Sheep are among the most common and the most popular livestock in the world. They can produce wool, milk, and meat, and are thought to be the easiest to raise out of grazing species on pure pasturage alone.
But sheep eat more than grass and roughage, including fruits and vegetables. How about apples? Can sheep eat apples?
Yes, sheep may safely eat apples periodically so long as the seeds are removed. Consumption of seeds might lead to cyanide poisoning in sheep. Apples are a healthy treat for sheep, containing vitamins and minerals like vitamin a, vitamin c, magnesium, and potassium along with many antioxidants.
Most sheep love a juicy, sweet apple from time to time and you can depend on them putting the squeeze on you if you have an apple in your hand.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about feeding apples to sheep.
Health Benefits of Apples for Sheep
Apples are a great, healthy treat for sheep, and one that they will surely enjoy. Here are some of the benefits that apples can provide for your sheep.
Apples are famed for being nutrient-dense, and they definitely deliver in this regard.
Apples contain vitamins A, C, and E, as well as plenty of fiber and antioxidants. In fact, apples contain more fiber than most other fruits, and that’s just the skin alone.
The flesh of the apple is equally nutritious, containing potassium and iron. Sheep need all of the above, even though they make their own vitamin C in their livers.
Potassium is vital for all ruminants as they use it to balance the bacteria in their rumen.
So whether you’re looking for a healthy snack for sheep or just trying to bump up their vitamin intake, don’t hesitate to reach for an apple.
Can Sheep Eat Apples Raw?
Yes, and this is the preferred way to serve them to your flock. Raw apples are easy for sheep to eat and contain maximum nutrition.
Can Sheep Eat Apple Skin?
Yes, sheep can eat the skin of apples. And they should! The skin of apples is loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
It’s also where most of the antioxidants are found. So when you give your sheep an apple, don’t bother peeling it first.
Can Sheep Eat Apple Seeds?
No! Sheep should not eat apple seeds. The seeds may result in cyanide poisoning if eaten in quantity. See the next section.
Caution: Apple Seeds Contain Cyanide, and May be Harmful to Sheep
The seeds of apples (and other fruits in the rose family) contain cyanogenic glycosides.
These compounds release cyanide when they come into contact with certain enzymes in the digestive tract. Though most mammals can handle a small amount of cyanide, but too much can be fatal.
A few apple seeds probably won’t hurt your sheep, but it’s best to avoid letting them eat the seeds at all.
Remove them before giving your sheep apples, or cut the fruit into small pieces so they can’t get to the seeds.
Cyanide Poisoning in Sheep: Symptoms and Treatment
Cyanide poisoning is very serious and can be fatal if not treated quickly. Signs and symptoms of cyanide poisoning include seizures, difficulty breathing, twitching, weakness, collapse and coma.
Though only likely if your sheep has eaten a bunch of apple seeds, it is not out of the question. If you suspect your sheep has cyanide poisoning, contact a veterinarian immediately.
Can Sheep Eat Apple Cores?
Yes, but they are tough to digest and not very nutritious. It is best to core apples when you remove the seeds prior to giving them to your sheep.
Can Sheep Eat Apples Cooked?
Yes, but there is no good reason to cook them prior to serving them to your flock. If you have some plain, baked apple slices leftover, or something like that, you can serve them to your sheep.
Never Feed Apples to Sheep that Have Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Since we brought up cooking, now is as good a time as any to remind you that you should never feed apple dishes to your sheep that contain harmful ingredients like sugar, salt, butter, cinnamon, or nutmeg.
These can all be toxic or harmful to sheep in large enough quantities. At best, they can cause sheep to gain weight or suffer from diarrhea.
At worst, your sheep could be facing bloat, imbalance of the microorganisms needed for digestion and other serious problems.
So if you’re going to bake an apple pie or make some other type of apple dish, don’t share it with your flock.
You can only feed plain cooked apples to sheep safely and, again, there is no good reason to cook them prior to feeding in the first place.
Beware of Pesticide on Grocery-bought Apples
Another concern you should be aware of is the all but certain presence of pesticides on any apples you buy from the grocery store. Even many organic varieties have likely been sprayed with something at some point.
The only way to avoid pesticides is to grow your own apples or buy them from a provider that is certified pesticide-free.
This is not always possible or practical, of course, but it’s something to keep in mind if it is an option.
At any rate, thoroughly wash any apples you give to your sheep, even if they are organic.
The best method for removing all contaminants from the skin is to soak them for about 10 minutes in room temperature water. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your flock.
How Often Can Sheep Have Apples?
Apples are a wonderfully delicious and healthy treat for your sheep, but like anything else outside their usual pasturage, they should be given in strict moderation.
Apples are not nutritionally complete, and excess consumption can cause problems in their rumen.
Generally, no more than 25% of a sheep’s diet should be from treats like apples. The rest should come from good-quality hay and pasture.
A few servings a week is probably all most sheep need, though some may do fine with a few bites of apple a day.
Just keep an eye on them and if you notice any changes in their behavior or appetite, cut back on the apples.
Preparing Apples for Your Flock
Proper preparation of apples is essential in order to safely give them to sheep. Apples should always be seeded, as mentioned, and then cut into thin slices or small chunks.
Sheep can choke on large pieces of apple or whole ones, so it’s always best to keep serving sizes small.
If you have a particularly large flock, or just want to save some time in the long run, you can also invest in an apple peeler/corer/slicer.
These devices will do all the work for you and make sure the apples are ready to serve quickly and easily.
Another option is to shred apples into a slaw-like consistency. This is a great way to prepare a huge batch and one that your sheep will love. Just be sure to remove the seeds before shredding as usual!
Can Lambs Have Apples, Too?
Yes, lambs can have apples in smaller quantities as long as they are old enough to eat solid food continuously. Start with just a few bites and see how they do before offering more.
As a general rule of thumb, lambs should not have any treats until they are at least six weeks old.
At that point, you can start slowly introducing them to new foods like apples in small quantities.
Keep in mind that lambs are significantly more sensitive to changes in their diet, and excess sugar or moist food can trouble them.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.
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