While oak leaves and acorns are the primary food for many wild animals, they pose a toxicity risk to some herbivores including horses, cattle, and sheep. “Can goats eat oak leaves” has been a controversial question among goat raisers. This article is going to answer the question and give you some tips to take care of your goats better.
Are oak leaves poisonous?
Oak leaves contain tannic acid and other tannins that are toxic when consumed in large amounts. These poisons can cause severe damage to the gastrointestinal system and kidneys once the toxins are converted to a series of acids and alcohols.
As a result, the one eating them can experience vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. In rare cases, oak leaves poisoning can lead to death. This is the reason why oak is one of the two plants thought by the USDA (The United States Department of Agriculture) to be responsible for ruminant deaths.
Can goats eat oak leaves?
Yes, goats can eat oak leaves. Taking in a moderate amount of oak leaves is fairly harmless to goats, especially when their intake mixed with other goods such as hay and grass.
Having some oak leaves is also very good for scouring goats because oak is binding. This is because goats have a relatively high ability to detoxify oak toxicity.
However, large amounts of ingested oak leaves can induce severe illnesses to your goats such as constipation, anorexia, colic (pain in the abdomen), blood in the urine, kidney damage, dehydration, fluid accumulation in the legs (edema).
How to treat your goats if they eat too many oak leaves?
There is no antidote for oak leaves poisoning. Activated charcoal has been known to be the most effective treatment for oak leaves poisoning if given immediately after ingestion, as it can absorb toxins and allow them to be excreted from the digestive system.
Another common sign of oak toxicity is dehydration and intravenous fluid therapy is considered to be helpful in this case. This will help prevent water loss from diarrhea and help prevent the risk of renal failure. This therapy can also help enhance the goat’s circulatory system and prevent shock in severe cases of oak toxicosis.
How to protect your goats from oak poisoning?
Goats typically consume a number of different plant species in one day and can utilize some poisonous plants because they know what is good for them and do not eat too many poisonous plants. However, if there is a shortage of primary forage and browse, the goats will eat lower quality foods including noxious plants.
There is also anecdotal evidence that some goats will develop an extreme liking for oak leaves and will overindulge to the point of illness. So, having some tips at hand to protect your goats from oak poisoning is necessary.
Feed oak leaves in moderation
Firstly, you should feed oak leaves in moderation as a very small part of their diet and choose the leaves that have the least tannin. Studies have shown that mature leaves are less toxic than early spring growth and red and black oak varieties contain the most tannin while white oak varieties contain the least.
Fence off oak trees
Besides, after heavy winds or a storm, there may be so many oak leaves and acorns on the ground. So, you should fence off oak trees and keep your goats out of the wind-path of falling leaves. If there are oak trees near the fence line of your goat’s pasture, clearing fallen branches after a storm is a good practice.
Keep goats away from ponds with soaked oak leaves
And the last reminder is that before introducing goats to a browsing area, check the area to find out any problem with the local plants and you should not water them from ponds that have large amounts of oak leaves soaking in them because tannins are water-soluble.
In short, goats can eat oak leaves, but in moderation. The times during the year, the maturity of oak leaves and the varieties of oak leaves also determine the amount of toxicity in them. So, goat raisers should be careful when feeding oak leaves to their goats.