Health and NutritionOther Livestock

Why Too Much Grain isn’t Good for Sheep

Sheep are easy-care critters for a farm animal. They are basically a grazing animal, and pasture or hay should make up the bulk of their diet. But that doesn’t mean they can survive on burned out brown lawn grass. We’ve found that sheep don’t care very much for bluegrass or fescue, which are typical lawn grasses. They seem to prefer coarser, pasture-type grasses such as canary grass or timothy. And they do eat some weeds.

Sheep will eat grain, but it’s not essential if they have access to real good quality pasture and/or hay. A young, lactating, or elderly animal will especially benefit from a grain supplement. You can use a basic corn/soy/oat mixture, or you can buy specially formulated sheep/goat chow at your local feed mill. If possible, try to avoid a steady diet of horse formula as it usually contains more copper than is healthy for sheep. Sheep are ruminants, and feeds formulated for goats or cattle are more appropriate than those for horses. Don’t overdue the grain; you can kill a lamb by overfeeding grain.

If you are using the very large bales and allowing the sheep to eat directly from the bale, you will have a lot of waste. Be cautious about letting sheep nibble a huge round bale set out in a pasture. They can easily turn it into a top-heavy “mushroom” shape, which then can topple over and kill them.

Always provide them with a salt block or a loose mineral salt and provide plenty of fresh, clean drinking water. If you live in an area that provides adequate grazing year ’round your sheep will do just fine on only that. In many climates, there are times of the year when it’s too hot and dry for grass to grow or there are times of the year when it’s too cold and snowy. If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area where neither is a problem, grass can sustain your sheep all year.

Fun Fact

Sheep originated from Mouflon. There are 2 groups of sheep: Hair Sheep & Merino Varieties.

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