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Do Sheep Eat Hay (And Should They?)

sheep eating hay

Sheep eat hay, but will also need other types of supplementing foods such as grain and pellets. In the winter, sheep will happily eat hay instead of grass.

When the temperatures get colder and if there are bad weather conditions such as ice, snow, or rain, farmers decide to feed hay to their sheep. It’s a great food source if you can find high-quality hay. 

Hay can be made of different types of food, such as:

  • Cereals or a mixture of cereals
  • Legumes
  • Grass
  • Clover
  • A mixture of the above

Do Sheep like Eating Hay?

sheep eating

Sheep like to eat hay, as long as it is a quality type of hay. They tend to prefer finer types of hay such as alfalfa, but won’t say no to other types of hay, too.

If you have been researching sheep and their diets for some time, then you probably already know that sheep aren’t picky eaters. In nature, they will eat almost anything from grass, legumes, leaves, and other foods they can find. As long as the food is soft enough to chew, sheep will eat it.

sheep wool

The same can also be said about hay. Sheep will eat almost any type of hay provided that the hay is seasoned enough and has the right humidity levels. Different types of hay have different types of digestibility. For example, earl-cut cereal will have a digestibility of 65%, while late-cut cereal will have about a 50% level of digestibility.

For this reason, it’s better to pick the types of hay that have higher levels of digestibility. In general, finer types of hay are better for sheep because they’re more easily digestible. Alfalfa hay is great, but you’ll also find many other types of hay that work well for sheep. 

The hay that you feed to your sheep can include anything from grass, cereals, legumes, clover, and even a mixture of all the above. As long as the hay is not too dry or too humid and has the right levels of digestibility, you should be able to provide a decent source of food for your sheep.

Is hay good for sheep?

sheep wool

Hay is a good source of food, as long as you provide them with finer and leafier types of hay. These types of hay are more easily digestible for sheep, which is why they prefer them to other types.

Feeding your sheep hay is certainly a viable alternative to having them outside on a pasture. This is a great alternative especially when it gets colder and when the grass isn’t available to sheep. This might be because of icy conditions or snow, or even if there is too much rain in your area.

sheep

For this reason, it might be valuable to have some hay around handy just in case you will need it if these conditions arise. You can decide to feed your sheep domestic hay that you have created, but you’ll need to know about the contents of the hay and other characteristics first if you go down this route.

A better alternative is to buy hay. If that’s the case, you’ll need to check a few things before you buy the right type of hay. Namely, sheep prefer finer and leafier types of hay, so make sure you provide them with these types of foods.

Some other factors that you will need to consider when buying hay for sheep are:

  • Toxicity levels
  • Digestibility levels
  • Contents
  • Weed seeds

These are the things that you will need to keep in mind when buying hay for your sheep.

Can sheep live off hay?

hay

Theoretically speaking, sheep can survive solely off hay, but it isn’t the ideal scenario. Hay doesn’t have all the nutrients that sheep need, so you’ll need to supplement with grain and pellets.

You’ll want to combine hay with other foods for the best effects possible. The best foods to combine the hay with are grains and pellets, but you’ll also want to consider what contents your hay has before you make your decision.

One reason why feeding your sheep hay only is bad is that hay doesn’t have all the nutrients that a sheep needs. It might not contain some vitamins and minerals that you’ll find in other foods, so you might want to combine hay with other foods to make sure that sheep get all of these nutrients.

Another reason why feeding hay only to your sheep is that sheep want to have some variety in their diets. This means that you’ll want to provide them with some other foods to keep them happy.

Overall, sheep can and will survive on hay only, but it shouldn’t be your strategy when feeding them. You should aim to provide them with some variety and make sure they get all their nutritional needs from their diet.

Can I combine hay with other foods?

sheep lamb eating

You can combine hay with other foods, such as:

  • Alfalfa
  • Grains
  • Pellets
  • Clover
  • Supplements
  • Other foods

Supplementation will be necessary if you don’t have other foods to offer than hay. With these supplementation foods, you’ll make sure that sheep get all the right nutrients needed for survival.

Hay might itself be a combination of different foods. For example, there might be different types of food inside hay, such as grass, clover, alfalfa, legumes, and other leafy foods. So you’ll want to make sure that you get the right types of food depending on the type of grass and hay you feed to your sheep.

In the end, it’s advisable that you try and keep some variety in your sheep’s diet. This is a good strategy to keep your sheep happy and healthy.

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Conclusion

Hay is a great source of food for sheep. It can easily be the primary type of food in their diet, but it should also not be the only source of food for them.

You should aim to combine hay with other types of food to keep your sheep healthy. The best supplements include grains, pellets, clover, and supplements.

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