Sheep are ruminants and they can handle a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Sheep can eat apple slices as treats but because it is not natural or automatic for them to eat apples, the treats have to be introduced gradually and in moderation. Apples should be between 10 and 20% of the sheep diet. Home made treats offer a quick way for you to become a friend but they should be used sparingly to avoid causing health problems.
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Nutritional Benefits of Apples
Apples are a source of fibre which is concentrated on the skin and potassium. Apple skins are a very important source of roughage and bits of apple skins can be mixed into the regular feed of these animals. Fibre is very important for good digestion and healthy bowel movements. Sheep can eat apples because they help balance the pH levels in their stomachs and those of other ruminants. The multitude of vitamins and minerals found in apples are very good for their health.
Make sure that before the sheep eat the apples, they are without the seeds because they can be poisonous to the flock.Domesticated sheep consume the food provided for them by humans so the caretaker should understand nutritional needs of sheep so that they can provide the sheep with a proper diet. When supplements like apples are fed to pastured sheep, it is best to feed them in the middle of the day so that normal grazing patterns are not affected.
Sheep can eat apples in different forms, one of which is apple pomace, the solid residue that remains after milling and pressing of apples for cider, apple juice or puree production. Ethanol is the main fermentation end product in apple pomace silage and most ruminants are adapted to ethanol intake. However, apple pomace can only be used in limited amounts because excess alcohol will lead to lung overload. Efficient utilization of nutritionally rich aggro industrial by products is a major issue throughout the world because of economic and environmental concerns.
Rather than receiving nutrients directly from the food they eat, sheep must first ferment their food in their complex digestive system consisting of four chambered stomachs and then absorb the nutrients out of the resultant fermented mixture. While sheep have their own preferences and needs, there are some general principles to consider in their physiology and nutritional needs.
Sheep are grazers rather than browsers and this explains why green grasses and grains make up the natural sheep diet. Eating apples is something they have to be taught. Sheep are ruminants and chewing animals with complex digestive systems designed for the long steady digestion of large volumes of relatively low nutrient vegetation.
Ensuring there is an appropriate amount of pasture for your sheep to eat is important and this can can be managed by rotating pastures and always making sure that there is always feed available in other pastured areas in which the sheep will be moved into when it is necessary.
Sheep graze for 8 to 9 hours during the day when feed is plentiful and longer when feed is in short supply. They require constant access to fresh, clean water and can drink around four liters a day in normal circumstances. The amount of pasture or range land that it takes to feed sheep depends on the quality of the land, the amount and distribution of rainfall, species of forage and the management of the pasture.
When fresh forage is not available or it is inadequate to meet the dietary requirements, sheep are usually fed stored or harvested feeds, hay, silage, green chop, crop by products and fruits. When feeds are of low quality, sheep will need more feed to fulfil their dietary needs and this may result in the need for supplementary feed. It is always important to talk to your vet before choosing supplement for your flock.
When quality pasture is unavailable, supplementary feed can also be given to sheep in poor condition, young or old and any other ones that may require extra energy. Special considerations have to be made for sheep that have teeth problems or difficulty eating and veterinary advice is recommended as it must be sought for sheep that are losing weight.Sheep are fed hay when pasture is unavailable
Sheep should be fed a wholesome diet that satisfy their nutritional needs and allow them to maintain appropriate body conditions according to their life stage. When using apples as sheep feed, they need to be cut into fairly small pieces or crushed to make sure that chocking does not happen.
Risks Associated With Feeding Sheep Apples
Although sheep can eat apples, the acidity of too many apples can trap gastrointestinal gasses inside them and and can cause painful blockages or disturbances in their bowels.
Enterotoxemia or overeating disease is caused by the release of toxins from bacteria that are natural in sheep’s digestive systems – bacteria that goes on overdrive. Lambs are most susceptible but older sheep too can be poisoned therefore the farmers need to monitor how much their flocks eat, they should also manage the free falls in the orchards to limit access, while sheep can eat apples, farmers have to be very cautious
Acidosis occurs in ruminants and other animals, including sheep when they eat too much sugar such as apples and starch. A farmer should know the quantity of apples available. Acidosis has a major impact on the economic gains due to the increased mortality of stock, significant reduction in weight gains in feedlot animals, complications with drought feeding strategies for livestock and it creates major challenges for the dairy industry as well, it may be the most significant health disorder of sheep being fed apples in large quantities as well as grains.
Where possible, avoid exposing your sheep to situations that favour starch overload. Overfeeding sheep with too much rich vegetation or high nutrient treats can cause great digestive distress or even death. Farmers should be careful of unrestricted feeding as over feeding causes lactic acidosis and it is often fatal.