Science and Goat Poop

I write in my book, City Goats, that goats digest their food so thoroughly that if they eat weed seeds, those ┬áseeds, once they have been chewed and ruminated and generally churned and broken down by the goat’s very efficient digestive system, can never sprout forth as nature intended. But, I recently began to wonder if this is in fact true. I read a scientific article titled, “The Efficiency of Chewig During Eating and Ruminating in Goats and Sheep” in the British Journal of Nutrition, which led me to believe nothing could survive the digestive system of a goat, but it focused on measuring the amount of time goats chew and ruminate and the particle size of the particles that make up their tidy pellets. It did not look at whether weed seeds can sprout after being eaten and digested by a goat. And so I wondered.

This question of weed seeds and goats had been rumbling about in my mind when my twelve-year old son came home to say he needed to come up with a science experiment for school. I suggested he test my goats make seeds inviable hypothesis by taking pure goat poop, putting it in a 4 inch pot, and see if anything grows. For a control, he could do the same thing with sterilized soil. I was quite excited about this idea, but the poop element was too uncool and my son came up with the old science fair stand by of creating a battery with a potato.

We had an animated discussion regarding which idea was better which ended with Spencer saying, “Mom, do your own experiment.”

And that’s what I did today. Here it is, probably not in the right format.

Thesis: The digestive system of a goat renders weed seeds inviable.

Set up of control pot: My control is a pot of garden soil that I microwaved for five minutes (thinking this would kill any weed seeds). Two sunflower seeds are planted in this pot, each one inch down. (The idea of adding the sunflower seed is to make sure the medium is capable of sustaining growth).

Set up of experimental pot: My experimental pot is goat poop that I swept up from the goat shed. I had to soak it and smash it up a bit to make it somewhat smooth on the top. As with the control, two sunflower seeds are planted in this pot, each one inch down.

Analyzing Results: If my hypothesis is correct, no weeds will grow in the experimental pot.

There are a few potential flaws I can think of with my experiment. One is that when I swept up the goat poop for the experiment, I got some chicken poop in the mix too and that may have some viable seeds in it. Also, I’m not sure that microwaving wet soil for 5 minutes will render the seeds that might have been in it, inviable. Also, there’s also the possibility that my goats have not been eating any viable seeds. But, I’m starting simple and am curious to see what happens. I may need to do a follow-up experiment where I feed the goats mostly of dandelions for a few days and then collect poop.

I’ll post every week with a photo of the pots. Stay tuned.


One Response to “Science and Goat Poop”

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  1. Eddie says:

    cool i cant wait to see how the test goes!

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