Sheep are grazers that subsist on all kinds of pasturage, including hay, grass and various fruits and vegetables. Vegetables in particular are a valuable part of a sheep’s diet, and they should be fed vegetables periodically to make sure they stay happy and healthy.
How about cabbage? Can sheep eat cabbage?
Yes, sheep can eat cabbage on a limited basis. Cabbage has many vitamins and minerals that sheep need, but it’s typically high sulfur content might cause a problem for sheep if they are allowed to eat too much of it or eat it too regularly.
If you had a sheet for any length of time, you probably already know that they tend to really like cabbage and other leafy vegetables.
That being said, you want them to stay healthy you won’t let them eat cabbage to their hearts content, and you should also be cautious about feeding them too much.
Keep reading to learn what you need to know about giving cabbage to sheep.
Health Benefits of Cabbage for Sheep
Cabbage is definitely healthy food for sheep, but with one major drawback you’ll need to be aware of.
That being said, the vitamin and mineral content of cabbage makes planning around this worth it.
Cabbage contains a good assortment of B vitamins, including vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6, along with a solid amount of folate. Also present is it plenty of vitamin C and a ton of vitamin K.
The mineral complement is also varied but generally minerals aren’t present in the same quantities that the vitamins are.
Even so, your sheep can get calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc from cabbage.
Together, the vitamins will help regulate various cellular functions, promote the production of new DNA and also allow for the uptake and use of calcium throughout the body.
The minerals in cabbage are needed for everything from a strong skeleton and healthy connective tissue to proper muscle function, growth of wool and more.
Of particular interest when it comes to cabbage is the quantity of potassium. Potassium, as you probably already know, is necessary for the balance of moisture and electrolytes in the body and also for muscle function, but sheep need even more potassium at the most other animals because it is vital for balancing microflora levels in their gut.
Caution: Cabbage is High in Sulfur
While cabbage certainly has a lot of health benefits for sheep, there is one big problem that comes along with it: the high sulfur content.
Sulfur is found in many foods, but its present in larger quantities in some than others. Cabbage happens to be one of those foods that are relatively high in sulfur.
This wouldn’t be a problem if sheep didn’t have such a hard time dealing with sulfur, but unfortunately for them, they do.
When sheep eat food that contains sulfur, their gut bacteria breaks down the sulfur and produces hydrogen sulfide gas as a byproduct.
This gas can build up in the sheep’s gut and cause serious health problems, including bloat and even death.
So while cabbage is technically safe for sheep to eat, you’ll need to be very careful about how much they eat and how often they eat it.
A little bit of cabbage here and there won’t hurt them, but if you start feeding them large quantities on a regular basis, you could be setting them up for some serious health problems down the road.
Can Sheep Eat Cabbage Raw?
Yes, and this is usually the best way to serve it to them. Cabbage is health with plenty of nutrients, so you don’t want to cook it and risk losing some of those nutrients.
Can Sheep Eat Cabbage Cooked?
Yes. If you have to cook the cabbage for some reason, go ahead and do it. They’ll still get some benefit from the nutrients, even though they won’t be as potent as they are in the raw form.
Never Feed Cabbage to Sheep that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
On the topic of cooking, you must never serve your sheep any cabbage that has been prepared with anything they should not eat.
This means no cabbage that has been prepared with onions, garlic, butter, salt, sugar, meat or any other harmful ingredients.
Onions and garlic, in particular, can be very dangerous for sheep. They contain compounds that can damage red blood cells and cause anemia.
Other things like butter, oils and sugar can lead to weight gain, serious digestive upset, and diarrhea.
In a worst case scenario you might be looking at something really bad like bloat, peritonitis or even death.
Never, ever give your sheep anything but plain-cooked cabbage.
Beware of Pesticide on Grocery-bought Cabbage
Another thing you must protect your flock against is the presence of pesticides on store-bought cabbage.
Pesticides are used on protect crops from bugs until they can be harvested, but they can be very harmful to animals if ingested. In fact, some pesticides can be deadly.
These chemicals have a way of building up in tissues slowly with repeated ingestion, and can result in devastating health consequences like organ damage, cancer, and death.
The best way to protect your sheep from this is to only buy organic cabbage, or better yet grow it yourself. That way you’ll know for sure that it hasn’t been sprayed with anything harmful.
Even if you do buy organic cabbage, it’s still a good idea to wash it thoroughly before feeding.
How Often Can Sheep Have Cabbage?
As you have learned, cabbage is generally safe for sheep and they will benefit from the nutrition is contains.
However, the sulfur content is something you’ll need to watch out for. Accordingly, it’s best to only feed cabbage to your sheep on occasion, rather than making it a regular part of their diet.
A little bit here and there is fine, but too much or too often could cause some serious health problems.
Generally, your sheep can have one or two small servings of cabbage once or twice a week with no ill-effects. Any more than that is pushing it, however.
Preparing Cabbage for Your Flock
If you are serving cabbage to your sheep, it’s best to chop it up into manageable chunks rather than a whole head.
This will make it easier for your sheep to chew and swallow. Alternately, you can shred cabbage into a slaw-like consistency and serve it to them with other food or on its own.
Can Lambs Have Cabbage, Too?
Lambs can have cabbage, but cautiously. Due to their delicate digestive systems, lambs are more susceptible than adult sheep to developing health problems from excess sulfur intake.
Once your lambs are old enough to be eating solid food all the time it’s best to start them out slowly with just a little bit of cabbage, as a treat.
Keep in mind that lambs also have some pretty strict nutritional requirements, so it’s important not to overdo it with the cabbage or any other treats. Your lamb’s regular diet should consist of hay, grass and a quality lamb feed.
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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