Do Sheep Ruin Grazing for Cattle?

If you keep livestock like cattle or sheep, you’ll need to regularly assess the land they graze. 

Yet, in some cases, farmers worry the presence of livestock species will affect the quality of grazing. 

As for grazing day pairs in pastures, do sheep ruin grazing for cattle?

Sheep do not ruin grazing for cattle or pastures, in general. Still, mismanaging a flock can lead to negative consequences and impact the quality of soils. This is a risk with mismanaging almost any grazing animals on livestock farms. It isn’t a risk specific to keeping sheep.

If you want to know more about how these livestock species graze together, keep reading! 

We’ll answer your questions about your cattle and sheep.

do sheep ruin grazing for cattle

Can Sheep and Cattle Graze the Same Land? 

It’s possible to graze cattle and sheep on the same lands. 

Plus, it positively impacts the animals and the lands they’re on. 

For one, grazing these animals together can help increase profits.

According to the American Sheep Industry Association, grazing sheep and cattle together can help reduce parasites. 

Parasites pose a risk to livestock but not all livestock share parasites. 

Cattle and sheep don’t share parasites. 

As such, they balance each other’s parasite loads rather well.

Grazing livestock together is also a great agricultural practice to protect against predators. 

On their own, sheep are rather susceptible to predators. 

Cows aren’t because they’re larger, heavier animals with more aggressive responses to stress. 

Sheep tend to run to the cattle they bonded with when faced with a threat. 

This can help protect the flock even further.

They’re also a good pairing due to their size. 

Running heavier animals like cattle on a pasture can damage soils and pastures. 

Sheep, as lighter animals, don’t pose as much risk here. 

They help balance one another out in this way.

The major potential drawback is your cattle and sheep not getting along. 

After all, there’s no promise the animals will bond the way you hope. 

If they don’t, it’s not time to give up yet! It means you’ll have to opt for a practice called rotational grazing. 

This is useful in creating your livestock management plan.

Another negative effect of livestock grazing together is the erosion of the soil structure. 

Damaged soil can happen regardless of soil type. 

Yet, it’s often linked to over-grazing and continuous grazing pastures beyond their limit. 

Pay attention to the quality of your pasture after a grazing period. 

This will help you avoid damage to the soil.

Can Sheep and Cattle Pasture Together? 

There is room to adapt to what works for your farm when offering your livestock pasture access. 

This is because sheep can graze alongside cattle. 

This is when there are enough resources like grass, water, and space for both livestock units.

Another option is to alternate the use of the lands.

This is a practice sometimes referred to as split grazing or rotational grazing. In the case of rotational grazing, it’s a good idea to start with cattle. 

This is because cattle tend to have a lower parasitic load than sheep.

Do Sheep and Cattle Graze Differently? 

Sheep and cattle do have different grazing behaviors. 

They differ in how they eat the grass they graze on. 

When sheep forage plants, they use their lips to grab the grass. 

They rely on their cleft lips to help pull grass in as they forage plants. 

This method of eating leads them to eat rather close to the soil. 

The important thing to understand is a cow has a dexterous tongue. 

So, cattle tend to start eating by grabbing some grass with their tongue. 

They use their tongue to pull the grass into their mouths. 

They usually eat grass around 4″ inches above the soil line. 

These eating patterns have an impact on livestock’s parasitic load as well. 

The way sheep eat when they forage leads to them eating parasites at an increased rate compared to cows.

How Many Sheep Can You Run with Cows? 

No matter how big a pasture or agricultural land is, it can only support the presence of livestock units but so far. 

Determining how many animals you keep on the land requires careful thought. 

For one, you must consider how much space you have and how many livestock units it can support. 

When you have a pasture mix of sheep and cows, you have to consider them in relation to one another. 

It’s only possible to have so many sheep per the number of cows in the pasture. 

The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources suggests keeping, at most, 5 sheep per cow. 

Yet, this rule can vary. 

Factors individual to your farm may cause variance. 

Your animals’ compatibility and the quality of the pasture can change the number of sheep. 

On average, this number will likely veer lower rather than higher if it changes.

How Many Sheep and Cows Can You Have Per Acre? 

As mentioned, the presence of livestock depends on how much land you have.

Smaller pastures will support fewer animals than larger ones. 

If you over-use a pasture, it will lead to problems like an increased risk of soil erosion. 

It’s possible to reduce the rate of damage to pastures with proper management. 

This includes putting the right number of animals into these livestock units. 

In a single acre, it’s possible to keep about one cow and up to four ewes with them. 

This can vary depending on soil quality and how well your livestock gets along. 

Regular assessments of pasture lands will help you catch any issues early on. 

In response, adjust your livestock management plan as needed.

Can Sheep Eat Cattle Feed? 

While sheep and cattle love to spend time together on a grazing day, they shouldn’t share the feed. 

It’s not safe for sheep to eat cattle feed. 

The blame for this lies with copper. 

Cattle feed often contains copper, which is great for them but not for all livestock. 

If sheep ingest cattle feed, it can damage their liver and even have fatal results. 

While it’s safe to let them feed from forage with their cattle friends, they can’t share the feed.

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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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