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Why Do Farmers Separate Sheep from Goats?

Why Do Farmers Separate Sheep from Goats

Farmers separate goats from sheep because the two animals have different needs. Sheep don’t eat the same types of foods as goats and are allergic to some minerals that goats eat, such as copper.

Not all farmers separate sheep from goats. The farmers that have mostly female goats and sheep have no need to separate the two animals.

However, male specimens of both animals are more likely to fight one another. Sheep and goats have different fighting styles, and sheep also don’t tolerate some foods as well as goats do. This is why they get separated.

Reasons Why Sheep and Goats are Separated

Here are some of the main reasons why sheep and goats get separated from each other by farmers.

1. They Have Different Food Preferences (Copper)

The first and arguably the most important reason why sheep and goats are separated is that they have different requirements when it comes to food. While they are both grazing animals, they require different types of vitamins and minerals to survive, and sheep can’t tolerate some.

For example, sheep have an intolerance towards copper, while goats like to have plenty of copper in their diet.

In fact, sheep can suffer from severe copper poisoning, which can threaten their existence. At the very least, copper poisoning will affect some of their organs such as the liver and it will cause them to have blood deficient of red blood cells.

For goats, on the other hand, copper is one of the most important minerals. Farmers often supplement their foods with copper so that goats have a stronger bone structure and develop a stronger immune system. However, for sheep, copper is not needed and they are intolerant of it.

Additionally, sheep are grazers while goats eat bushes. This means that keeping them together might not be the most optimal thing since they prefer other types of foods. 

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2. Males Might Fight

Another reason why sheep and goats get separated is that the males of both animals might start to fight each other. And this would be an unfair fight since rams are much more potent and stronger than male goats.

Rams and male goats have very different fighting styles. Rams will reverse and charge at full speed towards their enemy and then bash them with their horns.

Male goats will put themselves on their hind legs and attack with their horns from there, but they don’t generate nearly as much power as rams.

This results in an unfair fight where rams would easily beat male goats. In more severe cases, these fights might result in severe injuries for male goats and in the worst-case scenario, even death for the male goat. That’s why males from both of these two species don’t mix very well.

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3. Transmission of Diseases

The possibility of transmitting diseases between goats and sheep is a real concern for farmers. Sheep often suffer from a disease called scrapie, which is a fatal neurogenerative disease that both sheep and goats suffer from. Sheep suffer more frequently from this disease, causing them to die.

The problem for farmers is that this disease is easily transmissible. So they want to minimize the possibility of transmission of this disease from animal to animal by separating them from each other.

So to eliminate any risk of these diseases spreading from animal to animal, farmers will opt to separate the animals and screen them constantly for these diseases. This will make it easier for them to screen out diseases in animals as well as avoid unnecessary costs that come with the diseases.

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4. It’s More Organized

Having sheep separated from goats allows farmers to have more control over their herds. If sheep and goats are kept together, it becomes harder for the farmer to control their animals and keep track of them, so they prefer to have them separately.

Some farmers will split goats and sheep herds from each other by using fences, while others will keep them in different pastures.

In addition, when sheep or goats breed, keeping them separate will provide the farmer with a bit more control and it will allow the mothers and the children to bond more easily.

Can You Keep Sheep and Goats Together?

Yes, you can certainly keep sheep and goats together if you make sure they both get enough food. However, it might not be the most optimal thing to do because of the reasons mentioned above.

Mixing the two animals can be good, especially if the farmer only has female members of both species. Females are much less likely to fight one another and are not as aggressive as males. If male sheep and goats are kept together, it might result in fights, which can result in injuries, especially for the male goats.

Sometimes, a neutered male goat can be used to control a sheep herd. That’s because goats are seen as slightly more intelligent than sheep and male goats are often leaders of their herds, so they’re used to leading even a sheep herd. But this is not very common, especially if male sheep are present.

If sheep and goats are kept together, a special note needs to be taken of the diets of both animals.

It is especially important for the farmer to make sure that sheep don’t come into contact with copper, for example. This can result in copper poisoning, which can be fatal. Read more about what sheep eat here.

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Sheep and goats are similar animals. They both follow the herd instinct, and they have similar requirements in terms of food and lifestyle.

However, there are also some subtle differences that mean the two animals are not as compatible as you might think. For one, sheep are intolerant of copper and male sheep will usually fight male goats. If that happens, the ram will overpower the male goat and it might even kill it.

For those reasons, many farmers opt to keep sheep and goats separately.

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