Flaxseed is well-known for having healthy oils, but is it also good to use on the homestead, and in particular—with goats? I was curious to learn more, so I did some research to find out. Here’s what I found.
Flaxseed has proven health benefits for goats. It is a source of sustained energy and also provides nutrients that are necessary for hormone production. Adding flaxseed to a goat’s feed can improve their digestion, as well, as it does for people. However, flaxseed should be used as a supplement, not the main feed.
So, while flaxseed is good to give to goats (in moderation), what are the benefits of flaxseed and how much should you give to goats? Let’s explore this a bit further.
Can Goats Eat Flaxseed?
Goats can eat flaxseeds as a supplement to their main diet. One of the biggest benefits that flaxseeds provide goats is a high concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are healthier than Omega-6, which are often found in corn and soybeans feed. These Omega-6 fatty acids are often shown to be inflammatory.
Flaxseed is different from other seed-like additives to feed for goats such as soybeans or corn because it’s high in Omega-3s. It’s actually three times heavier in Omega-3 than it is in Omega-6. Since Omega-6 isn’t as good for goats as Omega-3, the balance from flaxseed is preferable by many goat owners.
Goats are ruminants, meaning they have a multi-chambered stomach that allows them to spend a shorter amount of time collecting food and a longer amount of time digesting it.
Goats regurgitate and rechew chunks of food that are too large to be digested. What this means in terms of flaxseed is that goats have multiple opportunities to break down flaxseed by chewing and by having it spend a long time in the digestive system for acids to do their job.
Flaxseed for goats is often sold in ground form or as an oil additive.
Flaxseed oil has been proven in scientific studies to enhance milk production, though it’s not as effective as ground flaxseed.
It’s important to keep in mind that ground flaxseed should not be used as the main component of feed for goats but can be beneficial as a supplement to their normal feed.
There isn’t too much that would be dangerous to feed to goats, aside from poisonous plants. Goats are even able to eat processed human foods like chips or cereal. The common expression that “goats eat anything” has some merit after all.
In the worst-case scenario, when given in recommended amounts, whole flaxseeds can pass through their system without the goat getting the nutritional benefit.
If a goat gets into the feed bag and gorges on flaxseed, then the goat could have a problem with bloating. Otherwise, flaxseed is very safe. Of course, before adding to or changing your goat’s feed, consult your local large animal veterinarian.
Benefits of Flaxseed for Goats
Goats can benefit from flaxseed due to its high protein content, Omega-3 fatty acids, and minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium. Flaxseed generally provides goats with good intestinal, cardiovascular, and reproductive health. However, there are more studies on flaxseed benefits for humans than for goats.
Humans often take flaxseed for health benefits, and goats can share some of these same benefits. To see a list of benefits flaxseed has for human health (and potentially goat health), you can check out this post by Healthline.
Flaxseeds are high in lignan content and have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-tumor properties. In fact, flaxseed has as much lignan content in two tablespoons as in 30 cups of fresh broccoli.
Nutrients important for goats’ sustained health are found in flaxseed, including polyunsaturated fatty acids like Omega-3. These healthy fats are helpful for energy metabolism.
Flaxseeds also add protein to a goat’s diet. Antioxidants and minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and more are packed into these tiny seeds. These nutrients have been known to improve coat, skin, and body conditions.
Finally, flaxseed has some benefits such as lowering the risk of some diseases.
With so many positive health effects, a relatively low cost (as so little is needed), and little to no health risks, flaxseeds are an excellent option for an addition to your goat’s diet.
How Much Flaxseed Should You Give Goats?
Goats can eat a quarter cup of ground flaxseed for every 100 lbs of body weight. For goats under 1 year of age, they can have a quarter cup for every 50 lbs. While flaxseed can be used as a supplement to the goat’s main diet, grass should still make up the majority of it. Before changing a goat’s diet, consult a vet.
Ground flaxseed can be added to the main diet of the goat in different quantities depending on the age and weight of the goat.
For adults, the quantity should be one teaspoon per ten pounds of weight each day. If the goat weighs over 100 pounds, it can be fed up to a quarter cup of ground flaxseed daily.
For kids, or goats under one year old, the quantity is reduced to a half teaspoon of ground flaxseed per ten pounds of weight.
In comparison, one teaspoon of flaxseed per ten pounds of weight is a fairly small quantity. Also, flaxseeds provide a lot of nutrients that aren’t found in roughage.
On the other hand, if you prefer using flaxseed oil, know that it can be poured over the top of the feed or mixed into it. Only half an ounce of flaxseed oil per day is needed for the full health benefits.
Flaxseed should be added to the diet gradually over 3-5 days so the goat can adjust to the new levels of fat and nutrients.
Goats can be pickier than we sometimes think, so your goat may reject the flaxseed at first. Be sure to take the additional calcium and phosphorus found in flaxseeds into account and adjust the rest of the goat’s diet accordingly so they are not getting too much of these nutrients.
Goats mainly eat roughage, which is grass or hay that is high in fiber and low in calories. This means goats must eat a lot to get the necessary amounts of energy. In fact, goats will eat up to 4 pounds of food a day.
When grass is limited in the winter months, flaxseed can still be supplemented, but hay should make up the majority of a goat’s feed during this time.
If you have other animals that could benefit from adding flaxseed to their diet, check out this site, which provides the necessary quantities of flaxseed for horses, dogs, cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats.
Can Goats Eat Whole Flaxseed?
Whole flaxseed won’t hurt the goat but is not as effective as ground flaxseed. Goats spend more energy breaking down whole flaxseeds than ground ones. Fatty acids are especially limited when digesting whole flaxseed.
Given goats’ impressive digestive abilities, it is a contested topic as to whether flaxseeds pass through goats’ digestive tracts whole without allowing them to absorb nutrients, or whether the goats can break them down through multiple chews and significant time in the stomach.
Generally, whole flaxseed is edible for goats, but there is some debate about if whole flaxseeds can be fully digested. Whole flaxseeds are fairly small, they have hard shells that are difficult to digest.
Grinding the flaxseed down will make the nutrients more readily available, but removing the hard shell will also lessen the lifespan of the flaxseed. Ground flaxseed should be refrigerated to last longer.
Otherwise, you could buy whole flaxseed and freshly grind it before each feeding, but that may be more time-consuming and difficult than anticipated.
Grinding flaxseed right before feeding is also important because the oils in the seeds are prone to going bad quickly.
Also, avoid boiling or soaking the flaxseed to ensure that the nutrient profile remains unaltered.
What’s the Difference Between Flaxseed Meal and Ground Flaxseed?
Flaxseed meal has been crushed, which removes much of its fat content. On the other hand, ground flaxseed has been finely chopped and retains the nutrients and fat content in the whole flaxseed. Using ground flaxseed is best for goats.
Flaxseed and linseed are interchangeable terms, but “meal” and “ground” are not.
Aside from ground flaxseed or meal, a third option is flaxseed oil. As mentioned above, flaxseed oil has proven benefits but is not as effective as ground flaxseed.
Still, flaxseed oil provides some of the nutrients that ground flaxseed contains, but some are lost or reduced in the process of converting it to oil.
At the end of the day, ground flaxseed is the best choice for getting the most amount of absorbable nutrients to your goats.
If you’d like more information about what to feed (and not to feed goats), check out this post by Morning Chores.
Of course, before adding to or changing your goat’s feed, consult your local large animal veterinarian!