You ever think what else grows in those fields that you let your sheep graze on? When you think about it, it is almost never just grass, not entirely.
You’ll have all sorts of little plans and other things in there, including every kind of weed and wildflower.
It is easy to assume that all of that is safe for sheep, but is it really? How about something like dandelions, those are so common.
Can sheep safely eat dandelions?
Yes, sheep can safely eat dandelions right along with grass. Dandelions are pretty nutritious all on their own and they will definitely help your sheep get the vitamins and minerals they need as part of their daily diet.
About the only thing you have to worry about when it comes to your sheep eating dandelions is if they have never eaten them before at all and encounter a big patch of them, and then a little bit of yellow staining on their snouts.
Keep reading to learn what you need to know about allowing your sheep to eat dandelions.
Health Benefits of Dandelions for Sheep
Comprehensive nutritional data of dandelions is hard to come by, but by extrapolating known information on other, similar plant life we know dandelions contain a fair assortment of vitamins and minerals that are all good for sheep.
B vitamins in particular are excellent for the cellular health of sheep, while calcium, iron, and potassium will promote strong and healthy skeletons, oxygenation in the blood, and proper balance of electrolytes and fluid levels respectively.
Potassium is also particularly important for sheep, even compared to other mammals, because they rely on it to help properly balance bacteria levels in the rumen.
Anything that sheep can do to get a little extra potassium in their diet is a good thing, and dandelions play an important role in this regard.
Can Sheep Eat Dandelions Raw?
Yes, sheep can eat raw dandelions, and this is very likely to be the way they always encounter them.
Wild, live dandelions are also the healthiest option for sheep since they contain the most vitamins and minerals.
Can Sheep Eat Dandelions Cooked?
Technically yes, though there is no good reason to cook them for sheep. Cooking also depletes the nutrients found in dandelions, so that is a reason not to, right there.
Never Feed Dandelions to Sheep that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
It might sound strange, but you should never give dandelions to sheep that are prepared with harmful ingredients. Let me explain.
Believe it or not, dandelions are sometimes used as an ingredient in all kinds of dishes, from salads to steamed greens and even in desserts.
Interesting stuff, but though dandelions are great for sheep they should not have anything else associated with these various dishes.
Things like oils, dressings, salt, sugar, and more are all problematic for your sheep.
So, if you have any dandelions that have been prepared with these ingredients just for yourself or others do not give them to the sheep. It is not worth the risk to their health.
At best, they could be facing weight gain or serious digestive upset and diarrhea. At worst, they could suffer from bloat, peritonitis or other issues which could turn life-threatening.
If, for whatever reason, you are cooking dandelions only give your sheep ones that are cooked plain, nothing else!
Beware of Pesticides on Wild or Unknown Dandelions
Considering what you have learned so far you might be thinking that sheep are just the thing to clear out an unsightly patch of dandelions. And you’d be right!
However, there is one big caveat to this: you must allow your sheep to graze on dandelions that have been sprayed with pesticides, or ones you suspect have been sprayed.
There are all kinds of nasty chemicals out there these days that can do all sorts of harm to sheep if they ingest them.
The last thing you want is for your sheep to get sick or even die because they ate dandelions that had been sprayed with something harmful.
Pesticides, though they are promised by makers and legislators to be “mostly safe” have been linked to all sorts of terrible health effects in mammals, including sheep.
Pesticides might cause such ailments and injuries as cancer, reproductive problems, birth defects, weakened immune system, hormonal imbalances, nervous system damage, and more.
The best way to avoid this is only allow your sheep to graze on dandelions that you know have not been sprayed with any pesticides or other chemicals.
If you are unsure, it is always better to err on the side of caution and find another spot for them to graze.
How Often Can Sheep Have Dandelions?
Sheep can have dandelions as often as they want and as much as they want so long as two conditions are met: they are eating it as a component of their usual forage and they are already accustomed to eating them on a routine basis.
Said another way, you should not gather up a giant haul of dandelions and then expect your sheep to chow down on them without any ill effect.
Sheep have delicate, sensitive digestive systems that need time to acclimatize to any novel food, even one as innocuous as dandelions.
But so long as they eat them as part of their usual pasturage you don’t have anything to worry about.
Preparing Dandelions for Your Flock
Your sheep will take care of this themselves; they will find and eat dandelions in their travels where they encounter them.
If you are feeding any harvested ones to your sheep as a supplement to their regular hay diet, then you can just toss a few handfuls into their feeder. No need to get too fancy!
Can Lambs Have Dandelions, Too?
Yes. Once lambs are old enough to start weaning off milk and start eating solid food like the other sheep, they will likely take to dandelions on their own if they are present in their pastures.
If you want to give them a little nudge in the right direction, you can try offering them a small handful of dandelions that have been chopped up into manageable pieces.
Dandelions are a perfectly safe and healthy food for lambs to eat so long as you abide by the rules above; they should not get too many all at once and should be allowed to acclimatize to 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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