If you own goats, or you’ve spent a lot of time with them, you’ll have realized that they have earned their reputation as hungry fellows who’ll try to eat almost anything put in front of them. However, if you’re going to raise goats seriously, it’s important to know how to provide them with proper nutrition and diet. Part of that is learning what they can eat safely without causing medical or long-term dietary issues. One particular item people ask about is whether goats can eat sunflowers — both plants and seeds.
Goats can eat and enjoy sunflower seeds, stalks, and plants safely. Sunflowers are a nutritious, healthy, and delicious treat for goats. Sunflowers and their seeds improve digestion in ruminants, lead to healthier coats, and are correlated with improved milk production.
So your goats can safely eat and enjoy sunflowers. But if you want more information on why sunflowers are a great snack choice for your goats? Well, here’s what you need to know about this to keep your goats happy and healthy!
Goats Can Eat Sunflower Seeds
First up, the good news is that, just like people, goats can eat sunflower seeds. In fact, many goat owners feed their animals the seeds as a dietary supplement, as they are a good source of both fiber and protein. The shell of the seed is a great source of fiber, while once you get inside the seeds also provide plenty of protein essential for your goats to grow big and strong.
Goats who have their diet supplemented with seeds will have healthy shiny coats and produce more milk. The milk is also of a higher quality than goats who don’t get sunflower seed supplements. A 2004 study even found a correlation between using seed supplements and increased growth and digestion in ruminants (animals with the same digestive system as goats, such as most grazing animals) (source).
So now that you know all about the benefits, how should you go about feeding your goats sunflower seeds? First up, you’ll need to choose your seeds.
There are actually many different types of sunflower seeds to choose from, but a common choice among goat owners is black oil sunflower seeds, due to their high oil content which is of particular benefit to shiny coats. Many goats naturally enjoy these and will gorge themselves on them in spite of the health problems that can be caused if they’re not used to them, so if you have a greedy herd then start slowly!
My goats seem to naturally prefer black oil sunflower seeds, so we just use those as our go-to choice for sunflower seeds.
If you discover or suspect that your goats have overfed on black oil sunflower seeds, or are displaying signs of dietary distress, please contact your veterinarian immediately. While they’re a great supplement to a healthy diet, all things should be consumed in moderation. Excess consumption can be extremely dangerous.
Begin by introducing your goats to the seeds with small quantities added to their normal food. Start with 1/4 cup per goat, thoroughly mixed in with their normal grain quantities.
By starting out with small amounts, you’ll reap the dual benefits that they’ll both acclimatize to the taste quickly and safely. Ideally, you’ll be able to notice or flat-out prevent the onset of any potential dietary problems. Once your herd gets more used to the seeds and has been eating them for a while, you can be confident that they’re not suffering from any problems due to the change in diet and can increase the amount week by week.
A recommended amount to increase is about 1/4 cup per week per goat. Finally, you’ll be able to get to an endgame of feeding each goat around 1/4 cup per day if you’re after a super shiny-coated herd!
Pro tip: You’ll need to consider how to store your seeds carefully. Goats love to make their way into snack stores, and if you’re not careful they’ll gorge themselves. In many cases, goats will even cause themselves serious health difficulties due to the effects of overeating!
Many people choose to store their seeds in plastic or metal containers, which should be secured not only in themselves but with the help of additional materials such as straps.
We kept our grains in an aluminum storage can (fine. It’s a trash can) that’s outside of the goat’s area. That way, we controlled complete access to any grains and sunflower seeds.
Goats Can Eat Sunflower Plants
It’s not just the seeds of the sunflower plant that make for happy eating or treats. Goats can also eat the stem and leaves of the plants. While stems and leaves don’t have the same nutritional benefits as seeds, they’re a great filler food as forage in the goat’s diet. Plus, it’s a great way to use up the parts of the plant that don’t do so well in the compost bin.
Goats actually even show you their preferences for different parts of the plant in their eating habits. They’ll start out by going for the seeds first, before moving onto the leaves and finally the stems.
If you keep goats and are thinking of planting sunflowers to help them out, then this is great news for you! You’ll be able to have a nice efficient harvest and use up all the parts of the plant, with a herd of happy and healthy goats as a result.
Pro tip: Goats will also nibble at mammoth sunflowers. But they’ll have an easier time at those if they’re cut up first.
Do Goats Eat Sunflowers?
Yes, goats love sunflowers! Farmers who have goats and also grow sunflowers know that goats will stare at sunflowers, just waiting for a chance to unleash their hunger upon them. Once they’ve got access, they’ll run towards them, even fighting each other sometimes for the tastiest bits such as seeds.
So make sure that if you give your goats the whole plant there’s plenty to share. They’ll very happily munch on the whole plant, so if you’re holding off some prized, super-tall ones, keep them safe — but otherwise, you’ll have some very happy and well-nourished animals on your hands by letting them eat the whole sunflower.
So growing sunflowers on a backyard homestead can be a lot of fun for everyone. My kids love growing them. We get to enjoy a few of the seeds. The chickens get to enjoy a few, too. And then the goats get to enjoy everything else!
Are Sunflowers Good for Goats?
Sunflowers aren’t just a tasty treat for goats, they’re nutritious too. They contain a high percentage of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals like phosphorus, which is important for regulating energy consumption and encouraging cell growth.
They also contain large amounts of essential vitamins and minerals such as iron (important for hemoglobin production in the blood), zinc (crucial to hair production and libido amongst other things), magnesium (for energy production), and vitamins A, D, and E (for a whole host of things such as healthy teeth and skin).
Key Takeaways on Sunflower Seeds for Goats
Goats love sunflower seeds. They love the whole plant. And it’s not only just okay for them to eat the whole sunflower plants (seeds included), but it’s actually very healthy for goats. Just make sure to not let them gorge on anything too much, or you’ll get to deal with bloat and sick goats.
Black sunflower seeds weren’t just my goats’ favorite, they were also a great choice due to cost. While you can buy them at places like Amazon, be sure to check your local feed store. Odds are, you’ll be able to buy them in large bags for a lot better price. We buy our black sunflower seeds in the 40-pound bag (maybe it’s 50 pounds?). And they’re always a huge hit for all the animals on our backyard homestead.
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Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- “Corn Stalks, Sunflowers for Feed Q.” Homesteading Forum, 24 Jan. 2007, www.homesteadingtoday.com/threads/corn-stalks-sunflowers-for-feed-q.162716/.
- Ivan M;Mir PS;Mir Z;Entz T;He ML;McAllister TA; “Effects of Dietary Sunflower Seeds on Rumen Protozoa and Growth of Lambs.” The British Journal of Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15333162/.