Fussy Eaters

It’s a myth that goats will eat anything. In the winter, when there’s nothing left in the meadow to eat, hay is their main food source. Hay is basically dried grass, but not any grass. Farmers devote fields to growing this stuff. Some farmers seed timothy, others seed alfalfa. Some don’t seed at all, and simply cut what’s there. The first mowing of the year is aptly named, “first cutting hay.” The stems are thick, the tops mature. If the hay has been baled and brought in before it gets rained on or baked by the sun, it’s green and smells grassy. Good to me. Not to my goats. My boys won’t eat first cutting hay.

Note their hay rack. The stuff it’s stuffed with all looks the same, right? But note that the boys are munching on the right side.

First cutting is on the left. “Second cutting” hay is on the right. Late summer hay is also known as “goat candy.” I still have two bales of the first cutting – bought when that was all that was available. It was 19 degrees this morning. Cold. The goats need to eat hay to keep warm. And yet, when I came into the barn, there they were, telling me they were starving. The hay rack was full. With first cutting. Even hungry, they won’t deign to eat it. It’s going to be some expensive bedding.


  1. There also tends to be a lot more weed material in a first cutting, and some of those weeds carry low level toxins that can make goats sick. They avoid it because they know they should. Some goats ignore the instinct and nibble at it anyway, but quickly spit it out. When you combine it with a goats natural ‘pickiness’, you do indeed end up with expensive bedding. ;)

  2. I love reading your blog about your chickens, goats, dogs, dog beds, your book signing at the Concord Museum, etc. Started reading your blog this spring when we joined a chicken co-op. The girls have been laying eggs since late September. Are they ever entertaining! We are the volunteer coop hosts and it is a labor of love. We are continually adding something to the coop to make the girls comfortable. And continually learning. Thanks for your blog!