Can Goats Have Cabbage

Major Risks: Can Goats Have Cabbage Safely?

Looking for nutritional, yummy veggies for your goat herd? 

Have you thought about cabbage but didn’t know if this green veggie is safe for goats? 

No worries, we are here to share all we know about offering goats cabbage: health benefits, health risks, best practices, and more! 

Short answer is: Yes, goats can eat cabbage. Cabbage is generally nontoxic and therefore a-okay to offer as a snack to your goats. 

However, cabbage can poison ruminants if eaten in high amounts! So before you offer this green veggie to your goats in unlimited amounts, read below for some important explanations on the questionable constituents in cabbage and best feeding tips. 

Is Cabbage Good For Goats: Cabbage Nutritional Information

Green and red cabbage differ slightly in their nutritional content, but we will lump them together in this post because the differences truly aren’t that significant!

So, to understand how or why cabbage is good for goats, let’s start with some of the basics: 

Cabbage contains about 92% water; and any treat with a high water content can support their overall water intake, especially during hot, dry summer weather. 

As the MSD Veterinary Manual states, goats are very efficient at using and conserving water throughout their body, but as little as a 10% overall water loss can be severely damaging

Cabbage is quite low in protein, fat, and fibers, with only 6.79g of carbohydrates total per 100g serving

When it comes to essential minerals and vitamins, cabbage does offer:

  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Iron

Albite in small quantities; but this shouldn’t be overlooked. Afterall, goats need zinc for proper skin growth and immune function, and billy goats need it for proper reproductive function! 

The short of it is that cabbage is a relatively healthy snack for your goats that can support their overall health at a low level. 

But the safety of cabbage quickly comes into question when considering its naturally high sulfur and nitrate content. 

Understanding The Risk of Cabbage Poisoning In Ruminants

There is such a thing as cabbage poisoning. In fact, multiple research articles have identified cabbage in the diet as the primary reason for both sulfur and nitrate poisoning in goats and other ruminants. 

As early as 1977, it was documented that ruminants (cattle and sheep) eating cabbage for an extended period of time suffered from a number of ailments, including:

  • Low milk production
  • Low fertility
  • Enlarged thyroids
  • Dull coats

Researchers discovered it was the high sulfur content within cabbage that was causing these health issues, and confirmed that this veggie has low copper and zinc levels.

Specifically, cabbage was hindering the ruminants by increasing a s-methyl cystine sulphoxide and increasing the glucosinolate content of the plant. 

While glucosinolates themselves aren’t harmful, animals fed foodstuff with large amounts of them have been found to suffer a number of health issues

In addition, in a study on cabbage intake in goats specifically, investigators realized that the animals were suffering from nitrate poisoning because of the vegetable. The animals exhibited a number of symptoms, including:

  • Bluish-brown mucous membranes
  • Rapid and difficult breathing
  • Incoordination
  • Aggressive movements
  • Jugular distension
  • Increased heart rates
  • Tremors

Without a doubt cabbage can harm your goats if ingested in access! 

For these reasons, we have never offered a single goat more than half a head of full-grown cabbage at one week intervals. 

We have never, and will never, allow cabbage to be a primary food item for our goats. Cabbage cannot fulfill the high fiber and roughage needs of goats and contains too many risky plant compounds to be anything more than an infrequent treat.  

Offering Your Goats Cabbage: Our Best Practices

As stated, we do not offer more than half a head of cabbage to each of our goats at a time. 

First, we always wash the cabbage. Then, we remove any outer leaves that are wilted, brown, or otherwise damaged. 

We also cut the cabbage in half and remove the thick stem at the bottom. After that, the cabbage gets cut into smaller slices to make it easier for our goats to eat it. 

We’ve found that our goats appreciate the crunchy, fresh veggie. But it definitely isn’t their favorite: nothing gets our goats’ tails moving like fresh strawberries

Can Goats Eat Shredded Cabbage

Yes, goats can eat raw, shredded cabbage. 

But don’t offer any processed, fermented, or cooked cabbage to your goats. These altered cabbage foods can cause real rumen and digestive issues for goats! 

This goat owner got creative and placed a cabbage on a suspended string for an engaging and tasty treat! 

Other Vegetables Goats Can Eat: Risky Choices

Goats can safely eat a range of different veggies and fruits as snacks and seasonal treats. For ideas on these goat safe foods browse our post archive! 

But there are some, like cabbage, that are a bit risky or totally poisonous for goats. These types of vegetables and fruits include:

  • Garlic
  • Green parts of the tomato plant
  • Unripe pineapple
  • Onions
  • Certain types of beans 
  • Very sugary fruits like grapes

Is Cabbage Safe For Baby Goats

We never offer baby goats cabbage. We just feel that it is much too risky to offer developing goats this veggie.

For us, a baby goat means any goat that is still nursing and/or receiving at least two thirds of its daily diet from mother’s milk! 

Can Goats Eat Cabbage Or Lettuce?

You now know all about goats and cabbage, but you may still wonder if lettuce is a safe veggie for goats. 

Yes, goats can eat lettuce and many other leafy greens such as kale and mint! 

Final Thoughts On Can Goats Eat Cabbage

When it comes down to it, cabbage doesn’t offer a lot of nutrients to goats and  has actually been proven as a particularly risky veggie to offer your goats. 

However, toxicity only occurs when cabbage is offered to goats in large amounts and over an extended period of time. 

So, if you just want to offer a few extra heads of cabbage to your trip of goats, you have no need to worry. 

Small amounts of cabbage will harm your goats; they will be just fine and will probably enjoy the crunchy treat!

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