Because of their inquisitive nature and tolerance of bitter or high tannin material, goats may eat unpalatable weeds and wild shrubs that may be poisonous, such as cherry or milkweed. The absence or the severity of poisoning is related to the quantity of material consumed, the portion and age of the plant eaten, the season of the year, the age and size of the animal and other factors. In addition, several ornamental plants that are grown outdoors or indoors are highly toxic. For example, goats should not have access to, or be fed, clippings of yew, azaleas, oleanders, rhododendrons, delphinium, lily-of-the-valley and larkspur.
For goats in a mixed woodland browsing situation, wild cherry can be a problem. The leaves are not toxic when consumed green, but after wilting they become toxic. However, as goats browse, they sometimes break smaller limbs, causing remaining leaves to wilt. Then the wilted leaves will be toxic.
Goats are often not affected by poisonous compounds or anti-nutritional factors if a sufficient number of other plant species are available. Because goats prefer to consume a very varied diet, the detrimental effects of poisonous compounds found in certain plants are diluted.
Luginbuhl, J-M. 2006. Pastures for Meat Goats. In: Meat Goat Production Handbook, ed. T.A. Gipson, R.C. Merkel, K. Williams, and T. Sahlu, Langston University, ISBN 1-880667-04-5.