Because of its temperate climate and long growing season, Florida has a variety of plants that could potentially kill a goat if the animal consumes them. According to Angela McKenzie-Jakes, Extension Animal Science Specialist at Florida A&M University, factors that affect the severity of poisoning include how much of the plant---and what part of it---your goat eats, the plant's age and your goat's overall health. If you suspect your goat has eaten poisonous plants, consult your veterinarian immediately for emergency treatment.
Alkaloids (compounds that contain nitrogen) typically taste sour or bitter and initially affect your goat's digestion system. Plants containing this substance usually don't kill goats because the bitter taste causes them to stop eating it after a few mouthfuls. However, if your goat is very hungry, she could easily consume enough alkaloid-containing plants to fatally poison herself. All parts of these plants, including the roots, stems, flowers and leaves, are poisonous. Common plants in Florida that contain alkaloids include lupines, rhododendron, buttercups, death camas, larkspurs and nightshade. Symptoms of poisoning include diarrhea, blindness, convulsions and death.
Cyanogenic plants contain hydrocyanic acid (HCN), a naturally produced plant product that inhibits your goat's ability to breathe. HCN keeps your goat's red blood cells from releasing oxygen, ultimately resulting in asphyxiation. According to Angela McKenzie-Jakes, important hydrocyanic-acid producing plants in Florida include sorghum, marsh-arrow grass, sudan grass and wild cherries. Typically, HCN levels increase drastically in these plants during dry weather conditions (such as a drought) or right after a frost. Common symptoms include muscle tremors, convulsions, severe breathing problems and death.
When your goat consumes plants with excessive nitrates in them, his body converts it to nitrite, which ultimately forms methemoglobin, a toxic compound that can cause death. Nitrate plants that grow in Florida include poison hemlock, prickly lettuce, milk thistle and common pasture and hay plants, such as oats, rye and wheat. Symptoms of poisoning include staggering, trembling, quick breathing and death. According to the Cornell University Department of Animal Science, causes of excessive nitrate in these plants include drought conditions and nitrogen fertilizer.
Ergot is a common dark-colored fungus that grows on grasses in Florida, especially on the flowering seed heads of plants such as wheat. The plants themselves are not poisonous, but if your goat eats a large quantity of the infected parts, the mycotoxins in the ergot could kill her. Symptoms of poisoning include dry gangrene on the feet or legs, abortion in pregnant animals and death.