Nigerian Dwarf Goats and Plum trees

Asked March 19, 2020, 2:39 PM EDT

We are in our first year of backyard goats. We have two yearling Nigerian Dwarf does in Newberg. One section of the yard has two plum trees (two different varieties, I'm pretty sure one is a brooks and the other is similar but ripens at a different time). After doing research, I know that stone fruit tree leaves can be harmful to goats. My question is, are they harmful all the time? Could we let the goats browse in that area (with grasses, weeds, blackberries and other scrub) during the spring, but close them off when fruit begins/leaves wilt? Or is it dangerous for them to have access at anytime? We need to decide if we can keep the trees or cut them down. We want the goats to have access to that pasture. We'd love any help you can give!

Yamhill County Oregon

1 Response

Hello.

Indeed, stone fruit tree parts (all but ripe fruit flesh) contain a cyanide compound that is quite toxic to livestock that ingest it. The toxin is most concentrated in wilted leaves, but is present in green leaves, twigs, branches, bark, and pits. (Fully dried leaves are ok.) You can read more about it here:

https://extension.umd.edu/learn/toxic-plant-profile-prunus-species

For your goat pasture, you could permanently fence off the plum trees and be particularly vigilant when you get an early/late-season frost that the goats cannot reach the trees. You would also want to police the area after a windstorm. Any individual plant’s desirability is influenced by how much good quality food is available in general. Livestock tend to get in trouble when they eat a higher quantity of toxic plants because they are hungry due a lack of good forage. Another thing to remember is that goats are browsers and are more likely to nibble bark than sheep or cattle. If you want to not have to worry about it, you could remove the trees.

Best wishes,