While most people know goats will eat just about anything, the same can’t be said about their wool-bearing cousin, the sheep.
Despite being physically similar, sheep and goats have very different biologies.
This results in them needing different diets.
As a result, many people wonder if sheep eat grass and weeds.
Sheep can eat grass and weeds for their entire diet. In fact, sheep will eat grass and most weeds and improve the health of areas they graze in. This makes sheep excellent lawn mowers and weed control.
Keep reading to learn more about what kinds of grass and weeds sheep like best, how to choose the best plants for a pasture, and what foods they eat year round.
What Kinds Of Plants Are Best For Sheep?
Sheep are herbivores meaning they get all their nutrients from plants rather than animal or insect protein.
Not only do they get their nutrients from plants in general, but sheep rely on almost entirely grazing over grasses and weeds for their diets.
Not all plants are created equal, and not all plants and weeds are equally nutritious for sheep.
Sheep have taste preferences and will target some plants before others but will go back and eat a wider variety after those plants.
Grass, legumes, forbs, and just about any other non-woody plant are all on the menu for a sheep diet, and some are better liked than others.
Forbs refer to flowering, non-woody, and non-grassy plants and are a favorite part of their diet.
Forbs include many different wildflowers, and weeds most sheep will eat over other plants.
Clovers especially are a favorite food and provide a nutritious meal while being preferred over grasses and other plants.
White clovers are a popular choice when planning pasture plants.
And the grasses sheep prefer are orchard grass, pasture grass, timothy, or ryegrass.
All of these nutritious choices for your animals.
As long as they are not poisonous plants, any naturally occurring weeds in a pasture will also be devoured by sheep.
Here are some common weeds which may be toxic to your sheep and need to be watched out for:
- Morning glory
Other plants should be used in the pasture to extend the usage your sheep can get from.
This includes kale, turnips, grains, or leftover stocks and leaves from harvested crops.
Sheep are natural grazers and do a great job searching for healthy forage in their fields.
Can I Use Sheep To Mow My Lawn?
Grazing sheep are excellent lawn managers and will act as fertilizers to improve soil conditions as a bonus to keep the grass short.
Sheep are becoming increasingly popular as lawnmowers on farms.
They are replacing goats in many places because they will more uniformly eat the grass and are less likely to let their curiosity get the best of them and destroy things they shouldn’t.
The most important aspect of using sheep as lawnmowers is proper management, as mismanaged grazing animals can do more harm than good.
Rotating sheep through different sections of pasture or lawn and giving grazed sections the chance to recover is very important.
Leaving sheep in one section for too long will also allow them to eat plants shorter and shorter, risking damage to the plant roots and creating dead spots on the lawn.
But, as long as you take the time to do it right, sheep are the best natural lawnmower to use on your lawn.
Can I Feed Sheep Lawn Clippings?
Sheep are a great way to dispose of lawn clippings, and we are always happy to receive them as a treat.
Dumping piles of grass clippings into a sheep pen is a surefire way to get them excited and baa-ing with joy.
While feeding sheep lawn clipping, and they love to eat them, there are a few things to be considered to prevent them from getting sick.
The first is any herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers might cause harm to the sheep, and the more natural the lawn clippings are, the better.
Related: Will fertilizer hurt sheep?
It is also best to feed them to the sheep as fresh as possible to prevent any bacteria from building up and causing issues.
If you have a very large yard, you cut and have amounts of grass more than the sheep can eat, then fermenting the grass may be a great alternative to store it for later and get the most use out of it.
Fermented grass, or silage, is the process of adding sugars to fresh grass cuttings into an airtight wrap or container.
Then, letting anaerobic bacteria break down the natural sugars in the grass, similar to making alcohol.
Silage is a very healthy feed for sheep and other ruminant animals because it is already broken down and easier to digest, making it easy to digest all of the nutrients.
What Do Sheep Eat During The Winter?
With so much fluffy wool, it is no wonder how sheep can stay warm all winter, but the food options are much more limited.
Many people wonder what sheep eat during the winter without green pastures.
Farmers will often stock up on hay and grains for winter feed to provide their livestock with high-calorie and nutritious food options.
Grains contain many calories and are bad for sheep in large quantities but during winter are an excellent supplement to make sure they are getting the food they need.
Most sheep need only hay and fresh water during the winter and the occasional vitamin supplements to keep them in good health.
Remember, for supplements; moderation is key.
Use them according to veterinary recommendations.
Most farmers like to use pastures to feed their sheep because it is much cheaper than buying hay, and farmers can cut their hay to save for the winter months.
Careful management of pastures can increase the grazing period available and the overall efficiency of the land, making winter feeding easier for the farmer.
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