Sheep are a very self-sufficient type of livestock that can be kept on the farm and, like goats, they are excellent browsers. Although sheep can eat a variety of hay, grass, and human feed, there are some types of natural and artificial items that when consumed can cause serious health problems – or even death.
The main food for sheep should be hay. They are ruminants. Like cattle, goats, elk and deer, sheep have four gastric chambers. If you lose your balance because you have too often consumed too much of the right or even too little of the wrong thing, you may experience bloating and other relevant medical problems.
Best hay for sheep to eat
Not every hay is the same. The type of hay that is planted or bought on your farm to feed the flock of sheep plays a big role due to the huge impact it can have.
Sheep almost always eat only fine, leafy hay. In my personal experience, Alfalfa is your favorite.
Mature sheep can gather most of the nutrients they need to stay healthy when grazing in a field of green alfalfa hay or even grass hay that has not yet matured.
Lambs grow more robustly and stay healthier if they offer high-quality, ripe legume hay. Because of the fine and soft stalks that the hay produces, they are easier to eat.
1. Hay orchard
This type of hay grows extremely high during the cool weather season. Orchard Grass is high in fiber but low in protein compared to other top varieties of hay.
The flat leaf blade on the orchard grass varies depending on the ripeness of the hay harvest when harvesting in the shade from blue to green.
Orchard hay normally contains 7% protein, 30% crude fiber, 1 to 1.5% crude fat and a maximum moisture content of around 15% when properly harvested and pressed.
2. Alfalfa Hay
Lucerne or alfalfa Hay is a legume with a high fiber and vitamin A content. Alfalfa contains more calcium and protein than grass hay. The fiber strands in alfalfa are also longer than those in grass hay.
Sheep that eat alfalfa typically consume 120% more energy than they eat an oat hay variety. The average nutrient content in alfalfa consists of 15% to 21% raw protein, 32% raw fiber, 1.5% raw fat, and only about 15% of every properly harvested hay bale consists of moisture.
3. Timothy Hay
Timothy is another high quality hay for feeding sheep and other cattle. This is the type of hay that thoroughbred horses are often fed with. This hay provides a high-feed diet that often includes perennial tufts of grass.
This type of hay offers a balanced ratio of protein and energy-producing nutrients. Timothy hay typically consists of seven to 11% protein, 32% crude fiber, one and a half percent crude fat and, when harvested properly, like alfalfa hay, has a moisture content of around 15%.
4. Bluegrass Hay
This type of hay is much better for horses than for sheep or goats. It is less protein and energy producing than alfalfa hay, but contains more fiber.
5. Cereals (like oats or straw)
Sheep and other animal species love grain hay because it is sweet. Oat hay offers a high proportion of carbohydrates, a high fiber content, but is low in protein.
Since sheep eat the entire leaf and stem of each blade of oat hay, almost nothing is wasted on the plant.
Oat grain hay contains approx. 9% raw protein. This type of hay is also a rich source of zinc, manganese and phosphorus. For sheep and other ruminants, a mixture of oat hay and alfalfa in a ratio of 1 to 5 is often recommended.
6. Low grass hay
The most common types of grass hay for farm animals are Bermuda, ryegrass, bromine and fescue. This type of grass hay is often cheaper to buy than alfalfa, orchard or timothy hay.
Bermuda hay has a crude protein content of approximately 7% to 10%, a crude fiber content of approximately 28% and a calcium content of 43%.
Like all types of grass hay, Bermuda has a lower digestible energy content and a lower protein content than other types of legumes.
Other things that sheep can eat
Goodies, including healthy ones, should occasionally only be fed to sheep in small quantities. I use healthy snacks to train our free-range herds, to come into the barn to set them up, and to prepare them for handling shearing, claw cutting and for medical treatment.
Grain feed should also be given only as a small addition to a healthy hay-based diet. I use an All Stock strain that can be fed to all other animals for convenience and safety – so that nobody accidentally distributes the wrong food to the wrong animal and saves costs.
Buying bulk feed in an agricultural supply store instead of picking up just one or two bags a week can save a lot of money over the course of the year.
You don’t necessarily have to buy healthy snacks for your flock of sheep, you can grow them. Many plants and herbs are not only incredibly healthy treats for sheep, but can also be the basic ingredients of all herbal remedies that you use to strengthen the animal’s immune system, treat inflammation, mild birth pains and deter worms and other parasites.
78 healthy snacks that sheep can eat
|Grapes||Peppermint – in small quantities|
|dill||Crab apple tree leaves|
|Marshmallow Herb Plant – not the junk food in a bag||Graham Crackers – in extreme moderation|
|fennel||Garlic – in small quantities in moderation|
|mustard seeds||lemon balm|
|roses||Black Eyed Susan|
|Peaches – ONLY with pits removed||oranges|
|Collard Greens||tree of life|
|Buckkbrush – Indian currant||Agapanthus|
|Cantaloupe melon||Angel Wings Begonias|
|bamboo||Bark cloth Fig|
|Cedar needles, leaves and even bark||bay leaves|
|Blackberry Bush||Beetroot – root and leaves|
|Boiled beans||Boiled peas|
|Baccharis – Coyote Bush||comfrey|
50 things sheep can’t eat
It’s far easier to avoid giving sheep fruit and vegetables that you can’t eat than to prevent dangerous to deadly plants and weeds from growing on your pasture.
Not only do you need to keep a close eye on what you choose to feed the sheep, but you also need to routinely examine the pasture and stable to ensure that there is no toxic growth.
|Cherry trees||horse nettle|
|oleander||Castor oil plant|
|Icelandic poppy||Blue lupine|
|lily of the valley||Chokecherry trees|
|plum trees||Ponderosa pines|
|Japanese pieris – deadly toxic||Flixweed|
|Burning bushberries||False tansy|
Sheep snack tips
- Bread and crackers should only be given in small quantities as a rare treatif ever. Grain overload can lead to bloating, especially in ruminants such as sheep and goats.
- Salt and mineral blocks should be kept as a snack in the goat stable as desired, Mineral blocks can help keep the nutrient content in farm animals at an optimal percentage. Common nutrients contained in mineral blocks are vitamins A, D and E, calcium, sulfur, sodium, magnesium, zinc, trace elements (copper, iodine, manganese and iron) and potassium.
- Baking soda is also an excellent snack of your choice and a natural remedy for flatulence.
- Diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled on a healthy snack or in the feed bin with cereal rations to help sheep naturally fight worms and other parasites. Only agricultural diatomaceous earth may be used – all other varieties or poisonous to animals.
- Do not offer snacks or food rations on the ground. When sheep and other cattle eat directly from the ground, where they and other animals leave droppings, the likelihood that worms and possibly deadly bacteria contract will increase exponentially.
- Only introduce a new healthy snack in a small amount at a time To prevent the sheep from eating up, you can estimate which foods can cause an allergic reaction to your herd. Always give snacks later in the day after the sheep have consumed the required amount of hay.
The best diet for sheep is a natural one, which is only slightly supplemented with cereal feed and healthy snacks. Overall, sheep eat grass, plants, clover and other types of legumes that grow in the habitat in which they are raised.
Planting alfalfa, vetch, soybeans, red clover and cow peas on the pasture of the herd provides the sheep with a nutrient-rich and natural food source on which they can graze in warm weather – no grain additives are required.
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