Most people have heard the old wives tale that goats will eat anything. While this isn’t true and can actually lead to harm or even death if you feed your goats the wrong things, goats will eat and enjoy a surprising number of plants. One of their favorites is, Willow Trees.
Most of us recognize a Willow Tree by their grand, drooping branches. They thrive in damp areas, near and around water, but are also found in sandy soiled areas as well. Willows have been immortalized in art and poetry for centuries. It was a Willow Tree that leaned over Ophelia.
Willows have also been used in medicine for a long time. Originally their leaves and bark were used to make a tea with anti-inflammatory properties. In the 1800’s, scientist were able to isolate the salicylic acid found in the bark and eventually used that to create what we today call, Aspirin.
So why do goats enjoy the leaves and tender branches of the Willow so much? Nobody really knows. One thing is for sure though, goats certainly do. At Grey Dog Maple Farm, our goats Peter and Kaley love a few tender branches full slender Willow Tree leaves. They like them so much that they’ll often choose those over any store bought treat.
People have been feeding Willow to goats for ages. Stories have been passed down of when times were hard and the pasture grounds were too dry. Willow branches were cut, roped together like hay, and stored to feed the livestock. In some places, this practice is still in use even today.
When I bought this farm, I began planting Willows in some of the wetter areas to help dry those spots up. So far I have Willows planted on the edge of the pond, in a swampy area, and by one of the creeks. Willows grow very fast. In some places, once they’re established they can grow up to six feet a year when times are good. The trees planted here are doing well so Peter and Kaley will have a good supply. And it’s not just the goats that like it. Even the chickens enjoy the leaves.
If you have or are thinking about getting goats, think about planting some Willow Trees as well. They’re a beautiful tree and your animals will thank you.