Alpine goat walking amongst the ferns

Ferns are a type of plant that is often found in gardens, forests, and other natural areas. They are known for their delicate, lacy fronds and are prized for their ornamental value.

However, if you own goats, you may be wondering if it is safe to allow them to graze on ferns and whether ferns are toxic to goats.

In this blog, we will explore the question of whether ferns are toxic to goats and provide some guidance on how to keep your goats safe.


The Potential Toxicity of Ferns

There are many different species of ferns, and some of them do have the potential to be toxic to goats. Some common toxic ferns include:

  • Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum): This fern is found throughout much of the world and is known to be toxic to goats. It contains a compound called ptaquiloside, which can cause damage to the digestive and nervous systems of goats.
  • Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides): This fern is native to North America and is commonly found in wooded areas. It contains saponins, which can cause digestive upset in goats if ingested in large quantities.
  • Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis): This fern is native to North America and is commonly found in damp, marshy areas. It contains compounds called oxalates, which can cause irritation to the mouth, throat, and digestive system of goats if ingested.

It is important to note that these toxic ferns are not harmful to goats in small quantities. However, if goats consume large amounts of these plants, they may experience symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and tremors. In severe cases, toxic ferns can even be fatal to goats.


Goat walking amongst the ferns
Goat walking amongst the ferns

Preventing Goat Exposure to Toxic Ferns

If you have toxic ferns on your property and you have goats, it is important to take steps to prevent your goats from grazing on these plants. Here are some tips for keeping your goats safe:

  • Fence off areas where toxic ferns are growing: One of the most effective ways to prevent your goats from eating toxic ferns is to physically block off the areas where these plants are growing. This can be done with a fence or by using other physical barriers.
  • Offer plenty of alternative forage: Goats are naturally curious animals and may be more likely to graze on toxic plants if they are not provided with enough alternative forage. To prevent this, make sure to offer your goats plenty of hay, grass, and other safe plants to eat.
  • Monitor your goats closely: If you are concerned that your goats may have been exposed to toxic ferns, be sure to monitor them closely for any signs of illness. If you notice any unusual symptoms, such as vomiting or diarrhea, contact your veterinarian right away.

In conclusion

While not all ferns are toxic to goats, some species can be harmful if ingested in large quantities. To keep your goats safe, be sure to fence off areas where toxic ferns are growing and offer plenty of alternative forage. If you suspect that your goats may have been exposed to toxic ferns, monitor them closely and seek veterinary care if necessary.

By following these guidelines, you can help ensure the health and well-being of your goats and enjoy the beauty of ferns without any worries.