Animal husbandry is a fast growing agricultural industry. Many farmers opt to venture into goat farming which is slightly less expensive compared to other livestock farming activities such as cattle farming. Despite the affordability of goat farming, feed is a concern to most farmers, especially to communal farmers. Similar to all livestock farming, feed is highly expensive amounting to approximately 60% of the overall goat rearing costs. For this reason, farmers are increasingly seeking for alternative feeds that can either maintain or increase productivity. In the centre of these deliberations is whether goats can eat tomatoes as supplement to the usual feed that is expensive.
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Can Goats Eat Tomatoes?
Tomato is a nutrient-dense vegetable that offers greats benefits to the health of humans and animals alike. It is in fact considered to be among the world’s healthiest foods. Tomato consists of vitamins, potassium and folate. It also contains several other components that are beneficial to health, including vitamin E, trace elements, flavonoids, phytosterols, and several water-soluble vitamins. These can be transferred to goats through feeding. Tomatoes are regarded as natural medicine thus a tomato induced dietary plan is of the essence. Goats can eat tomatoes as a means to improve their health allowing them more tolerance to diseases. In addition, tomatoes act as an antioxidant agent which directly translates to improved meat and milk quality, growth as well as fertility. With that being said, it is important to understand that tomatoes are a supplement to goat feed. They should not be used as a replacement, as it leads to nutrient deficiency caused by poor diet. Tomato pomace should ideally be dried because fresh tomatoes cannot be stored for prolonged periods. It can be added to goat feed at about 20% to 30% without any negative effect on the growth performance, diet digestibility and production. Agricultural research has also stipulated that daily ingestion of fresh tomato fruits more than 1.5kg causes soft faeces. As such, goats can eat tomatoes, provided quantities are within the recommended range.
Tomato feed for growth enhancement
Goats generally have the highest requirements for minerals of all ruminants. Goats have a higher metabolic rate, the area and capacity of the caprine rumen is larger in proportion to body size than that of the cow, sheep or horse. It is difficult for them to obtain sufficient nutrients to meet their needs from pasture, hay, and the standard grain rations that most farmers use. As such, goats can eat tomatoes as part of their diet to ensure that they get sufficient nutrients for growth. Tomatoes contain a significant amount of vitamins that are often lacking in grain and pasture feed. A tomato induced dietary plan is hence an effective means to ensure the provision of a balanced diet. Farmers who feed tomatoes to their livestock often record slightly larger breeds which demand a high market value. In addition, tomatoes consists of trace minerals such as iron, manganese, zinc as well as potassium which are essential for bone formation, growth and reproduction. A deficiency in these nutrients can cause growth retardation, general muscle weakness, distended abdomen, emaciation and depraved appetite; eventually death. Goats can eat tomatoes to ensure improved growth and fertility, thereby also improving productivity.
Tomato feed for health maintenance
Animal health is usually maintained by artificial medication which is said to leave residues that are harmful to humans. For this reason, farmers are looking for natural means of keeping livestock healthy and safe from diseases. Tomatoes contain essential nutrients that help to boost the immune system thus allowing animals some form of resistance to prevailing diseases. Lycopene is a naturally occurring compound that contributes to the red colour of fruits and is found in high amounts in tomatoes. Lycopene is associated with numerous health benefits including strengthening the immune system. Therefore, goats can eat tomatoes for a boost in their immune systems which in turn allows them to be more tolerant to diseases. In addition, lycopene plays a crucial role in controlling cholesterol levels in animals thus the meat produced is healthier. Goats can feed on tomatoes, though in limited amounts as excess feeding can possibly have a negative effect.
Tomato feed as an antioxidant agent
Lipids are important components of all types of meat and are responsible for many desirable characteristics. Lipid oxidation is quite common in livestock farming. It generally affects the colour, texture, taste and nutritional value of the meat. As a result, the meat is unacceptable in the consumer market costing farmers a lot of money. In order to control oxidation, goats can feed on tomatoes. The lycopene found in tomato acts as an antioxidant agent thereby protecting animals from oxidative damage. This is achieved by scavenging oxygen free radicals and increasing stability of foods. Tomatoes can therefore be used to replace synthetic antioxidants that may potentially harm consumers.
Tomato feed for milk production
Most communal farmers are heavily reliant on goat milk therefore are continuously looking for means to enhance milk production. Goats can eat tomatoes in order to acquire the relevant nutrients needed for improved milk production. Lactating goats are often not able to obtain enough protein, energy, fibre and minerals to meet the demands of their bodies. They therefore draw on reserves that are stored in bones to make up the deficit. Note that this is only effective when they are fed a nutritious balanced diet. Lactating goats can eat tomatoes ensilaged with a complementary feed so as to acquire the necessary nutrients to carry the pregnancy. Tomatoes are a rich source of nutrients including vitamins, potassium and folate as well as lycopene which play a crucial role in the production of milk. High producing dairy animal are prone to oxidative stress which is often exacerbated by poor dietary plans thus resulting in low milk yield. Goats fed tomatoes are protected from oxidation, and so produce more milk.In fact, goats that eat tomato induced feed tend to produce 13% more milk yield in comparison to other goats.
Tomato pomace has a positive effect on the growth performance, nutrient digestibility and productivity of goats. Tomatoes contain a variety of nutrients that are essential for goat health and physiological development. Numerous studies have proven that goats with a tomato induced diets perform better that those without. It has also been proven that an overdose in tomato silage can have adverse effects on development and productivity hence the need to follow the recommended guidelines.