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GRASSES, FORBS, & BROWSE
1 While much of the scientific agricultural community attempts to provide more and better forages for specific animal use, goats do well on what they have, provided they are given the chance to choose. Although their nutrient requirements exceed those of most other livestock species, goats succeed while others fail. The reason for this success is that goats are particular. They consume the best parts only.

2 Vegetation Vegetation is often divided into three groups: grasses, forbs, and browse plants. Grasses are monocotyledons and belong to the family, Gramineae. Leaves of these herbaceous plants appear as blades, with parallel veins. Forbs, often called weeds, are dicotyledons and include individual plants from many families. Veins in the leaves are not parallel but are netted or branched. The general term, forb, refers to any herbaceous, broadleaf plant without regard to family classification. Browse plants include plants other than grasses and forbs but are usually taller plants, such as trees, shrubs, and vines having woody stems.

3 Nutritional Values of Grasses, Forbs, and Browse Plants Even though grasses are usually considered the most desirable type vegetation for livestock production, forbs and browse plants often contain higher levels of nutrients. Leguminous forbs and browse, for example, commonly contain more than 25 percent crude protein, whereas perennial grasses seldom exceed 15 percent in crude protein content. The energy contents of flowers, fruits, seeds and nuts of forbs and browse can exceed 1.6 megacalories digestible energy per pound of dry matter. In grass foliage, 1.2 megacalories per pound of dry matter is considered high quality.

4 Each plant, whether a grass, forb, or browse plant, is composed of many plant parts that differ from one another in nutritional value. Generally, leaves are more nutritious than stems and new leaves more valuable than old leaves. There are some exceptions to this generalization, especially when certain plant chemicals, such as tannins prevent proper digestion of the plant tissue. The total effect of these binding chemicals on the nutritional values of plants are not fully determined, especially in many of the browse plants.

5 The Goat and Diet Selection Goats are agile and have exaggerated control of their mouth parts, allowing them to be very selective for diet. They are able to stand on their hind legs and climb rock cliffs and low growing trees to gain access to relished plants and plant parts that are unavailable to other livestock species. Goats have a mobile upper lip, effective in nipping off plant parts very selectively. As a result, the goat's diet is very diversified, consisting of small components of a large number of plant species. Very simplified vegetation, an all-grass meadow, for example, does not provide good nutrition for goats over a long period of time. Goats need access to a wide variety of plants in order to exercise diet selection, as different plants increase and decrease in nutritional value with seasonal changes.

6 The Goat as a Brush Control Tool Many of the browse species have invaded or become overabundant in old, abandoned fields or on range and pasturelands following prolonged grazing by other livestock species. These invading species, collectively called ''brush'', often can be suppressed or eradicated using goats. Goats are effective as brush control tools, when the following requirements are met:
1. The brush is either low-growing or is reduced to low growth by mechanical means,
2. The brush species is preferred by goats,
3. Goats can be concentrated in large numbers for a relatively short period, then removed for an extended period.

7 Each time the goats are concentrated, they consume the leaves and twigs of the brush species, as well as a substantial portion of the grasses. When the goats are removed, the grasses recover more quickly than the brush. After several sequential grazing and rest periods, the brush is reduced to a density easily controllable, with a few goats included in the grazing herd. This method of brush control has proven successful in several regions of the United States, as well as at many locations around the world.