Can a Goat Eat Sheep Feed?

Although we view goats as being able to eat anything, they have very specific dietary requirements, and poor feed quality will lead to unhealthy goats.

Goats need to eat a lot of roughage and a goat-specific feed.

Whether goats are for meat or milk will also make a difference in their diet.

While there is some crossover between sheep and goat nutritional requirements, goats should not eat sheep feed. Goats and sheep have different protein, grain, and mineral requirements. They can, however, happily pasture together.

Ideally, adult goats eat 3-5% of their body weight or up to four pounds of hay and other roughage a day–seven pounds a day for dairy goats.

Keeping their diet as close to natural forage as possible and using grain for only ten percent of their diet is important, as goats convert plant material into muscle very effectively.

Eating sheep feed can cause a mineral imbalance and nutritional deficiency in goats.

Read on to find out more about feeding goats! 


Can I Feed Goats and Sheep Together?

Many people want to be efficient and feed their goats and sheep from the same feed supply as they are both ruminants.

Ruminants have a special digestive tract with four compartments to the stomach, beginning with the rumen.

Microorganisms in the rumen make enzymes to break down what they eat and make nutrients available for fermentation.

This provides energy for the animal.

A forage-based diet is crucial to keeping the rumen and the animal healthy.

While goats and sheep do well on pasture together, since they are both ruminants and eat similarly, a goat’s diet is different from a sheep’s.

Goats forage while sheep graze.

Goats eat more dry matter than sheep.

Goats require more protein and different mineral levels; thus, it’s better not to give goat feed to sheep.

Goats should not eat sheep feed as they have different feed needs.

Goats need a goat-specific feed and supplementation with minerals.

Keep goat minerals in the goat barn so the sheep cannot get into them.

Sheep cannot have as much copper as goats need and will develop copper toxicity. 

Feeding Goats For Their Purpose

People keep goats for all kinds of purposes: meat, milk, as a pet, for therapy, for commercial production, and as homestead livestock.

Different purposes have different dietary requirements to keep your animals healthy.

All goats need a good amount of roughage and low protein plants, protein, vitamins, minerals, and water.

Goats also enjoy a small amount of feed grain for extra energy. 

Dairy Goats

Dairy goats are fed limited amounts of grain supplemental to their foraging to encourage milk production.

Dairy goats have higher protein requirements than other goats and require extra nutrients.

A dairy goat’s feed intake will depend on where she is in the lactating cycle and her body weight.

Dairy goats are supplemented with a protein mixture to encourage milk production. 

Meat Goats

It is not cost-effective to feed meat goats grain supplements; they need to get most of their nutrition from foraging as the cheapest feed ingredient.

Depending on where they are at in the production stage, meat goats will have different feed requirements, including crude protein.

Goats’ crude protein requirements range from 10% to 15%, depending on their age.

Whole cottonseed, soybean meal, wheat middlings, and corn gluten feed are all feed grains with high levels of protein and are good for crude protein supplementation.

Protein supplementation is important because when the diet is low in protein, digestion of carbohydrates in the rumen will slow down, and feed intake will decrease as well to keep the balance in the rumen.

Your animal will then be hungry and slow down growth.

Hungry animals will eat constantly and not chew cud, further disrupting their digestive process.

You want the animals with the highest nutritional requirements to be on good quality pastures and have the best forage and feed possible.

Well-fed animals grow rapidly, have good reproductive success, have normal manure, are in good condition, and are alert.  

Pregnant Goats

Pregnant goats need an increasing energy content diet as the pregnancy progresses through the last trimester.

Pregnancy ketosis, where the dam’s body doesn’t have enough extra energy to fuel growth and is burning ketones, is a concern but will be prevented by proper feeding. 

Pets and Therapy Goats

Non-commercial animals still need a well-balanced diet with a good quality feed.

Pet and therapy goats undoubtedly get more treats and are at a higher risk of obesity; treats should comprise only about 5% of their diet.

Closely monitor the level of feed offered to a pet or therapy goat to avoid health problems, especially if they are a companion animal to a horse and get into the horse feed. 

Related: Can a goat eat horse feed and be Ok?

Can Sheep And Goats Eat The Same Grain?

Sheep can eat goat feed like hay or grain but not feed mixtures with minerals.

Eating goat minerals can lead to copper toxicity in sheep over some time.

Goats should not eat sheep feed; the requirements for sheep are different.

Extensive grain feeding is not recommended for goats, as it is bad for their rumen; only give supplementation as necessary.

What Is The Best Feed For Sheep And Goats?

Good quality forage and pasture is the preferred feed for sheep and goats as it is closer to their natural eating habits.

Sheep graze on grasses, mostly, while goats will eat weeds, woody plants, tree bark, and grasses.

Goats’ preferred feeds are legume hay such as alfalfa or clover or a carbonaceous (grass) hay such as timothy, brome, orchard grass, or mixtures thereof.

Legume hay is more expensive but also more nutritious, having a higher protein level.

Some goat keepers feed chaffhaye, which has a higher protein level, ferments in the bag, and adds the bacteria bacillus subtillis, making it easily digestible and good for your goat’s rumen. 

Chaffhaye also has more nutrients than regular dried hay, making it easier to keep your goat healthy.

Poor quality feed leads to poor animal quality.

The amount of feed you give your goat can harm your goat’s health as well.

The feed offered should be on par with your goat’s activity level and purpose.

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Growing up amidst the sprawling farms of the South, Wesley developed a profound connection with farm animals from a young age. His childhood experiences instilled in him a deep respect for sustainable and humane farming practices. Today, through, Wesley shares his rich knowledge, aiming to inspire and educate others about the joys and intricacies of rural life.

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