Spinach is renowned as one of the very healthiest vegetables that humans can eat. Bursting with all kinds of vitamins and minerals, there is no diet that cannot be improved by the addition of spinach.
But how about our sheep? It seems like something that sheep could eat. Can sheep eat spinach safely?
Yes, sheep may safely eat spinach as a supplemental part of their diet. Spinach contains abundant vitamins and minerals that are good for sheep, including vitamin A, folate, vitamin K, manganese, potassium, and iron. However, you should never feed too much spinach to sheep due to its high oxalate content.
Spinach really is a superstar vegetable, nutritionally, and one that will do a lot for your sheep the same as it will for you or me.
However, spinach does have a significant drawback when it fed raw, as the presence of oxalate may actually prevent the use of some minerals that your sheep need.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about giving spinach to your sheep.
Health Benefits of Spinach for Sheep
There are so many health benefits associated with spinach that it could easily make up an article all on its own.
Nearly peerless in its nutritional content, spinach contains an abundance of vitamins and minerals alike.
Vitamin A equivalent and beta-carotene are present in a tremendous quantity, along with good amounts of all of the major B vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B6, and folate.
Vitamin C is well represented along with a good dose of vitamin E and an absolutely tremendous amount of vitamin K.
The good news continues when you look at the mineral content of spinach, with calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese all being present in large quantity, with somewhat lesser amounts of phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc.
Notably, spinach is also mostly water, around 91% by weight.
This can make it a great option for helping to keep your sheep hydrated during warm weather, in addition to giving them a huge boost of nutrition.
Can Sheep Eat Spinach Raw?
Yes, sheep can eat spinach raw. Easy to eat, easy to digest, and highly nutritious, this is definitely a good way to serve it to them.
However, raw spinach contains high amounts of oxalates, and that can be troublesome if your sheep are allowed to eat it too often or eat too much.
See the next section for details.
Caution: Spinach Contains High Levels of Oxalates
Oxalates are compounds found in many plant foods, and they can bind to minerals in the gut, preventing their absorption.
This means that if your sheep eat too much raw spinach, they may not be able to properly absorb the calcium and iron that it contains.
Excessive amounts can actually remove these minerals from the body!
Additionally, high oxalate levels in the body have been linked to the formation of kidney stones or urinary calculi in mammals.
Aside from being extremely painful, and maybe even fatal for sheep, oxalates can cause deficiencies vital minerals over time if spinach is a staple of their diet.
So, while spinach is an excellent source of nutrition for sheep, it should only be fed to them in moderation, and perhaps should be cooked to reduce the oxalate content.
Can Sheep Eat Spinach Cooked?
Yes, and cooking is definitely a good idea. Cooking will somewhat depletes the nutrient content of spinach somewhat, but it also reduces the normally high oxalate levels by about half.
That said, even cooked spinach should only be given to sheep in moderation, as it is still possible for them to consume too many oxalates if they eat enough of it.
Never Feed Spinach to Sheep that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Since we are on the subject of cooking, now is a good time to remind you that you must never give spinach to your sheep that has been prepared with harmful ingredients.
Ingredients like bacon, salt, garlic, onion, and other spices can all be toxic to sheep, so make sure the spinach you give them is plain and simple.
Boiled or steamed spinach is usually the best option, as it is both easy to prepare and generally appealing to sheep.
Though you probably have your own favorite preparation of spinach, those ingredients mentioned are very bad for your sheep.
Weight gain, indigestion, diarrhea, and other such issues are the least you should expect, while more serious and life-threatening ailments are hardly out of the question.
Bloat, peritonitis, and even enterotoxemia are all real dangers if your sheep eat such things.
Spinach is good for sheep, but only in moderation, and never if it has been prepared with harmful ingredients.
Beware of Pesticide on Grocery-bought Spinach
If you purchase your spinach from the grocery store, it is important to take extra care in washing it before feeding it to your sheep.
Grocery store spinach is often sprayed with pesticides, which can be toxic to sheep if not removed.
These pesticides have been linked with all sorts of health problems in sheep, from birth defects to neurological damage.
For this reason, you should wash your spinach thoroughly in cool water, and make sure to remove any dirt or debris that might be clinging to the leaves.
The best thing you can do is grow it yourself (since it is so easy to grow) or purchase certified organic spinach from a trusted source.
This way, you can be sure that your spinach is free of harmful pesticides and other toxins. But barring this, you should always wash it thoroughly!
How Often Can Sheep Have Spinach?
Spinach can be a healthy supplement to your flock’s usual diet, but it is only something they should eat in strict moderation.
While spinach is packed full of vitamins and minerals, remember that it is also high in oxalates, which can bind to calcium and other essential nutrients in the gut.
This can lead to deficiencies if sheep eat too much spinach or have it too often, so it is important not to overdo it.
A good rule of thumb is to only give your sheep spinach once a week, in a small serving, as part of a well-rounded diet.
This will ensure that they get all the benefits of this leafy green without any of the drawbacks.
Preparing Spinach for Your Flock
Now that we’ve gone over all the important things you need to know about feeding spinach to your sheep, let’s go over how to actually prepare it.
As we mentioned earlier, if you are cooking it boiling or steaming is usually the best option, as it is both easy to prepare and generally liked by sheep. If served raw, individual leaves are easy for sheep to eat.
Can Lambs Have Spinach, Too?
Yes, but you must take care that they do not eat too much! Lambs grow quickly, and their little bodies use up nutrients at a prodigious rate.
This includes iron and calcium, the two things that the oxalate content in spinach can impede the absorption of.
Too much spinach can lead to problems like anemia in lambs, so it is important to only give them very small servings of this leafy green, and not too often.
If you have any doubts whatsoever, avoid the spinach! They have plenty of other treats to enjoy in the meantime.
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.