tomatoes is tomatine.
Many people mistake tomatine for solanine. But solanine is the glycoalkaloid in potatoes.
The tomatine in tomatoes isn’t toxic to your goats.
In 2009, Harold McGee, the food science writer for The New York Times contacted Dr. Mendel Friedman of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ask him about the toxins in tomatoes. Dr Friedman, an expert in potato and tomato alkaloids, confirmed that commercial tomatoes contain tomatine and that solanine is a potato alkaloid.
All plants in the nightshade family contain glycoalkaloids in varying degrees in their roots, stems, leaves, and fruit.
Although these substances are present in all members of the nightshade family, some plants contain more than others.
What’s more, different parts of the same plant will contain varying concentrations of the glycoalkaloids.
That’s the reason why some nightshade plants and the foods they produce are safe for your goats, while others can make your goats sick, and some can kill them.
When it comes to tomato-safety for your goats, the ripe fruits are safe. You don’t have to worry about toxins, and your goats will relish eating a few sweet, juicy tomatoes.
Ask my goat Billy, if your goats can eat tomatoes? And you’ll get a big thumbs up!
Don’t go overboard though. While tomatoes aren’t poisonous, your goats could end up with a belly ache and diarrhea if you let them chow down on an entire bucketful. Too much of any dietary treat can give your goat a stomach ache and diarrhea.
According to this evaluation of tomato crop by-products as feed for goats, “Daily ingestion of fresh tomato fruits more than 1.5 kg […] caused soft feces in goats.”
And if your goats have gorged on tomato, they won’t be spending their time filling their bellies with the food goats should be eating. The food with all of the calories and protein.
What About Green Tomatoes Or Unripe Tomatoes? Can Your Goats Eat Those?
Take note that much of the information you’ll find online about the toxicity of tomato glycoalkaloids is incorrect because tomatine has been confused with solanine.
Let’s go back to Dr Friedman, so we can get the expert word on this.
Dr. Friedman reported that when animals ingest tomatine, their bodies don’t absorb it, instead it passes through their systems for excretion. What’s more, Dr Friedman’s team found that: “Tomatine-rich green tomatoes and purified tomatine lowered the levels of undesirable LDL cholesterol in animals.”
So, far from being a terrifying toxin, tomatine actually has a beneficial effect.
From Dr Friedman’s research, I think we can say that green tomatoes don’t pose a threat to your goats. Although, I can’t imagine your goats would want to eat too many of them, because they’re bitter.
And that bitterness is the plant’s defense mechanism against being eaten by hungry goats. Clever plant!
Always Introduce New Foods To Your Goats Slowly
Whenever you feed a new food to your goats, always start off with a small amount, so their digestive system can adjust.
You don’t want to overload your goats with food that they don’t have the right bacteria to digest properly.
When you introduce new foods slowly, your goat’s gut flora will adapt and you won’t have any problems.
Start off with a few cherry tomatoes or one medium tomato, for the first few days.
It’s always better to go slowly, even if it seems overly cautious.
By avoiding problems in the first place, your goats won’t have to deal with any painful or dangerous consequences.
Your goats can become seriously ill, and even die, when their diets are changed too rapidly.
Can Baby Goats Eat Tomatoes?
Your baby goats (kids) can eat tomatoes once they’re weaned. But only in small amounts – one cherry tomato would be enough.
While you should focus on making sure that your goats get a fully balanced diet from their normal food, an occasional treat is fine.
Whenever you feed a new food to your goats, pay close attention to its droppings to make sure there are no digestive problems.
Goats should have a very clean behind. If your goat has mess back there, and you’ve been giving tomatoes or other foods as a treat, the treats are probably the cause. Hold off on giving any more until your goat has recovered. And then introduce the food in small amounts, once your goat is a little older.
Can Goats Eat Raw Tomatoes?
Goats love raw tomatoes, so there’s no need to cook them. In fact it’s better to feed your goats raw tomatoes because raw tomatoes have higher nutrient levels. Cooking destroys important nutrients like vitamin C.
Can Goats Eat Tomato Plants?
My goats have eaten tomato plants from time to time, when they’ve made a break for the vegetable beds. No one suffered any ill effects. Other goat owners report similar experiences.
Tomato vines (the stem and the leaves) contain tomatine at a similar concentration to green tomatoes.
Based on Dr Friedman’s findings, you can rest easy if your goats snatch a few tomato leaves from your vegetable garden.
Because the tomatine will pass through your goat’s digestive tract largely unabsorbed, your goats should suffer no ill effects if they eat some tomato leaves.
This is confirmed by the College Of Agriculture And Life Sciences at Cornell University.
Luckily, glycoalkaloids are poorly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract of mammals, an appreciable amount of solanum-type glycoalkaloids is hydrolized in the gut of mammals to the less toxic aglycones, these metabolites are rapidly excreted in the urine and feces of mammals. Because exposure to these poisons is generally by ingestion, it takes a relatively large amount of them to cause death.Cornell University College Of Agriculture And life Sciences.
More reassurance comes from a study carried out by researchers in Israel where, during a 42-day study, cattle were fed dried tomato vines and no ill effects were observed.
I’ll add that my goat’s have eaten tomato leaves and they were fine. Interestingly, while they happily stripped the leaves from the tomato plants, they left the stems.
Can your goats eat your dead tomato plants at the end of the growing season?
That’s for you to decide.
Based on what researchers have found, and my own experience, I doubt your goats would have any problems, but it’s your call.
Your goats can safely eat ripe tomatoes.They’ll no doubt enjoy them a great deal and think you’re the bee’s knees for bringing them delectable morsels.
Green tomatoes are also safe for your goats to eat, but they taste bitter so I think your goats wouldn’t want to eat too many.
As for tomato plant material, research suggests that tomato vines are also safe for your goats to eat.
Thanks for reading: Can Goats Eat Tomatoes? And I hope your goats enjoy eating their juicy treats!