One of the significant challenges associated with keeping livestock is it coming up with wholesome, supplemental foods as winter closes in.
This is especially true of sheep, which are overwhelmingly dependent on grass and other pasturage. But some vegetables are virtually synonymous with the approach of fall and winter.
Take the ubiquitous pumpkin, for instance. Can sheep eat pumpkins?
Yes, sheep can eat pumpkin safely so long as the stem and seeds are removed from the flesh. Pumpkin is a healthy way to give sheep a snack and boost of energy in cooler weather, and they will also benefit from the vitamin A and beta-carotene in pumpkins.
Turns out the pumpkins are good for more than just pumpkin pie and carving jack-o’-lanterns.
Your sheep can make a nice meal out of a pumpkin so long as you are careful to mind the quantity.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about giving pumpkins to your sheep.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin for Sheep
Pumpkins are virtually synonymous with pumpkin pie, a delicious dessert that absolutely everyone loves when the fall and winter holidays roll around.
Anyone who says they don’t like pumpkin pie is probably lying. But back on track, are pumpkins good for sheep or are they more of a tasty treat?
I’m happy to report that pumpkins are highly nutritious and especially good for sheep.
They have a well-rounded profile of vitamins and minerals that can improve almost every facet of a sheep’s health.
The most spectacular attribute that pumpkins have nutritionally is the tremendous amount of vitamin A and beta-carotene they contain.
Backing this up is a good assortment of the B vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate along with a good shot of vitamin C and a little bit of vitamins E and K.
The mineral profile is similarly impressive, with a good amount of iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium backed up with a little bit of calcium and zinc.
Notably, pumpkins contain hardly any sodium and are mostly water by weight, meaning they can help sheep stay hydrated.
Can Sheep Eat Pumpkin Raw?
Yes, sheep can eat raw pumpkin so long as it is cut into smaller pieces with both stem and seeds removed (they are a choking hazard).
Raw pumpkin has the best possible nutritional values for sheep as cooking will reduce their vitamin and mineral content.
Can Sheep Eat Pumpkin Leaves?
Yes, they can. Sheep tend to love the crisp green leaves attached to a pumpkin’s stem. Don’t throw that part out!
Can Sheep Eat Pumpkin Cooked?
Yes. Cooking might make pumpkin more appealing to picky sheep but it will also reduce the nutritional content.
Never Feed Pumpkin to Sheep that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Since we are talking about cooking, and cooking with pumpkin immediately conjures images of delicious desserts, I must remind you that you should never, ever feed pumpkin to sheep if it has added ingredients that they cannot eat.
Things like butter, oils, salt, sugar, and other things might combine to make delicious pies and puddings, but they will hurt your sheep.
At best, these ingredients will make your sheep sick. At worst, they could kill them. Conditions like bloat, peritonitis and other horrible maladies are not out of the question.
If you are going to cook up pumpkin, any which way, only feed it to sheep if it has been prepared without any added ingredients.
Beware of Pesticide on Grocery-bought Pumpkin
Another risk you’ll need to be aware of is one that is not entirely unique to pumpkins alone. I am talking about the risk posed by pesticide residue.
Pumpkins, being a squash, are classified as part of the cucurbit family. This also includes other vegetables like watermelons, cantaloupes, and cucumbers.
These crops are notorious for having high levels of pesticide residue. These pesticides, though supposedly “safe,” are anything but and have been long correlated with serious health problems in mammals, including sheep.
Pesticide ingestion often builds up over time, and can eventually result in such horrendous health conditions as liver damage, kidney damage, neurological disorders, reproductive harm, and cancer.
If you are going to feed pumpkins to your sheep, try to get them from an organic source. This will ensure that they have not been sprayed with harmful pesticides.
If you can’t, just make it a point to remove the flesh from the tough outer skin and discard it; that is the part that will have the most residues on it.
How Often Can Sheep Have Pumpkin?
Pumpkin is a healthy treat for your flock, one that can help provide them with all the nutrients that sheep need.
That being so, they still should not have pumpkin all the time, or have too much. Pumpkin is not nutritionally complete, and eating too much of it can cause issues for sheep.
Accordingly, it is classified as a treat for sheep, and should only be fed to them in moderation.
A small serving once or twice a week is usually plenty, and any more than that might cause trouble.
Preparing Pumpkin for Your Flock
You’ll need to do a little work if you want your sheep to enjoy s snack of delicious pumpkin.
Pumpkin is pretty hard for sheep to break into, as they really only want the flesh, and the flesh can be tough to remove from that hard rind, so give your sheep a hand.
Cut open the pumpkin and remove the guts and seeds. Then smash or cut the pumpkin into manageable pieces.
Remove the flesh, making sure to keep it in bite-sized chunks, and then you are ready to serve it to your flock.
Can Lambs Have Pumpkin, Too?
Baby lambs can also enjoy a little pumpkin, with just a few restrictions.
Lambs should not have more than a few bites of pumpkin, as their delicate digestive systems are still developing and they could easily be made sick by eating it.
As always, you will need to wait until your lamb is old enough to eat solid food and is totally done with getting milk from mom.
Start with just a little bit, to make sure that they can handle it with no consequences, and if everything goes well, you can start slowly giving them a little more next 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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