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What Do Sheep Eat?

What Do Sheep Eat

Sheep are ruminants, and they will eat grass, weeds, legumes, and other types of natural forage. Sometimes, sheep also eat supplements and other additional nutrients that the farmer provides them for better health.

Sheep also need to have a balanced diet, even though the majority of their diet consists of grass and grains. They need various supplements such as vitamins and minerals to keep their immune system strong. When sheep are feeding, they will graze for up to seven hours per day.

What do Sheep Eat?

Here are some of the most common types of foods that sheep eat.

1. Grass

ryegrass

The first and most common type of food that all sheep eat is grass. There’s no surprise here – sheep are ruminants, which means they will store food inside their stomach and rechew it later on. They will do the same with grass – they’ll store large quantities of grass in their stomach for later times.

Sheep are also good at trimming down pastures and making them look better, which is why many farmers like to keep sheep on pastures.

Grass will often be the primary type of food for the majority of sheep out there, whether they are wild sheep or domesticated sheep, although it’s not the only food they’ll eat.

2. Weeds, Clover, Forbs, and Other Pasture Foods

weeds

While sheep are out on the pasture, they will primarily eat grass, but mixed in with the grass you’ll also find several other types of foods, such as clover, forbs, and other pasture foods. Compared to cows, sheep will eat a far more varied food when they graze, but not as varied as goats.

Sheep will consume these weeds because they’re highly nutritious for sheep, and they contain some important ingredients that make sheep healthy. 

3. Stored Feed 

sheep eating hay

When sheep are not out and about, they must be provided with an alternative type of food. And for the farmer, this means providing sheep with additional foods such as hay, silage, balage, and other types of stored feed.

This stored feed will be a good alternative to more natural foods that sheep obtain through grazing. When the weather is too cold or when sheep are inside, the pasture foods are chopped up and fed to the sheep. This stored feed is either offered green and fresh or it is dried and stored from several months ago.

In addition to silage and hay, sheep are sometimes fed sheep pellets. These pellets are an effective solution since they offer the same benefits as feeding the sheep hay, but they also contain some vitamins and minerals that provide additional health benefits for the sheep. They’re not the most economical option for many farmers, though.

4. Supplementation

Sheep also need various types of supplements to thrive, especially older sheep or those that need special diets to survive. For example, sheep will need supplements that contain vitamins A, B12, D, and E. In addition, several types of minerals should be provided to them, like Selenium, Calcium, and others.

Some of these supplements can already be found in different foods that sheep eat, but some of them are only found in the form of additional supplements like pills. Not all sheep need these supplements – they’re mostly intended for older and slightly less healthy individuals that need a health boost.

What is the Best Food to Feed Sheep?

sheep

The best type of food to feed sheep is grass or hay. Sheep prefer grass because they can eat large quantities of it and store it for later use. 

Sheep are ruminants. They have four compartments inside their stomachs – these compartments allow them to store unprocessed food which they can later use and consume when they don’t have other foods around them. This process will keep them satiated and fed for much longer.

The grass is also optimal for the immune system of the sheep and also their digestive system. It’s easy for sheep to eat these foods as their mouths are made for chewing grass, and they will have an easier time digesting grass.

If the sheep are kept indoors, they will also like to eat hay if they can’t get access to grass. Sheep will also like to eat other types of food, such as grain and weeds. But the primary food they like is grass.

What Do Sheep Like to Eat as a Treat?

sheep

Sometimes, sheep also prefer to have some variety in their diet, so they are offered treats. Some of the most commonly eaten treats by sheep include apples, grapes, carrots, alfalfa, lettuce, oats, pears, and even pumpkins.

Yes, even sheep have a sweet tooth. They too can get bored with their diet and if all they eat is grass, they might not be as happy. So you can easily solve that by offering sheep treats!

The most common type of treat that sheep like to eat is fruits. You can offer them different types of treats, such as sliced apples, pears, or even grapes. You can give them whole apples and they would easily eat them, but it’s better to slice these fruits and make it easier for the sheep to eat them.

Other types of treats you can offer them include carrots, alfalfa, lettuce, oats, and pumpkins. Note that these foods should only be offered sporadically and they should not be the main foods that they eat. Focus on feeding them grass and weeds or grains as the primary food and offer them treats once in a while.

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Conclusion

The primary food of sheep is grass and hay, but you should try and keep their diet as varied as possible. It’s good to add supplements, fruits, and vegetables, as well as grains and seeds to their diets. 

By doing this, you’ll ensure they get a variety of nutrients vital for their health and to boost their immune system. Older sheep and those with special dietary needs should also be offered various supplements.

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