Blackberry bushes are a force to be reckoned with and can take ages to fully uproot from your backyard or garden.
Conversely, sheep (and, of course, goats) are some of the fiercest weed mowers in the backyard farming world.
Sheep will eat blackberry brambles, especially if they are not yet woody. The brambles might not be the most comfortable, but sheep generally don’t mind! Moreover, blackberries and blackberry vines are not toxic to them, so you don’t need to worry about your animals getting sick off the brush they eat.
If you’re at your wit’s end with aggressive plant attacks on your lawn, your sheep will be your secret weapon!
But some risks are associated with letting your sheep loose in your yard or garden.
Keep reading to learn more about getting control of blackberry plants and keeping your sheep and other plants safe in the process.
Sheep as Blackberry Clearers
While sheep don’t mow down brush quite the way goats do, the range of plants they can and will eat is impressive!
They’ve been known to eat all kinds of fruits and vegetables, thistles, and invasive vegetation.
Not to mention, they can strip the bark off fruit trees!
Further Reading: Sheep eating fruit trees and killing them
You might think thorny blackberry bushes would be where they draw the line, but sheep will eat those too.
While they’re generally more interested in grass and tamer weeds, your sheep will likely have no problem biting into blackberry canes when they run out of more optimal fodder.
They eat the berries and the plants, regardless of all the brambles.
Their endless appetite for weeds makes sheep the perfect weed control specialists to help keep your backyard in good shape.
Are Blackberries Harmful to Sheep?
Blackberry bushes are not deadly plants to your livestock.
They may not be the most comfortable to eat, but they won’t hurt your sheep.
The berries are high in Vitamin C and fiber, making them easy on your ruminants’ stomachs.
Blackberry leaves and vines don’t have quite the same benefits.
But many farmers have reported their sheep chomping down on these plants without a problem.
It isn’t any wonder considering all the other vegetation these livestock are known to enjoy.
With this in mind, be sure blackberry bushes are a mere supplement to a healthy diet for sheep.
Your animals need plenty of hay and other vegetation to stay healthy and keep their energy up.
It should go without saying, but don’t leave them with only blackberries to eat for the sake of clearing out your lawn.
The sheep’s diet should include much more than invasive plant species like blackberry brambles.
Grass and ground-level weeds are great supplements, so make sure you give your herd plenty of land around those berry bushes where they can graze on lots of leafy weeds.
The Risks of Letting Sheep in Your Garden
Sheep are not picky animals, which is precisely why they’re so good at weed control.
However, this has the potential to come back to haunt you.
Your sheep are just as likely to dig into the other plants in your garden or yard as they are to eat those pesky berry bushes.
This is especially true if you plan to give them the reign of your vegetable garden.
Sheep love leafy plants and lots of different veggies!
They would be more than happy to eat your home-grown blueberry plants or common garden plants like lettuce, corn, or broccoli, too.
Fence off your vegetable plants and vegetation you don’t want them getting into before you let them roam.
Similarly, do a quick check to ensure there are no deadly nearby plants they might nibble at.
The last thing you want is to find out your animals had eaten something toxic, especially when you had the chance to prevent it.
Further reading: What vegetables can sheep safely eat?
Are Goats Better at Killing Blackberries Than Sheep?
If you are already a goat owner, it’s a great idea to let your goats in on the blackberry war.
Like sheep, these ruminant animals are known for their willingness to eat just about anything, including thorny invasive plants.
Your goat friends may be more likely to take the first bite.
However, they aren’t necessarily going to eliminate your blackberry problem more quickly or completely than your sheep could.
Keeping Your Animals Safe Around Blackberry Bushes
One more thing to remember with blackberry bushes is how prickly they are.
We’re careful picking berries from these plants because we know it hurts to get stabbed in the finger!
Keep an eye on your herd to ensure they aren’t getting hurt by the plants.
Some sheep and goats have been known to shove their way right into the thick of a berry patch. Ouch!
Sheep, in particular, usually have thick wool, which will simultaneously protect them from the thistles and make it easier for them to get stuck.
Keep a pair of snips handy if you need to cut a trail for your animal friends to get out of a tight spot.
If one of your sheep does get caught, give them a once over to ensure they weren’t scratched on the brambles, and take care of any cuts they might have.
It’s also a good idea to ensure your sheep tolerates the food well before you give them total access.
Start by snipping a vine off and throwing it to them.
This will give them time to nibble at the plant and get used to how it tastes and feels while also allowing you to see if they are digesting the food well.
While blackberry bushes are generally considered a safe food for sheep and other ruminant animals, trust your gut.
If your animals don’t seem to be tolerating the plants well, or if they get sick, don’t give them anymore.
There are always more traditional means of land maintenance if your sheep aren’t up for the job!
Related: What fruits can sheep eat?