Keeping various breeds of livestock in the same unit area was a common practise in most parts of the world. In fact, this was the case up to about a hundred years ago. It was typical to witness an area being populated by sheep, cows, sheep as well as horses. According to research, domestic animals were kept in the same stable without any negative effects on health and productivity.  However, this practise is seldom witnessed today due to the development of more sophisticated farming techniques. That being said, most farmers are seeking to find out whether cows and sheep can live together just as in the olden days. This being attributed to the continuously increasing costs of livestock rearing. Therefore, as a means of helping farmers to maintain high productivity while controlling costs, this article is aimed at equipping them with relevant knowledge about livestock rearing.

Keeping Cows and Sheep Together

It is essential to have an understanding of how different species of livestock behave around each other if one is considering whether cows and sheep can live together. Cows are generally regarded as peaceful animals that are able to co-exist well with a wide range of livestock including horses, goats and even sheep. Research studies point out that cows and sheep can live together provided there are ample resources. This is because domestic animals require sufficient space to avoid each other if they choose. In drought prevalent areas, cows can eat minerals formulated for sheep, but sheep cannot have access to minerals formulated for cows as they contain copper which is toxic to young ruminants. As such, sheep become prone to attack by diseases thereby negatively impacting on productivity. To add on, cows and sheep can live together peacefully if they are provided with adequate supply of water so that they do not compete for it. Note that various breeds of cows each have their own unique personalities, preferences and so this may not apply to all animal species. However, it provides a basic guideline on how cows interact with sheep which is an ideal starting point when considering keeping them in the same pen. It is recommended for farmers adopting this practise to closely monitor how cows and sheep interact with each other to ensure a successful agricultural venture.

Stocking Density of Cows and Sheep

Keeping cows and sheep together is regarded as an ideal combination for a profitable agricultural venture. Cows and sheep can live together in order to achieve heavy stocking densities therefore allowing farmers to ensure increased productivity. A case study from a world renowned farmer reveals that cows and sheep can live together successfully with stocking densities of about 1,000 ewes and 120 cows. Resultantly, there is improved meat production. Not only does keeping sheep and cows together help achieve high stocking densities but it is also essential in controlling disease and infection manifestation. Cattle and sheep generally do not share the same parasites. As such, alternating grazing between cattle and sheep creates a mismatch between worms and hosts. Most sheep parasites are most likely to die waiting for their preferred hosts to return, or get hoovered up by grazing cattle, and die in the inhospitable environment of the bovine gut. Therefore, cows and sheep can live together in order to increase productivity through high stocking densities as well as ensuring healthy animals.

What is the relationship between sheep and cows?

A common practise when keeping different types of domestic animals together is allowing them to share the same grazing area. When doing so, it is important to understand the relationship between sheep and cows. It is becoming a common practise for livestock farmers to use multi-species grazing to improve the use of forages and cut down on forage management expenses. Studies indicate that cows and sheep can live together and graze the same piece of land without any negative effects impacting their health and productivity due to their ideal relationship. As a matter of fact, this practise is highly recommended as it regarded as highly beneficial to farming. Cows and sheep prefer different forages and so do not compete over feed. Sheep do a better job picking out the over grown forage and then four weeks later the cattle can be allowed to graze the area. Sheep help to keep the brush down which saves farmers from having to clip pastures. When making use of this grazing system, take care not to overgraze sheep limiting the available forage for cows as it can in turn result in decreased productivity and profitability. It is also advisable to practise rotational grazing for easy management of the grazing area thereby ensuring good quality dietary plans for all domestic animals. Note that the relationship between sheep and cows is determined by the availability of sufficient resources. For this reason, cows and sheep can live together if there are sufficient resources to sustain both animal species.

Why do cattle farmers hate sheep?

Despite the numerous benefits of keeping cows and sheep together, some farmers are still sceptical about this farming practise. It is basically a common practise nowadays to keep different livestock in separate pieces of land. The most common reason why cattle farmers hate keeping cows and sheep together is because they tend to fight over resources, particularly when there is shortage.  According to research, although a number of operations have implemented cattle and sheep grazing successfully, some have tried the implementation of cattle and sheep on the grasslands and have failed. In addition, cows and sheep can sometimes fail to bond which affects their co-existence. This is because cows that are not bonded with sheep can be rough on their smaller counterparts. When cattle and sheep drink together, the sheep can be pushed into the water tank. This rough treatment extends beyond fighting for resources. Another reason why farmers hate keeping cows and sheep together is that when ewes and lambs run with cows and calves, the cows often pound the lambs into the ground. In severe cases, the violent behaviour can affect productivity of sheep. However, in most cases, cows and sheep can live together quite well hence it is a recommended farming system.

Among the variety of reasons why farmers hate keeping cows and sheep together is the susceptibility of sheep to predators. Sheep are quite small and therefore may not be able to protect lambs from attack. The opposite applies to cows which are larger species. As such, predators view lambs as easy prey in comparison to calves which are protected by larger ruminants. Nonetheless, the benefits of keeping sheep and cows together outweigh the risks. For this reason, even though some farmers hate keeping sheep and cows together, it is a practise worth trying. Agricultural experts state that with regards to animal production from mixed grazing, weight gain of sheep per hectare is usually about 10 kg as compared to only 6.9 kg for livestock that live alone. As clearly indicated, cows and sheep can live together to maintain higher production and profits.