When you think of sheep eating, if the only thing that comes to mind regarding their diet is a beautiful, pristine pasture full of grass you might be a bit surprised to learn that sheep need more than that in order to thrive.
They do, in fact, need a variety of plant matter. Vegetables certainly make sense but how about fruit? Can sheep eat fruit?
Yes, sheep can eat a wide variety of fruit safely, although they generally don’t need to eat very much of it in order to benefit. The vitamins, mineral and moisture content of fruit is good for sheep. However, excess consumption of fruit can cause digestive problems or bloat in sheep.
Sheep, like goats, can actually develop something of a sweet tooth if they are given too much fruit, but so long as you make it a point to strictly control the quantity and the feeding schedule you shouldn’t have any issues.
Regardless, many kinds of fruit are healthy and safe for your sheep, so if you’re looking for a wholesome way to give them a treat, keep reading.
Health Benefits of Fruit for Sheep
The health benefits of fruit, particularly the vitamin and mineral content, naturally varies with the type of fruit being fed.
But, no matter what kind of fruit you are giving sheep, so long as it is something they can eat safely you can be assured that they will get some vitamins and often minerals in meaningful quantities.
This is a great way to supplement the diet of your sheep to ensure they are getting everything they need to thrive, and do it in a way that they will be more than happy to partake of.
Fruit also has the benefits of providing sheep with quick energy and also with moisture. Most fruits are at least 85% water by weight, and this can be just the ticket to help them stay hydrated on hot and arid days.
Careful, Sheep Don’t Need Too Much Sugar
If there is one major shortcoming with fruit overall it is that it is, naturally, quite sweet.
This is of course due to the sugar content in the form of fructose, which while not inherently bad for sheep can lead to problems if they have too much.
The biggest issue that can arise from feeding sheep too much fruit is digestive distress. Just like people, if sheep eat too much sugar they can end up with an upset stomach or diarrhea.
Another potential and far more serious problem that can occur if you let your sheep eat too much fruit is bloat.
Bloat occurs when gas builds up in the stomach and intestines, often becoming trapped, and it can be dangerous or even deadly if not treated promptly.
This is also quite agonizing for the poor sheep suffering from it.
Lastly, a more insidious issue is that eating too much sugar too quickly can disrupt the balance of bacteria and fungi present in the rumen, which is an essential part of a sheep’s digestive process.
This can cause all sorts of problems down the road, even prevent them from receiving nutrition from other food, so you should do whatever is possible to avoid this issue.
The good news is that these issues can all be avoided by simply not feeding your sheep too much fruit, and not giving them too much at once or too quickly if they aren’t used to it.
A few bites here or there as a treat will not hurt them and they will love you for it, but don’t go overboard.
Too much of anything, even something as seemingly innocuous as fruit, can be bad for sheep.
Can Sheep Eat Fruit Raw?
Yes, and this is the best way to serve it to your sheep since it will have maximum nutrition. Also, most fruits are easy for sheep to eat raw with no problem.
Can Sheep Eat Apples?
Yes, sheep can eat apples. This is a good source of vitamins for sheep. Just be sure to remove the seeds and core first since those can be harmful if ingested.
Can Sheep Eat Grapes?
Yes. Grapes are delicious and most sheep seem to love them.
Can Sheep Eat Strawberries?
They sure can. Strawberries are tender, moist and delicious, and most sheep like them.
Can Sheep Eat Pineapples?
As hard as it is to imagine sheep ever getting access to a pineapple without us, yes, sheep can and will eat pineapple.
Can Sheep Eat Blueberries?
Yep. Blueberries, like many other berries, are safe and wholesome for your sheep.
Can Sheep Eat Bananas?
Believe it or not, yes, they can eat bananas. Some sheep even eat the peel and all.
Can Sheep Eat Watermelon?
Yes, they can. This summertime mainstay is a great way to keep sheep hydrated and happy in hot weather.
Can Sheep Eat Pears?
They can. As with apples, just make sure to remove the seeds and core first.
Can Sheep Eat Fruit Cooked?
Yes, although cooking fruit is rarely necessary. It can make some fruits more palatable for sheep, though, so if they don’t seem to be enjoying it raw then you can try cooking it.
However, cooking rapidly diminishes the nutritional value of fruit, so it is best to avoid this if at all possible.
Never Feed Fruit to Sheep that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
On the topic of cooking, it is a good time to remind you that you must never feed any fruit to your sheep that has been made with or used as an ingredient in any food they cannot have.
For example, if you are baking a pie and use sugar, spices, or other ingredients that would be harmful to sheep, you must not then feed the leftover fruit scraps to them.
These ingredients can cause serious health issues like digestive problems, bloat, inflammation of the intestines and even death.
Only give your sheep plain cooked fruit if you are going to cook it.
Beware of Pesticide on Grocery-Bought Fruit
Another hazard associated with fruit you buy from the grocery store is the likely presence of pesticide residue.
These chemicals can be harmful to sheep if ingested, so it is best to avoid them if at all possible.
If you don’t grow your own, the best way to do this is to buy organic fruit, or wash the fruit thoroughly with soap and water before feeding it to your sheep.
Consider peeling any fruit that has a sturdy skin capable of keeping these harmful residues away from the flesh inside.
How Often Can Sheep Have Fruit?
Fruit is only ever going to be a limited supplemental food for sheep, at best, or more likely an occasional treat for them.
They are herbivores and their diet should consist mostly of grass, hay, and other pasturage, not fruit.
Generally, a small serving of fruit once or perhaps twice a week is all they should have.
Preparing Fruit for Your Flock
Preparation of fruit for your sheep will vary depending on the type of fruit you have, but there is one rule of thumb you should always follow: cut it up into small bites.
Though soft and tender, sheep might still choke on pieces of fruit or whole fruit that is too large for them to easily chew and swallow.
To avoid this, simply process the fruit into bite-sized pieces that they can enjoy without any risk.
Can Lambs Have Fruit, Too?
Lambs can have fruit, too, but with more limitations than adults.
Although the idea of a fluffy, perfect lamb nibbling away on fruit is adorable, you’ll want to limit their intake for a couple of reasons.
First, lambs are still growing and developing, and their delicate digestive systems can’t handle too much fruit at once.
Second, because they are small any negative outcomes will affect the much more seriously than it will adults.
Lambs can have a little fruit every now and then as a treat so long as they are old enough to be eating solid food with no issues. If they are still drinking milk they are too young for fruit.
When they are old enough, give them only a very small amount of fruit at first to see how they react before giving them more.
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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