Keeping horses with sheep can help sheep and horse owners to save on space and socialize their animals. Is this socialization successful, though?
Can you keep sheep with horses and see promising results?
Horses and sheep make wonderful companions, and it’s possible to keep them together. To achieve this, properly introducing the sheep and horses in question is important. After all, both species are prey animals and prone to nervous reactions to unfamiliar animals.
There’s a lot of promise in keeping these grazing species together in your pastures.
Keep reading, and we’ll look at everything you need to know about this practice!
Can Horses and Sheep Live in the Same Pasture?
Yes! There are a lot of benefits to keeping many species grazing in your pastures, from lower parasite loads to healthier, more bountiful pastures.
However, you have to make sure the species are compatible.
Beyond just getting along, this means taking a deeper look into their grazing behavior and social dynamics.
According to one study, sheep and horses are compatible on both counts, despite the species and size differences between the two animals.
It found sheep shared resources well with their co-grazing horses regarding food and water.
When the day started to get hot, and the horses started to look for shade, the sheep left them to it, typically staying in the brighter parts of the pasture.
Regarding their social dynamic, the study found that sheep often exhibited signs of submissive behavior toward their equine field partners.
This can help avoid the reactions of a frightened horse when startled by a bolder partner in the pasture.
All in all, the two types of grazing animals co-existed well together and provided improvements for pastures.
How To Introduce Horses And Sheep
Before letting your horse graze with your sheep, it’s important to make the proper introductions.
While these animals get along well, horses, in particular, are rather nervous.
As such, it’s a good idea to start by giving your horse some time to meet the sheep slowly.
To start, introduce them through a fence before bringing your horse closer.
Give them time to sniff and get to know one another before letting them roam freely together.
Can Horses get Worms from Sheep?
A common question when cross-grazing horses and other species is whether you’ll have to worry about the transfer of parasites like worms.
The good news is:
While your sheep may pass a parasite to another sheep or a goat, those same parasites aren’t going to survive in a larger species such as a horse or cow.
This is why it’s popular to have some of these species cohabitate.
How Many Sheep Can You Have Per Acre?
It’s crucial not to overcrowd your fields either.
Even among animals can co-exist peacefully, too many animals in too small of a space will stress them out no matter how well-matched they usually are.
The answer here can vary.
There are several variables to consider, including the health of your pasture and the climate you live in.
Some farmers find an acre of grass is best for only a sheep or two, while others claim their pastures can sustain six or more sheep.
For this purpose, you’ll want to veer towards a lower number since you want your pasture to sustain the sheep you introduce and horses.
You’ll want to be extra careful of overcrowding the space you have.
Related: Are grass cuttings bad for sheep?
Commonly Asked Questions
Can Horses Eat Sheep Mix?
When you’re keeping horses and adult sheep in the same pasture, mixing their feeds is not safe.
These are still different animals, and the two species vary in their digestive needs.
This means you have to offer horse and sheep feed for both animals.
This is particularly important because horses can’t digest sheep feed well.
At the very least, it will lead to stomach upset because the horses have difficulty digesting it.
Depending on the feed you use for your sheep and if it’s mixed with any extra medication can affect the severity of these consequences.
Whenever you’re in doubt, talk to your livestock vet for advice to double-check what they think is best for your specific situation and breeds.
Can Goats and Horses Live Together?
Sheep aren’t the only animals your horse can cohabitate with either!
Another option is to place an individual horse or horse in a pasture with a goat.
Just like any animal, you’ll want to introduce your horse and goats carefully before setting them loose in a field together.
Use the same steps you would introduce your horse to your sheep as any other animal to ensure these new herd animals don’t scare your horse.
What’s the Best Companion for a Horse?
Both for your fields and to keep your horses happy, choosing the right companion for your animals can positively impact horses.
As we’ve seen, goats and sheep both make excellent companions in a horse pasture as long as you introduce the two species carefully to avoid any anxiety.
Another great animal to introduce your horse to is a llama or even a donkey if you’re looking for a slightly larger species.
Horses can even form friendships with cats and dogs under the right conditions!
Much like any other friendship, you’ll want to consider your horse’s personality and needs.
Just like people, you may find some individual animals simply don’t get along with one another even if their species are usually pals.
This is another reason committing to introducing your horse to any animals you’re thinking about bringing into their pasture first is so crucial.
After all, it’s hard to force a friendship between two incompatible animals, so this can give you a better idea of how the two would fare in the long term before committing to the idea.