What do Sheep Eat? Feeding Your Sheep the Right Diet

Sheep are common and popular livestock animals for farms and homesteads. Their fleece can be used for blankets and clothing, and there are obvious culinary benefits.

They’re also entertaining to watch when they get excited. A flock of sheep will also give you a number of challenges, they have very specific dietary needs.

sheep on pasture
sheep on pasture

If they eat the wrong thing, it can cause serious problems. So, what are the dietary needs of sheep?

A Typical Sheep’s Diet

Sheep are herbivorous ruminant animals; this means that they have four stomachs and in two of those stomach chambers (the rumen and reticulum) the food is fermented and becomes cud.

The sheep regurgitate the cud and chew it up again – mixing the cud with their saliva, increasing nutrient absorption, and aiding in digestion.

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Typically, they eat a variety of grasses (i.e. ryegrass, Kikuyu grass, etc.), plants, legumes, and hay, but their diet may also include:

  • Dandelions
  • Clovers
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Roughage (fibrous feed)
  • Grain (on occasion for sheep with higher nutritional needs)
  • Alfalfa

Is it a Good Idea to Give your Sheep Fruit?

Yes, fruits are easy to come by and are a great way to enrich your sheep’s diet with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

There is, however, one caveat; you need to serve fruits in moderation. Too much will cause some pretty serious health problems for the animal.

collage with veggies, fruits, and grains good for sheep feed

What Fruits can Sheep Eat?

I’m sure we all like a bit of fruit occasionally, sheep also enjoy a bit of fruit. Not only is a piece of fruit often a sweet, tasty treat, but What fruit(s) can they eat?

ApplesBananas
GrapesPineapple
StrawberriesBlueberries
MangoesPeaches
PearsBlackberry Bush
LemonOranges
GrapefruitFig
Watermelon

Can Sheep Eat Apples?

Yes, sheep can eat apples – in moderation. Apple skin is packed with fiber and potassium, and there are several minerals and vitamins which can be beneficial to your sheep.

Apples are, however, highly acidic and so should be served in small slices. The seeds may be poisonous and so you should make sure that your sheep don’t get hold of them.

If they eat too many apples, the acidic nature of the fruit will cause serious gastrointestinal problems. These problems can be very painful and, in some cases, life-threatening.

Can Sheep Eat Bananas?

Yes, they can. Sheep will eat just about anything including bananas. The peel and fruit are highly nutritious and delicious, and they tend to drive sheep moggy.

In fact, they’re known to run up to tourists in certain areas when they catch the scent of the fruit in their bags. Bananas are a great source of starch and potassium. The fruit is also a great source of fiber.

Can Sheep Eat Grapes?

Yes, in fact, they love them. Grapes are a common, healthy treat and sheep love them – so much so that they even eat the leaves.

They’re high in fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins K and C, protein, and potassium.

These delicious treats boost the immune system, increase the production of milk, and improve the quality of the meat.

Can Sheep Eat Pineapple?

Sheep can indeed eat pineapple, just not in large quantities. Pineapple should be given in moderation – like most citrus fruits, if you give too much it will cause some serious health problems.

It’s got hints of phosphorous, calcium, and dietary fiber which can benefit the animal but it’s most beneficial when combined with other healthy snacks.

Can Sheep Eat Strawberries?

Yes, sheep can eat strawberries – in moderation. This is a sweet treat that any sheep will enjoy, BUT it should be a very, very rare treat.

Strawberries are very sugary, and the high sugar content can cause some digestive issues.

Additionally, they may end up ingesting pesticides that were present on the fruit – which can be a serious problem.

Can Sheep Eat Blueberries?

Sheep can certainly eat blueberries. Blueberries are a tasty, low-calorie treat that sheep love to munch on!

They’re also rich in antioxidants and fiber which helps prevent oxidative stress (an imbalance between the body’s natural antioxidants and its oxygen-carrying molecules).

Can Sheep Eat Mangoes?

Sheep can eat mangoes as long as they don’t get too much. Mangoes are another sweet treat that sheep can enjoy, but they should only be enjoyed in moderation.

They get a number of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from the fruit but there’s also a serious risk that comes with eating too much.

Mangoes contain a substance called mangiferin which is known to be toxic to cattle in large amounts.

Now, cattle and sheep aren’t the same, but there’s a chance that your flock may be poisoned by too much mango.

Can Sheep Eat Pears?

Yes, sheep can eat pears, in fact, they love pears. Pears are tasty and packed with vitamins and minerals which boost the overall health of the animal. They also help boost the immune system.

Can Sheep Eat Peaches?

Yes, sheep can eat peaches. Peaches are another well-liked treat that’s packed with vitamins and minerals, but one should be careful of the pits.

Stone fruit like peaches can cause serious problems and should be given with the pits removed.

This is because the pits can cause serious stomach problems that you really don’t want to deal with.

Now, I have read about and seen sheep and goats chew up the fruit and spit the seeds out but it’s best to remove them ahead of time if you can.

Can Sheep Eat Lemons?

Yes, sheep can eat lemon but only in moderation. It’s packed with Vitamin C, which is great, but it’s also highly acidic so too much of it will cause gastrointestinal problems. This is true of all citrus fruits.

Can Sheep Eat Oranges?

Yes, sheep can eat oranges but only in moderation. Like lemons, oranges are citrus fruits and are packed with Vitamin C, which is great, but it’s also highly acidic so too much of it will cause gastrointestinal problems.

Can Sheep eat Grapefruit?

Yes, sheep can eat grapefruit but only in moderation. It’s packed with Vitamin C, which is great, but being a citrus fruit, it’s also highly acidic so too much of it will cause gastrointestinal problems.

Can Sheep Eat Watermelon?

Sheep can eat watermelon. It’s easy to chew and very tasty; making it a favorite treat.

Watermelon is also packed with vitamins and minerals and, since it’s 90% water, it helps sheep to stay hydrated in the hot summer months.

Can Sheep Eat Fig?

Yes, sheep can eat fig. The fruit is quite sweet (just remember to remove the pits) and the leaves have latex which works like a laxative by loosening their stool.

Can Sheep Eat Blackberry Bushes?

Yes, sheep can eat blackberry bushes. They like them and will eat them quite happily. Although, they’re not as keen on them as goats are.

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What Veggies can Sheep Eat?

Much like us, sheep enjoy their veggies – although, they’re surprisingly picky about what they will or won’t eat. So, what veggies do our fluffy friends like?

SquashPumpkin
CarrotsCelery
Cucumber/DillBroccoli (in small amounts)
ChicoryCamellias
CabbagePeas (Cooked)
Bay LeavesBeans (cooked)
ThymeMint
CauliflowerGarlic (small quantities)
OreganoFennel
Turnips (small amounts)Soybeans
PeanutsBeets
LettuceSpinach

Can Sheep Eat Carrots?

Sheep can eat carrots, they love carrots! Carrots are packed with vitamins and provide ample amounts of fiber. They also improve the functionality of the eyes and heart.

Can Sheep Eat Celery?

Celery can be eaten by sheep, but you should be very careful with it. It’s full of furocoumarins which can cause photosensitivity in your sheep.

Can Sheep Eat Cabbage?

Sheep can eat cabbage, but it’s usually used as a part of the finishing diet for lambs. This means that when the lambs start to experiment with grazing cabbage is a good option.

Can Sheep Eat Broccoli?

Sheep can eat small amounts of broccoli. Larger quantities, however, will cause some pretty serious health issues including anemia and infertility.

Can Sheep Eat Kale?

Yes, sheep may eat kale but only in extreme moderation. Too much of it is likely to cause serious problems.

Can Sheep Eat Asparagus?

Yes, sheep can eat asparagus. In fact, adding asparagus to their diet can improve the flavor of the meat.

Can Sheep Eat Spinach?

Yep, sheep can indeed eat spinach. They usually eat grasses, leaves, roots, bush weeds, and yes, spinach. These foods can help improve the production capacity of the sheep.

Can Sheep Eat Alfalfa?

Yes, sheep can eat alfalfa. Alfalfa is packed with vitamin A and is high in fiber. Sheep that eat alfalfa get much more energy from their meal.

Can Sheep Eat Cucumber?

Yes, sheep can eat cucumber. It’s easily munched on and is packed with antioxidants, with lots of vitamin C and beta-carotene. It’s important to note, however, that not all varieties of cucumber are edible.

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What Grains can Sheep Eat?

Grains are typically used with animals that have higher nutritional needs (i.e. pregnant ewes).

Sheep are very fond of grains and can easily eat too much which can cause a lot of problems. Now, what grains can sheep eat?

OatsWheat
BarleySorghum
MaizeRice
Corn

Can Sheep Eat Corn?

Yes, sheep can eat corn. They are very fond of corn and will eat it when the other offerings are unappealing. Unfortunately, corn has a very low protein content.

Can Sheep Eat Oats?

Oats are perfectly safe for sheep. It’s easily digested and is high in fiber. Now, if you want a high-energy meal then the quantity of oats should be limited.

Can Sheep Eat Maize?

Sheep can eat maize. It should be introduced gradually to the diet and served with an equal amount of fiber.

Can Sheep Eat Barley?

Yes, sheep can indeed eat barley. It’s a great source of starch and is a high-energy feed with low protein content.

Can Sheep Eat Wheat?

Yes, sheep can eat wheat, but only in small amounts. Wheat is a good source of starch and energy, but the starch can cause stomach upsets as it’s readily digested.

Can Sheep Eat Rice?

Sheep can eat rice, but it’s generally not a good idea to give them too much. Rice is very palatable for them – especially if they’re lambs.

Can Sheep Eat Sorghum?

Sheep can certainly eat sorghum. Sorghum does very well in dryer areas and can be used for both grain feed and roughage.

What Else can Sheep Eat?

Okay, so we’ve looked at fruits, veggies, and grains. Obviously, a sheep’s diet and palate are quite refined, so what else can they eat?

Peppermint (in moderation)Honeysuckle
Sow ThistleRosemary
VioletsGraham Crackers
LavenderDaisies
SunflowersArborvitae
Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus)Parsley
NectarinesPlums
BambooCantaloupe
YarrowWormwood
Crabapple Tree LeavesBlack-Eyed Susan
RosesIndian Currant
Coyote BushGinger Root
ComfreyDogwood Tree
Cedar Needles, Leaves, and BarkAngel Wing Begonias
Black LocustGreenbrier
Bread (rare treat)Kale
KelpEggs
Prickly PearsCorn Husks
Mango LeavesCommon Mallow
RadishesPine Needles
StrawSwiss Chard
Broadleaf PlantainPopcorn
Salt licks/Mineral blocksBaking Soda (mixed with other snacks)
Green BeansDog food
NutsSilage
AsparagusWild Carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace)

Can Sheep Eat Bread?

Yes, sheep can eat bread but not in large quantities. The high grain and fat contents can cause serious problems including grain overload and obesity.

Can Sheep Eat Sunflowers?

Yes, sheep can eat sunflowers, though they usually eat sunflower meal and not a whole flower. Sunflower meal has a very high protein content and is very palatable. There is, however, a chance that the oil content may interfere with fiber digestion.

What Should NOT Be Fed to my Sheep?

Sheep, much like us humans, require a healthy diet. Certain things may seem like they’d be good options but will just bring a whole lot of trouble your way.

So, what should you NOT give your sheep?

TomatoesMeat
Ice CreamMilkweed
RhubarbIris
HollyYew
AcornsMorning Glory
FernsChocolate
IvyWild Cherry
Horse FeedChicken Feed
PotatoesAvocadoes
St. John’s WortHorse Nettle
RhododendronsLilac
MushroomsFoxglove
Cherry TreesAzaleas
HemlockFireweed Plant
ButtercupsLily of the Valley
Japanese PierisPokeweed
Elderberry TreesOleander
Burning Bush BerriesChokecherry Trees
EggplantOnions
Daffodils

Can Sheep Eat Tomatoes?

No, sheep cannot eat tomatoes. Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family and have a high alkaloid content making them potentially toxic to your animals.

Can Sheep Eat Chocolate?

No, under no circumstances should you give your sheep chocolate. It has little to no nutritional value and is toxic to most if not all animals – except us humans obviously.

Can Sheep Eat Onions?

Yes, sheep can eat onions but it’s not a good idea to give them onions. Onions are toxic to many mammals and, while sheep have a higher tolerance for the toxin found in onions, do you really want to risk losing your flock? It’s better to be safe than sorry.

What about Stored Feed?

The stored feed includes hay, silage (pickled grass), green chop, and certain crop by-products.

The most common choice is hay as that’s part of the diet and is often used in winter when the pastures aren’t giving enough food.

What do Lambs Eat?

Lambs will typically survive on milk from their mothers for the first week or two after they’re born before they start experimenting with grasses.

From the time that they’re about 5 or 6 weeks old, they’ll have a diet that’s a mixture of milk and grasses and will be weaned off the milk at 12 or 14 weeks.

A Healthy Diet is Important

To say that keeping your sheep happy and healthy is very important is an understatement.

If you want to treat your animals, that’s great but do it with care. Treats should be given in moderation, not in place of a regular meal.

As always, thanks for reading. I hope everyone enjoyed the article and found it informative. I’ll see you for the next one, but until then, stay safe and take care of yourselves and your fluffy friends!

What is the Best Food for Sheep?

The best diet for a sheep is hay. They’ll eat a variety of hays and grasses including ryegrass, and timothy grass. They’ll also eat soft, easily chewed flowering plants.

What Treats do Sheep Enjoy?

Sheep enjoy a variety of treats. Some of the most common ones are sunflower seeds, bananas, grapes, and watermelon among others.

What do Sheep Eat in the Winter when Grass is Unavailable?

In winter, when the pastures can’t provide everything the flock needs, the farmers step in with stored feed and supplements.

The winter diet includes grains, hay, squash, pumpkin, silage, and a specialized sheep formula that has the correct level of copper for the animal.

How Much do Sheep Eat?

Sheep typically need a lot of food and will eat around 0.03 pounds of food for each pound they weigh.

Considering that an adult can weigh in between 100 and 350 pounds, they’ll typically eat around 9 or 10 pounds of food in a day.

sheep feed pinterest

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