Sheep and goats can be reared on the same farm. These animals can live and feed together peacefully without any challenge. Sheep and goats have certain things in common, they are all ruminant animals and they all feed on green and dry forage. It is easy to see these animals feeding together outside. The question of whether sheep can eat goat feed or not can best be answered after looking at some considerations. The short answer to this question is that sheep can eat goat feed.
Having said that it is not always recommended to give sheep goat feed for reasons to be discussed later in this article. We will also discuss conditions and limits with which goat feed can be given to sheep. The challenges that are associated with use of goat feed for sheep shall also be discussed.
Sheep and goats have the need for basic nutritional elements like proteins, fat, fiber, carbohydrates and other concentrates. These elements are important for growth and development, protection against diseases and other normal body functions. Some of these elements may be required in different proportions for goats and sheep. However, sheep and goats have different nutritional requirements for copper.
Copper is a key nutrient in goats with literature suggesting that goats need as much copper as cattle need. This is not the case for sheep, copper is not good for sheep if consumed continuously or in large quantities. Excessive or continuous goat feed that is rich in copper is known to cause copper poisoning in sheep which may cause deaths. Proteins are responsible for growth and new cells development and both animals need these but they are also needed in different quantities. Goats require more proteins in their diet as compared to sheep. This is what determines whether we can use goat feed to feed sheep. Let us look at different goat feeds that we can give to sheep. These feeds also vary due to size and breed of sheep. Nutritional requirements for meat animals will not be the same for animals kept for breeding purposes.
What Goat Feed Can Sheep Eat
The fact that goats and sheep can feed together in the farm suggests that goat feed that is based on forage can be eaten by sheep without any problem. Fresh or dried hay or forage feed can be used for feeding sheep as much as they can be used for goats. This include herbaceous plants, grass and legumes. Dry forage is harvested fresh and allowed to dry naturally with no supplements added. It is then stored and used to feed animals on a later time probably due to food scarcity in dry seasons. This type of feed can be eaten by sheep without any effects and this is the most recommended feed type to be shared between goats and sheep.
What Goat Feed Sheep Cannot Eat
There are also some goat feed that is not recommended for sheep. Feeding your sheep on these feeds may result in health complications for your sheep and should be avoided. As mentioned before, goat feed that is rich in copper is not good for your sheep. The feed is mainly goat feed supplements for commercial goat farming. The supplements can be purchased at various stores. These supplements are produced with high nutritional content for copper and other minerals suitable for maximum yield in goat farming. The amount of copper required by goats is very toxic when given to sheep causing chronic poisoning. Research has it that daily intake of 3.5mg/Kg of copper in sheep may result in chronic poisoning.
It is not recommended to feed sheep using goat feed supplements as these are known to have nutritional levels that are not suitable for sheep. Continuous use of grain goat feed that contains high carbohydrates is also not good for your sheep. Excess carbohydrates in sheep causes ruminal acidosis and bloat. Additionally, goat feed made from plants belonging to the nightshade family including potatoes and tomatoes are also known to contain toxic compounds that can cause respiratory distress among other health complications in sheep.
How Should I Feed Sheep With Goat Feed Supplements
Having mentioned that sheep can feed on certain goat feeds but not on all the feeds, it is important to look at how can one feed sheep using goat feed. This should only be done when sheep feed is scarce and for a short period of time as a stop gap measure. Goat feed supplements should only be given to sheep in very small quantities and not continuously. Continued use of goat feed in sheep has been known to cause bloat and may result in deaths of sheep. The same can be said for goat feed from vegetables and fruits like watermelon, bananas, grapes and many others. These can be used to feed sheep but only in small proportions as treats as continued use of these feeds may cause various diseases and deaths in sheep. Grain based goat feeds should also be used for sheep in a limited manner.
What Feed Is Recommended For Sheep
Sheep are grazers and their feed should mostly be based on grass and other low lying plants. Grass and legume hay are best known sheep feed. The digestive system of sheep is designed for grass and hence should be given in enough quantities. Leguminous hay is known for being highly nutritious and good for sheep. Alternatively, sheep feed supplements are also recommended for sheep feeding. These are manufactured in the right nutritional content for your sheep. You may find various sheep feeds for different sheep ages and breeds in stores. It is important to read all the feed labels and instructions to ensure that you buy feed for the correct sheep size and breed. You may need to consult various animal feed specialists for assistance related to animal feed.
Sheep can eat goat feed due to many similarities between these animals but the use of goat feed for sheep should be done in a very limited way. Continuous use of goat feed is dangerous to your sheep and hence should be avoided. Animal feed specialists may help in feed administration for your sheep.