Can Goats Eat Vetch?

Vetch is cultivated in many countries around the world, and it is one of the most important forage crops in America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

The original home of the “vetch” plant is Europe, Asia, and Africa. Vetch has been cultivated in these areas for thousands of years and is one of the most important forage crops in the world.

Introduced to the United States in the sixteenth century, vetch is now an important agricultural crop. Vetch is a herbaceous, annual, winter plant, belonging to the legume family, similar to a lentil plant, with pods with pea-like seeds.

The vetch is a forage that is a rich source of protein. It contains a group of amino acids almost equal to that of the soybean plant! The vetch plant also contains dietary fiber, which facilitates digestion in animals. The vetch also contains a group of mineral salts, including iron, calcium, zinc, and sodium.

Despite these great benefits, vetch can be toxic to some animals, such as horses, and should not be given to them at all. Vetch can be fed to ruminants such as goats and other livestock, as the complex stomach systems of ruminants can handle the harmful substances found in vetch.

However, there are still many things that must be known so that the goats do not suffer harm from eating vetch.

Let us answer the question of the following line: do goats eat vetch? and explain the most important tips on how to introduce the vetch to goats and what types are suitable for them.

Can Goats Eat Vetch?

Goat Eating Tree Leaves

Yes, goats can eat vetch but some precautions should be taken, goats should not eat all types of vetch, and if they are going to eat it, it should be in small quantities. Although it may seem safe, as some breeders feed vetch to goats without causing them harm, this cannot be taken as a general rule.

Vetch is not listed as a plant dangerous to goats on Cornell University’s Plants Toxic to Goats website. Some people feed it to goats because it is high in protein (similar to alfalfa).

But it doesn’t quite go as well as it seems as many sources are indicating that vetch can be toxic to goats and humans too if consumed in large quantities. This is what has already happened to many animals such as cows and horses, although it has not been observed in certain proportions in goats.

This may be due to the optional nature of goats in eating different species, as they are considered browsers, as they taste a large number of herbs during their grazing without focusing on a specific type of grass, which makes the amount of vetch eaten by them may not be sufficient for the emergence of symptoms of poisoning.

Because it is so widespread in the wilderness and pastures, it is common to find it mixed with the grass that goats browse.

The goats seem to browse and eat it with no noticeable adverse effects. However, we should limit our goats’ consumption of vetch to only snacks and side treats with their main diet rather than letting them eliminate it.

Nutritional Benefits of Vetch

It is a legume that is used as fodder for goats, chickens, and animals because it is rich in proteins and fatty acids and has a high content of minerals therefore it is a very suitable ingredient for fertilizing animal and bird feeds.

Moreover, it is very useful for humans, and its toxic substances are overcome by cooking and heat treatment, as it has many important pharmacological properties in humans, like other legumes.[1]

High Levels of Protein

Vetch contains a high percentage of important essential amino acids in vetch seeds. The highest levels of cysteine ​​in seed protein were detected in the Russian variety. Even processed veggies still contain a large amount of protein and amino acids.

Two samples of treated vetch, which had been detoxified by lavage cooking, contained 22.4 and 25.8% crude protein. Which approximates the proportion of amino acid composition found in raw vetch. Processed and raw vetch seeds are relatively high in lysine, phenylalanine, leucine, and arginine.

Fatty Acids

Common vetch seeds are used as an important source of dietary fat as they contain high levels of fatty acids. They can be used in fodder after heat treatment, chemical treatment, peel removal, and soaking.

Vetch seeds contain 8.95-38.00 g/kg of crude fat. It contains unsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids.

Their overall ratio ranges from 3.0:1.0 to 3.7:1.0. The major constituent of saturated fatty acids is palmitic acid comprising 15.79-17.42% of the total. While linoleic acid accounts for 52.56-54.39% of the total. They consist of alpha-linolenic acid, which contains 9.03-12.12%, and oleic acid, 8.33-11.54%.

Vitamins and Minerals 

Vetch leaves are high in vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc sodium, and vitamins A and C. Vetch is also a good source of carbohydrates and fiber, making it a valuable feed option for goats.

The Most Important Precautions When Offering Vetch to Goats

Goats at the farm

Not Eating a Large Amount

Although goats are ruminants and have a stomach that can digest and excrete most of the toxic substances found in vetch, if they eat them in large quantities, they will be more likely to cause health problems, as the amount of harmful substances is large for the body of young goats. Therefore, it should be given to the goats in small quantities, taking care not to let the goats graze in the vetch pastures, and they are very hungry so as not to eat large quantities of them.

Do Not Offer Vetch Seeds to Goats

Vetch seeds are poisonous because they contain cyanogenic glycosides and glucosides, which are harmful substances that cause neurological disease.

Seeds are often found only in mature plants, so this should not be taken into account so that goats are not left to graze on mature vetch pastures because they will inevitably eat the seeds and thus be exposed to health problems.

To keep your goats safe, allow them to graze only the growing vetches that have not yet been seeded.

Introduce Vetch Gradually 

As with any new feed, it is recommended to introduce vetch gradually and observe how the goats respond to it. Ensure that the vetch is fresh and free from any molds or toxins before feeding it to your goats. If any disease symptoms appear on the goats, they must stop feeding the vetch to them.

Choose the Appropriate Type of Vetch

There are many types of vetch, which differ greatly in terms of being healthy or harmful to goats and animals. Some types of vetch are highly toxic to goats while others are fairly safe. Therefore, we must be aware of the types of vetch, even at least the widespread ones. Let us take a brief overview of the types of vetch in the following lines.

Potential Risks of Feeding Goats with Vetch

While goats can consume vetch, there are potential risks that should be kept in mind when including it in their diet.


Vetch can be high in fiber, which can increase the risk of bloating in goats. It is important to gradually introduce vetch into their diet and monitor their digestion to prevent any issues.


Certain species of vetch contain alkaloids that can be toxic to goats if consumed in large quantities. It is important to only feed goats vetch varieties that are known to be safe for consumption.

Overview of Different Types of Vetch

The vetch is one of the pea family, Fabaceae, which makes up the third largest plant family in the world and comes with more than thirteen thousand species! Many types of vetch differ in their characteristics and colors.

There are about 150 species of vetch! About 25 of them are native to the United States and the rest were imported from Europe or West Asia. The vetch species also differ in their suitability for human and animal consumption, as some of them are safe and some are toxic and cause damage.

Let’s get acquainted with the most common types of vetch the good ones for feeding goats and the others that are harmful for them by answering these questions in the following paragraphs.

Can Goats Eat Common Vetch?

Yes, goats can eat common vetch as it provides palatable fodder both fresh and fodder for them and other livestock. Common vetch also provides a valuable crop because it is high in protein and makes a great green manure.

However, there is some danger of colic or digestive problems for goats if they eat too much, especially from adult plants that have pods as the seeds inside it contain a substance that may poison the animals. Therefore, it should be taken in moderate amounts.

The seeds should also be used in very small amounts only in the diets of monogastric species such as horses and humans as their effect is greater as the monogastric digestive system is not able to deal with the anti-nutritional factors present in the vetch seeds.

Can Goats Eat Hairy Vetch?

Although the Hairy vetch is a common cover crop, it is not recommended as fodder for goats. There are potential risks of goats grazing hairy vetch, which can sometimes lead to painful dermatitis all over the body and neurological symptoms.

These risks are more likely to occur when mature vetch goats, especially the seeds eat large amounts of them. Hairy vetch (V. villosa) seeds are the one of most toxic types of vetch seeds and have been most closely associated with poisoning in goats when grazing in open pastures.

Thus, the answer to the question Is hairy vetch toxic to goats? It could be yes, but there are some exceptions as Hairy vetch can be offered to goats with hay or straw, in this case, health problems are less likely to occur.

Can Goats Eat Crown Vetch? 

Goats can eat crown vetch But not all parts, only the flowers that grow along the trunk of the tree, and not the coronet at the top, nor the pods that contain the seeds, where the seeds of Violet crown vetch are classified as one of the most poisonous vetch seeds.

Certainly, goats cannot be left to graze randomly on crown vetch pastures as they will not be able to distinguish between the toxic parts and the healthy parts. Therefore, the breeder must collect the vetch to exclude the poisonous parts himself.

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Doaa Salah
The shy one (too shy to put her photo) and the only girl in our team! Doaa is a veterinarian who is passionate about writing content. She knows a lot about animals and birds, as she has been studying them for many years now. Her goal? She is researching and learning to convey to you all the knowledge she have and what's new about farming.