Pretty much everybody knows that sheep eat plants. Grass, shoots, hay, vegetables, things like that.
However, certain plant matter can spell trouble for sheep if they have it in too great a quantity. Grains are a great example of that.
But how about something like seeds? Sheep naturally eat a certain amount of seeds as a consequence of their usual diet, but how about a large quantity of them at once?
Take sunflower seeds, for instance. Can sheep eat sunflower seeds safely?
Yes, sheep may safely eat sunflower seeds in moderation, but they should be treated like grains in regard to quantity. But if you feed them sparingly to sheep they will definitely benefit from the massive amount of vitamins and minerals they contain.
Sunflower seeds are a snack that people enjoy all around the world, but you might not have known what a nutritional powerhouse these tiny but mighty seeds really are.
Your sheep can benefit from those nutrients, and you just need to be careful about not overfeeding them.
Keep reading to learn what you need to know about getting sunflower seeds to your flock.
Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds for Sheep
Sunflower seeds are a tasty, healthy and fantastically nutritious snack for sheep.
Sunflower seeds have a vitamin and mineral profile that puts most vegetables and pretty much every kind of fruit to shame.
Sunflower seeds contain a tremendous cross-section of vitamins, including massive amounts of vitamin B1, B6, and vitamin E, with lesser but still impressive amounts of vitamin B2, B3, B5, folate, and choline.
The mineral content is similarly outstanding, with tons of iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc, with only calcium and potassium being present in lesser but again respectable amounts.
And, contrary to popular conception, unseasoned sunflower seeds contain very little salt, which means you at least don’t have to worry about your sheep getting too much of that.
Careful, Too Many Sunflower Seeds Can Cause Bloat
When it comes to sunflower seeds, although they are wholesome, healthy, and something that sheep might reasonably be expected to encounter while grazing it is not a food that they should eat in significant quantity.
In this regard, you’ll want to treat sunflower seeds like any other grain.
A little bit is good, but don’t let your sheep gorge themselves on sunflower seeds or you might wind up having to deal with a case of bloat.
Bloat occurs when there is an overabundance of food in the sheep’s stomach, and it can be very dangerous if not treated quickly.
Also keep in mind that sheep need time to adjust to novel foods. Their stomachs cannot “turn on a dime” like non-ruminants.
Too much new food too quickly, especially one as dense in nutrients as sunflower seeds, can lead to digestive problems like diarrhea at the minimum.
As always, introduce new foods slowly over time, use your best judgment when feeding anything new to your sheep, and always consult with a veterinarian if you have any concerns.
Can Sheep Eat Sunflower Seeds Raw?
Yes, and this is the best way to feed them to your sheep for maximum benefit.
Can Sheep Eat Sunflower Seed Kernels?
Yes. The kernel of the sunflower seed, what most people know as the “actual seed” inside the shell, is totally safe for sheep to eat and contains most of the nutrition.
Can Sheep Eat Sunflower Seed Hulls?
Surprisingly, yes, but harder varieties can be hard to digest. Stick to black oil sunflower seeds if you have any doubts as these have a softer hull than most.
Never Feed Sunflower Seeds to Sheep that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Most people enjoy sunflower seeds prepared in any number of ways, from simple salt to all sorts of flavorings, and some of them can be pretty outrageous.
But, when it comes to your sheep, you should only ever feed them sunflower seeds that are in their natural, unadulterated state, not even salted.
This means no flavored sunflower seeds, and definitely no sunflower seeds that have been candied or prepared with any kind of sugar.
Sheep are not able to process sugar the way we do and too much sugar can make them very sick, so it’s just not worth the risk.
Ideally you will be buying sunflower seeds from livestock feed stores or pet stores to ensure they are getting ones that are suitable for animal consumption.
How Often Can Sheep Have Sunflower Seeds?
Sunflower seeds are so healthy you can be forgiven for wanting your sheep to have them all the time.
However, like all good things, moderation is key. Sunflower seeds should only ever make up a small part of your sheep’s diet, no more than 5% or so, and you never want to give them a huge quantity at one time.
Definitely don’t give them a sizeable portion if they have never had them before.
As always, don’t forget to offer plenty of grass, hay, and fresh water along with the sunflower seeds to ensure your sheep are getting all the nutrients they need when they need them.
Sunflower seeds are at their best when given to sheep as a snack or a small supplement to their usual diet.
Preparing Sunflower Seeds for Your Flock
Giving sunflower seeds to your flock is a snap. No soaking, no cooking, no nothing: just toss them a handful and let them chow down.
Just make sure you are only giving them unadulterated sunflower seeds as mentioned above.
If you have never given sunflower seeds to your sheep before, start with just a few and see how they do before offering more at a later time; remember, it is critical that sheep be slowly acclimated to new foods so their rumen has time to adjust.
Can Lambs Have Sunflower Seeds, Too?
Yes, lambs can have sunflower seeds as well, but always use good judgment and never give them a lot all at once.
They have the same sort of concerns that adult sheep have, but even more strictly.
Once they are old enough to be eating solid foods all the time with no troubles, start with just a few seeds, see how they do, and then offer more later if everything goes smoothly.
As a general rule of thumb, adult sheep can have sunflower seeds somewhat more often than lambs since their digestive systems are better developed.
If lambs suffer from diarrhea or bloat it will be far harder on them than an adult, and it is entirely possible that they might die as a result.
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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