When it comes to the diet of sheep, there are most popularly thought to eat hay and grass and not much else. This isn’t true, of course, as sheep are herbivores that need a variety of plant matter in their diets in order to stay healthy.
This diet includes vegetables, even some vegetables that you and I enjoy on our own dinner plates.
How about asparagus? Even though it is a little woody, it seems like something that sheep should be able to eat. Can sheep eat asparagus safely?
Yes, sheep can safely eat asparagus so long as they have it in limited quantities. Asparagus has a solid nutritional profile of vitamins and minerals that are good for sheep, including iron, phosphorus, folate, and other B vitamins.
Whether you could like it or leave it yourself, there is a little debate that sheep seem to enjoy asparagus.
You can relax knowing that you can spruce up their diet a little bit with a few choice servings of this vegetable safely, and they’ll also get a boost of much-needed nutrition.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about giving asparagus to your sheep.
Health Benefits of Asparagus for Sheep
Asparagus is used the world over in all sorts of cuisines, both as an ingredient in main courses and as a side dish, simply prepared.
Though it is fairly notorious for the unpleasant odor it creates in urine, there is no debating its nutritional quality.
Asparagus is packed with a solid assortment of vitamins and minerals alike, beginning with a good amount of vitamin A equivalent and beta-carotene, along with most of the B vitamins in abundance including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate.
Jolene is also present in a smaller amount, but this is backed up by a good amount of vitamins C and E and a huge boost of vitamin K.
The mineral content is similarly impressive, with lots of iron, manganese, and phosphorus backed up by a little bit of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
It is no overestimation to say that asparagus provides nearly everything that a sheep’s body needs, and will improve organ function, wool quality, cellular health, oxygenation of the blood, mineral uptake, and balancing of the microflora in the rumen.
Can Sheep Eat Asparagus Raw?
Yes, and eating it raw ensures they will get maximum nutrition from it.
However, the woody, springy stalks of asparagus might pose a choking hazard, so caution is advised in preparation.
Can Sheep Eat Asparagus Cooked?
Yes. Sheep can also eat cooked asparagus.
It is not necessary to cook asparagus before feeding it to your sheep, but some people prefer to do so.
Cooking asparagus breaks down the cellulose in the plant’s cell walls, making it easier for sheep to digest and absorb the nutrients.
Cooking also softens the asparagus stalks, making them less of a choking hazard. However, cooking does deplete the nutritional content significantly.
Never Feed Asparagus to Sheep that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Asparagus is commonly prepared with a variety of other ingredients to make it more palatable, everything from butter and oil to salt, sugar, and other such rich additions.
These will no doubt make asparagus more delicious for people, but it will also make it much more harmful for sheep.
High-calorie ingredients will, at best, cause sheep to get a seriously upset stomach or gain weight, and at worst can lead to really serious health conditions like bloat, liver problems, inflammation of the intestines, and more.
So, if you’re going to feed your sheep cooked asparagus, make sure it is plain, lightly cooked, and unseasoned.
Beware of Pesticide on Grocery-Bought Asparagus
Another hazard associated with asparagus, at least asparagus bought from the grocery store, is pesticide residues.
Pesticides are routinely used on asparagus crops, and though the asparagus is washed before it reaches grocery store shelves, significant traces of these toxic chemicals can remain.
These pesticide residues can be very harmful to sheep, causing all sorts of health problems including organ damage, neurological problems, reproductive issues, and more.
So, if you’re going to feed your sheep store-bought asparagus, make sure it is organic and pesticide-free.
The very best option is to grow your own, but this is not always possible depending on your climate.
How Often Can Sheep Have Asparagus?
Asparagus is definitely healthy fare for sheep, but it should only be a supplemental food item, not the main course, and should not be fed to sheep too often.
A few times a week is plenty, and even then only in small quantities. A good rule of thumb is to offer no more than 1-2% of your sheep’s body weight in asparagus per serving.
Also, you should slowly acclimatize sheep that have never eaten asparagus before. Sheep, like all ruminants, take time to adjust to new foods, and asparagus is no exception.
Start by offering only a tiny amount, and gradually increase the quantity per serving over the course of a few weeks.
This will give your sheep’s digestive system time to adjust, and will minimize the risk of stomach upsets or serious hazards like bloat.
Preparing Asparagus for Your Flock
Preparing asparagus for maximum enjoyment requires a little work on your part. But it’ll be worth it when you see how much your sheep love this healthy veggie.
To start with, you’ll need to wash the asparagus. Even if it’s organic, there may be dirt or other contaminants on the stalks that you don’t want your sheep to eat. Just give them a good rinse under cool water.
Next, you’ll need to snap off the tough ends of the stalks at the bottom. These can be quite fibrous and hard, making them difficult for sheep to chew and digest properly.
You can either do this by hand, or use a sharp knife if you prefer. Just cut off about an inch or so from the bottom of each stalk.
If you want to cook the asparagus, now is the time to do it. Light cooking makes the asparagus softer and easier for sheep to eat, and also breaks down some of the tough fibers, making it easier for them to digest.
But beware of overcooking, as this can make the asparagus mushy and will zap the nutrients your sheep need.
Then, finally, cut the asparagus up into small, bite-sized pieces. This will minimize the risk of choking and also make portion control a bit easier for you.
Can Lambs Have Asparagus, Too?
Yes. Baby sheep can also eat asparagus, but not until they have grown up a bit.
Lambs should not be given asparagus until they are at least old enough to be eating solid food with no issues, and even then only in tiny quantities.
As with adult sheep, start slowly and gradually increase the amount per serving over time.
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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