My goats eat an awful lot like sheep. Or… My sheep look and awful lot like goats!

Sheep and goats are similar in many ways. They can look alike at times, they both make “baaaah” noises that are similar, and most significantly they are both ruminants.

Animals like cows, deer, and moose are also ruminants, along with giraffes and camels. Ruminants have 4 chambered stomachs, and regurgitate partially digested food to chew it again, to aid in digestion.

Sheep are grazers, as are cows. This means they prefer to eat grass, and if they are left in one place too long will graze the grass down to bare ground.

Goats like deer, are browsers. This means they prefer to eat things like weeds with woody stems, shrubs, leaves, twigs, and fruit bearing trees. And if left along too long, they will destroy every shrub and fruit tree on your property.

I always wanted some goats, because I have a lot of poison ivy on the border of my property, and it is spreading into my lawn, as well as into my raspberries, and blackberries.

I am very allergic to poison ivy…In fact, although I have not seen any in my yard, or the woods yet, I already got infected by it, presumably from a bale of hay, since that is the only logical explanation.

Many people call poison ivy “Goat Candy”


My goats happily munching grass, just a few feet from the tree line where there are loads of yummy things to eat, like poison ivy, and burdocks! (photo by Jen Alley)


A friend gave me what she told me were goats, but I am not so sure…You see they eat A LOT of grass! Now that my yard is greening up, I figured I would set them loose onto my property so they could destroy things like burdocks, thistle, and poison ivy before it got much of a chance to grow.

The problem is, I am pretty sure I have goaty looking sheep, because all they seem to want is grass. I have lured them into the tree line where I have seen new shoots of burdocks, and a lot of young branchy looking things, but after an initial sniff, and a nibble, they are back to the lawn, where they rip and chew happily!

In fact, I was hanging some laundry out today, in my bare feet, ( I hear goat poop is good for the skin) and I stepped right on a new thistle shoot that was about 4 inches in diameter. Luckily the miserable little stickers found in thistle are very soft this time of year…either that, my feet are REALLY calloused over.

One of my ruminants named “Smeck” grazed his way over to me, and chewed right past the young thistle plant, and the burdock near by, and snapped up a couple of dandelion flowers, before rushing over to see what another ruminant named “Kramer” was eating.

See, the problem with giving an animal a label, such as grazer, or browser, is that the animals don’t know what that means!

In fact, when people talk about the eating habits of goats, they often compare them with deer, who have also been called browsers. But consider this…

If you are out on a country drive, on a warm spring evening and you see a bunch of deer, where are they most of the time? In a field. Right? Now we know that for the most part, they are not eating twigs, and tree buds standing in the middle of a field…Right? They are eating grass to the point they look like they are about to bust!

I suspect it is because after an entire winter of eating nothing but twigs, and buds, they are SUPER happy to eat as much grass as they can fill their bellies with.

Hopefully, my goats, who dined on hay, goat grain, cedar boughs, and old Christmas trees all winter, feel the same way. Because they ate A LOT of hay this past winter, and they were “hired” to clean up the poison ivy! They better get on it! I hear goat meat is SUPER yummy!

(RELAX! I’m not going to eat my goats! I am pretty sure Kobe Beef is cheaper by about 80%!!!)

Doug Alley

About Doug Alley

I grew up in Bath, Maine in an upper lower class family with 3 step sisters, a step brother, and a little sister. After high school I spent 3 years serving in the USAF at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage AK. I've competed in, and won, demolition derbies. I've competed in, and never won, stock car races. I am the 47-year-old father of an 11-year-old boy who is pretty sure he is smarter than I ever was. We live on a little less than an acre of land in a 1973 mobile home in Stetson with my wife Jen, some cats, a few chickens, and rabbits, and a couple of goats. I hunt, fish, camp out, dabble in photography, gardening, and I cook in variable degrees of near success.