Your Guide to Feeding Sheep: What Sheep Eat and How Much


Can Sheep Live on Grass Alone

This Guide will Explore all aspects of Feeding your Sheep. The Nutrition They Need and what types of Pastures make the best Feed for your Flocks. We are also going to look at how to feed your sheep if you are using them for weed control. Also what types of Pastures that are Toxic to your Sheep Flocks.

Can Sheep Live on Grass Alone?

Yes Sheep can live on grazing on good quality Grass and Plants alone. If you Live in a climate where you have grass all year long.

If you have winter and time of the year Grass is dead then you will need to make sure that your sheep have the feed they need. Baled hay is good for winter. Even though Sheep are grazers they can survive on grass alone. It is good to provide salt Block for them to lick on.

You will also need to provide water. The sheep cannot get enough moisture from grass alone.

Sheep Nutritionist

When Planting your Pastures it is wise to do some research on what Pasture is best for your sheep. Each Breed has strength and weaknesses. If you Check some of Your Breed associations it would be invaluable in finding what is best for You, Best for your Sheep. Here is a list of some common associations

Sheep Associations 10 Breeds of Sheep

Breeds of SheepCountry OriginPurpose of BreedUseEwe WeightAssociation For Info
Suffolk SheepBritian / SuffolkFast GrowingMeat250 - 350 LbsUnited Suffolk Sheep Association
Merino SheepSpainSoftest WoolWool100 - 200 LbsAmerican and Delane Merino Sheep Association
HampshireBritainBest Tasting MuttonWool / Meat200 LbsAmerican Hampshire Sheep Association
RomneyEngland / Romney MarshDisease ResistanceWool / Meat225 - 275 LbsAmerican Romney Breeders Association
Lincoln SheepEnglandProduce Longest Fleece In WorldWool250 - 350 LbsNational Lincoln Sheep Breeders Association
Dorper SheepSouth AfricanFast Growing MeatMeat230 LbsAmerican Droper Sheep association
Turcana SheepRomainiaAdapted Alpine PastureWool / Milk / Meat175 - 200 Lbs?
Rambouilette SheepFranceStrong / Hearty / All ClimatesWool / Meat300 LbsAmerican Rambouilette Sheep Breeders Association
Leicester LongwoolUnited KingdomFast growing / Good FleeceWool200 LbsLeicester Longwool Sheep Breeders Association
Breeds - Origin - Purpose - Weight
  • Your Breed of Sheep Breeders Association
  • Your Local University Agriculture Department – extension Dept
  • Contacting Sheep Feed Producers – They have Scientist on Staff – Like Purina

Mixing Your own Feed

These two examples, the first video shows you a larger Feed Mixing operation and the equipment they use. Buying Feed-in Bulk and Mixing it according to the various nutritional requirements of your flock depending on what stage in their lives they are in

Large Farm Mixing Feed

Many Large Commercial farms – Choose to mix their own Feeds it saves them a lot of money of being able to buy feed in bulk. It also allows them to Mix feeds according to their Specific Breed of Sheep. It also allows them to tailor feed according to the age and conditions of their flocks in a much more detailed scientific manner. Some of the specifics other than breed would be the age of where your flocks are at, some of the considerations are

  • Lambs just finished Weaning
  • Lambs Fast Growing to Butcher
  • Ewes – Dry
  • Ewes – Pregnant
  • Ewes – Lambing
  • Ewes Milking
  • Ewes – Dry

Each one of these times in the lives of your Flocks Feed can be tailored to each stage that your sheep are in. This tends to take a Well Managed Direction to Raise your Flocks and greatly adds to profitability.

Today Farming is very Advanced and the Resources that Farmers Have are great from Feed producers to College Agriculture Programs.

Commercial Sheep Feeding Operation

Small Farm Mixing your own Feed

The Second farm is mixing the same but on much smaller scale. What is so creative with the second farmer is that they are using a Cement Mixer to Mix their feed which not only inexpensive but very creative. You can buy one for $ 200 – $ 400 depending on what Type you choose

Small Farm Mixing Feed with Concrete Mixer

Prevent Parasites – Rotating Your Pastures – Penn State Univ

Here is a List of Suggestions to help Prevent Internal Parasites in Your Flocks. This is important to farmers that are trying to be as Organic as Possible

  • Parasite Eggs are Passed through Sheep Manure int Pastures
  • Generally, eggs hatch into larvae and then larva die within 6 days
  • Sub Divide your pasture into 4 – 6 Days of Pasture for your Sheep
  • Then Move them into fresh Pasture and let parasite Larvae die
  • Fencing can be movable electric, mesh. electric net
  • Parasites can live for up to 120 days when weather is cool and moist – but die quickly when dry and hot
  • Switching Livestock is wise because many og the internal parasites of cattle and horses are different – These are Called “Leader-Follower Systems”
  • In Australia, there is an available National Sheep Improvement Program  – which can examine the breeds resistance to internal parasites
Rotating Pastures for Parisite Control

Suggested Planting for Best Sheep Grazing

Looking and gathering the best information possible for your particular breed of Sheep. Will Help you understand some of the best grasses to pasture your flock in. You need to add to that the types of Pasture you have.

In Generality Check above categories for helping to decide what is best for your Farm. Sheep forage and graze for about 7 hours per day. The more nutritious your pasture is the healthier your sheep will be.

How to Feed Sheep used for Weed Control

Farmers use sheep flocks for weed control. This is a more natural way to manage controlling vegetation growth. It keeps a farmer from using chemicals – which are toxic and have lasting damage

Or using machinery to cut down brush, which is time-consuming and labor-intensive. But in looking at sheep for controlling vegetation.

They can turn weeds into Meat/ Milk and Wool

When Sheep are just solely grazing their nutrition levels can fluctuate. So adding supplements sometimes is wise. Here is a PDF from the University of Texas Ag Dept they suggest the following

  • Supplements will depend on Condition of Sheep – Lambing, Lactating, Breeding, Lambs, Finishing Lambs
  • It allows you to make sure that Sheep are getting their needed Vitamins, Trace Minerals, and Proteins.
  • Using Pellets is Good you can have them mixed to your own formulas
SupplementsQualities of Supplement
Rice Hulls/Peanut HullsNot Much value – used as Fillers
CornExcellent Energy – Cracking recommended
to Avoid Sheep Sorting
Whole OatsExcellent Energy
Grain SorghumProtein and Energy Supplement
Soybean HullsExcellent Energy Supplement – equal to corn
Less possibility of Bloat
Cotton SeedExcellent Proteins, Good Phosphorus Content
Alfalfa HaySupplement and substitute for forage

Sheep Livestock Rental Companies

Some farmers have even built business of Renting out their Flocks – for vegetation control. sheep love to eat Poison Ivy, kudzu, brambles and invasive vegetation. Sheep prefer grasses, woody plants close to the ground.

Goat herds will reach up higher on their back legs to get higher woody plants. This makes them more attractive for some Rental Situations

What Plants are Bad for Sheep

Here i a list of Plants that are Toxic to your sheep Flock. Many of these are fatal. Many of these can be found on fencerows. Also when cutting down brush making sure that they do not fall where sheep could get them

Toxic / Poisonous Plant Symptoms / Characteristics
Garden IrisRoots and stems
HollyBerries - Diarrhea - vomiting - stupor
Morning Gloryhallucinogenic seeds
RhubarbLeaves - Convulsions and Death
Wild CherryWilted Leaves have Cynaide - Convolusions, Rolling Eyes, Tongue hanging, animal dies within hours
YewNeedle Like Shrub - vomiting, convulsions, animals Rarely survive this poisoning
OaksAcorns, young trees - anorexia, constipation diahreah thirst gastro problems
Mountain LaurelSame symptoms of Poiaoning. Vomiting, Diahreah, salivation - Usually fall into Coma and then Death
RhododendronSame symptoms of Poiaoning. Vomiting, Diahreah, salivation - Usually fall into Coma and then Death
AzaleaSame symptoms of Poiaoning. Vomiting, Diahreah, salivation - Usually fall into Coma and then Death

What Causes Sheep Bloat / Colic

Bloat in your Flock is caused by several items. It is simply a build-up of gasses that comes from eating too rich food.

Same as if we decide to eat Pepperoni Pizza right before bedtime. In Sheep

There are several types of Bloat in Sheep – they are

  • Sheep Bloat – Caused by eating rich, lush pastures with too many legumes.
  • Bloat in Lambs – Called Abomasal Bloat – Happens within 30 minutes of feeding warm milk – can result in 30% death in Lambs
  • Frothy Bloat – Gasses are trapped fermenting foam
  • can result in Death

Bloat Remedy – Baking Soda Mixed with Water

Best Types of Hay for Sheep in Winter

Many times the most economical ways to feed your sheep in the Winter. Many Farmers today are baling their hay with Round bails. When feeding your sheep it is more cost-effective to use round bales.

One of the difficulties is that the waste of hay for your sheep, instead of feeding it becomes trampled and turns into bedding and is wasted. This Video shows the Usage of Round bale feeders that you place the bales on. This prevents so much hay being wasted

Round Bale Hay Feeders

Can Sheep get so Hungry They Overeat and Die

Yes, Sheep can overeat and die. Many times it is not grass, But if sheep have access to unlimited feed supplements they will overeat. Most farmers feed the supplement to the specifications of a formula.

This can happen to all ruminants.

  • Deer
  • Sheep
  • Cattle
  • Horses
  • Bison

What does my Sheep Need while she is Pregnant

  • pasture, if adequate
  • 3 lbs. of alfalfa or clover hay
  • 3.5 lbs. of grass or mixed hay

What to Feed my Ewe while Lactating

  • Pasture, if adequate
  • 4.5 lb. alfalfa, clover or mixed hay
  • 3 lb. alfalfa, clover or mixed hay and 1 lb. corn
  • 2 lb. alfalfa, clover or mixed hay and 2 lb. corn
  • 4 lb. grass hay and. 5 lb 14% commercial feed
  • 3 lb. grass hay and 1.5 lbs. 14% commercial feed
  • 2 lb. grass hay and 2 lbs. 14% commercial feed

What to Feed my Lamb for Fattening

  • Pasture and 1/2 pound corn
  • 2 lbs. alfalfa hay and 2 lbs. corn
  • 1 lbs. alfalfa hay and 3 lbs. corn
  • . 5 lb. clover, mixed or grass hay and 3.5 lbs. 14% commercial feed

Whats Best to Feed Ewe

  • Pasture, if adequate
  • 3.5 lbs. of alfalfa, clover, mixed or grass hay

Symptoms of problems with Feed

Here are some of the Symptoms your sheep might show if there is a problem with feeds

  • Scours – diarrhea – Can be spotted in runny feces, feces soaked wool on Sheeps Bottom
  • depression
  • lethargy
  • Lameness
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Lying on side
  • Belly Bloat
  • Excessive gas
  • Fever
  • Glassy eyes
  • Salivating Profusely

How Much and How Often My Sheep Need Water

Water is the as Important or maybe even more important than the feed. A sheep can live about 12 days before it will die from lack of water. There are many factors on how much water your sheep will need. Below is a table that gives you a broad idea.

But there are other variables you will need to consider

  • Temperature
  • humidity
  • Wind
  • The thickness of Insulating Wool Coat
  • Dryness of Feed

Daily Water Consumption For Sheep

Age of SheepConsumption Water per Sheep - LitersConsumption Per Sheep - GallonsYearly Water Consumption / Sheep
Lambs - Weaned2-4 Liters1/2 - 1 Gallon365 Gallons / Yr
Adult - Grass
Adult - Brush
2 - 6 Liters
4 - 12 Liters
1/2 - 1 1/2 Gallon
1 - 3 Gallons
547 Gallons / Yr
Ewes w/ Lambs4 - 10 liters1 - 2 1/2 Gallons912 Gallons / Yr
Life Cycle of Sheep - Liters / Day - Gallons / Day - Gallons per Year

We have Written a Comprehensive Article on Commercial Sheep Farming

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