Recently, I overheard someone telling a story about the goat his neighbor had growing up. “Yeah! It was tied with a rope to a tree, and the old man used to feed his cats and then throw the tin cans in the backyard. The goat would eat the entire can!”
As it was a story, I left this conversation uninterrupted. However, it stuck with me for the last few weeks, so I’ve decided to correct a few points.
To start, having just one goat is never a good idea. In their Twenty Truths About Raising Goats, Onion Creek Ranch notes:
“Goats are HERD animals. More so than any other livestock, goats depend upon staying together for safety. They have few natural defenses and many predators.”
As far as eating a tin can is concerned, this notion is entirely wrong. In fact, the time I’ve spent with goats has taught me that they are selective eaters. Even to the point where an alfalfa cube that has been dropped onto the floor might make it upalatable.
This is explained further in the informative book Living with Goats: Everything You Need To Know To Raise Your Own Backyard Herd by Margaret Hathaway.
“Goats are ruminants, in the same family as cows, sheep and deer. More specifically, they are browsers. This means that, like the deer that wander through our orchard and nibble the tips off low branches, goats prefer weeds, woody stems, and bark to grassy pasture. Because their diet is naturally varied, goats are designed to be choosy when it comes to their food, and they can actually be finicky when they aren’t offered their preferred foods”
The idea that goats will eat anything probably comes from a combination of things. First, their curiosity is never ending. They will certainly nibble and sniff your shirt, beard and yes, probably a freshly discarded tin can. Secondly, they do eat some questionable items. Examples being blackberry bushes, thistles and both poison ivy and poison oak. If you seen a goat down an entire blackberry cane and nibble on a tin can, perhaps it could be a sensible leap. It would be an incorrect leap, but perhaps reasonable.
To wrap up as clearly and succinctly as possible: No, goats do not eat tin cans.