As most owners of sheep already know, they eat more than just grass. Sheep are herbivores, and he’d only plant matter, but there are foraging isn’t limited to what they can find in the pasture.
Sheep can also eat fruits and vegetables, but there is one fruit that has garnered some controversy when it comes to feeding sheep with it: grapes.
Some owners say you can feed grapes to sheep, others say you cannot or that they would never have them in the wild. What’s the real answer? Can sheep eat grapes?
Yes, sheep may eat grapes safely so long as the quantity is limited. Grapes are healthy and nutritious, and some sheep seem like them, but they have too much sugar for them.
Grapes are very sugary, and too much of in a sheep’s diet can lead to problems with bloat, intestinal inflammation, diarrhea, and more.
There is nothing that is overtly prohibitive about grapes when it comes to sheep. They aren’t toxic, they won’t poison them.
But like most fruits and veggies sheep should only have them in highly limited quantities as part of a correct and well-rounded diet.
Keep reading to learn what you need to know about feeding grapes to your sheep.
Health Benefits of Grapes for Sheep
Grapes, like many fruits, are sweet and delicious but more importantly for our purposes they can also offer our sheep some fairly decent nutrition, including a good spread of vitamins and minerals.
Grapes contain predominantly a good complement of the B complex vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate along with vitamin C and vitamin K. They also contain just a little bit of choline and vitamin E.
The mineral profile is similarly varied, but limited in quantity. Grapes have calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc, well they don’t have very much of any of them.
Nonetheless, these nutrients are good for sheep. The B complex vitamins are essential in all sorts of cellular functions. Vitamin k is necessary for the uptake and distribution of calcium in the body.
Iron and calcium are necessary for the distribution of oxygen in the bloodstream and a strong skeleton, respectively, while potassium is essential for proper muscle function, electrolyte balance and is especially needed for proper balance of fermentation in the rumen.
Also, grapes are mostly water, meaning they can be a hydrating and energy-boosting snack for sheep in hot weather.
Can Sheep Eat Grapes Raw?
Yes, sheep can eat raw grapes and this is the best way to serve them. Raw grapes will have the maximum nutritional value and are soft and easy to eat.
Can Sheep Eat Grape Leaves?
Yes, they can. In fact, many sheep seem to prefer grape leaves over the grapes themselves, so be cautious if you are letting them graze near your own grape vines!
Can Sheep Have Wine?
No. Absolutely not. Your sheep should never be given wine or any alcohol.
Can Sheep Eat Grapes Cooked?
Sheep may have cooked grapes, but there isn’t much of a good reason to cook them prior to serving them to your flock.
Cooking grapes will reduce the nutritional content, and tends to make grapes very mushy and watery, and less appealing overall to sheep.
Never Feed Grapes to Sheep that Have Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
But since we mentioned cooking, you must never feed grapes to sheep that have been prepared with or used as an ingredient in something harmful that they cannot eat.
We already mentioned wine but grapes are also used in a variety of desserts and also savory foods and various salads.
Any or all of these dishes might have harmful ingredients like sugar, salt, dressings, oils, and so forth that are all bad for your sheep.
And a best-case scenario, all the extra calories from oils and sugars can cause your sheep to gain weight, and will likely result in serious digestive distress in the bargain.
But in a worst-case scenario, your sheep might suffer from inflammation of the intestinal lining, disruption of proper rumen balance, bloat, and more.
All of these conditions are seriously painful for sheep, and all of them can turn life-threatening pretty quickly. Whatever your favorite grape involved recipe is, save it for yourself or your family.
If you are cooking grapes before serving them to sheep, they should only be cooked plain with no additional ingredients.
Beware of Pesticide on Grocery-bought Grapes
If you are purchasing grapes from the grocery store with the intention of giving them to your sheep, you’ll need to be aware of the near certain presence of pesticide residues.
Grapes are among the most heavily sprayed fruits on the market today, and sadly are also one of the fruits most likely to absorb pesticides into their flesh.
These pesticides are bad news for mammals, including sheep, despite the reassurances of big government agencies.
The accumulation of pesticide residues in mammals has been associated with everything from neurological damage and cancer to reproductive harm and hormonal imbalances.
You definitely don’t want any of that to happen to your precious sheep, so make it a point to purchase organic, pesticide-free varieties whenever you can, or barring that make sure you wash non-organic grapes thoroughly before serving them.
How Often Can Sheep Have Grapes?
Grapes are definitely a wholesome snack, but they are still just that, a snack. This is not something that your sheep should have all the time or in great amounts. Once, perhaps twice a week they can have a small serving of grapes with no ill effects.
Grapes are not and should not be a significant part of your flock’s diet, no matter how much they like them.
Sheep should only be eating around 25% of their total calorie intake and the form of supplemental foods like produce, and grapes only make up a portion of that 25%.
Preparing Grapes for Your Flock
It is super easy to give grapes to your sheep. You can pluck grapes and set them out for them in a bowl or feeder, or even hang up a few small bunches of grapes close to the ground to let them nibble on them freely.
Alternately, you might scatter a few on clear ground in order to give your sheep a little bit of entertainment while they look for them.
Can Lambs Have Grapes, Too?
Yes, lambs can have grapes also but with a couple of extra restrictions. First, you want to let lambs grow up a little bit until they are old enough to be eating solid food all the time. If they are drinking milk, they aren’t quite old enough yet.
Also, make sure you throttle back on the quantity of grapes that you give them compared to adults.
Lambs have pretty stringent nutritional requirements for optimal growth and health, and grapes are nowhere near nutritionally complete.
Furthermore, grapes are quite sugary and that can easily cause digestive issues for young lambs.
As always, keep an eye on them after you give them a few grapes for the first time and if they seem to be suffering any distress, don’t give them anymore.
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.