Sheep and goats are both ruminants and so their diets are somewhat similar. Both animal species have dietary systems designed to digest forage which is their primary feedstuff. This basically means that sheep can eat goat feed. This is most valuable during the dry season when there is inadequate forage to sustain sheep and goats. As a cost management measure, sheep can goat feed to absorb necessary nutrients for growth and development, health, reproduction as well as production. However, an important factor to be aware of is that goat feed contains an increased amount of copper which is not recommended for sheep. It is therefore important for farmers to acquire relevant knowledge on the nutritional requirements of both species to prevent errors and ensure an effective livestock management system.

Goat Feed for Sheep Diets

Sheep can eat goat feed, provided the feeding system is properly managed. Both animals have dietary plans that consist of forage, hay and they also have some amount of grain feed in their diets. To add on, their stomachs have four compartments which allows them to digest feed in a similar manner. This makes it possible for sheep to eat goats feed. However, feeding sheep diets that are designed for goats in quite complicated. As already mentioned, their nutritional requirements differ which makes some aspects quite different. The following are the main feedstuff that can be provided to both animal species.

Hay

The diet of goats is largely made up of dry roughage in the form of grass hay or dry forage.  Roughage is of the utmost importance for proper rumen function. Goat hay can either be grass hay (timothy, brome, orchard grass, mixtures) or legume hay (alfalfa and clover). Pregnant ewes can be fed hay and it can also be used to fatten rams. Sheep and goats can be bred for different purposes and due to the differences in their nutritional requirements, it is essential to provide them with appropriate rations.  Experts point out that similar to goat diets, forage or hay should make up the majority of all sheep feed. Additionally, a limited amount of alfalfa hay can be given to growing, pregnant and lactating sheep. High percentages of alfalfa can increase the risk of frothy bloat in sheep.

Grain

Goat feed is also made up of grain. Agricultural research states that sheep can eat goat feed including grain. However, grain should be fed sparingly to sheep because it is high in carbohydrates. Excess carbohydrates are known to cause bloat and ruminal acidosis. It is advisable to make use of commercial pelleted grains instead as they designed for sheep hence are unlikely to cause health complications. Take care to follow the guidelines listed on the label to prevent obesity. Also, selected pellets should be suited for the production stage of sheep.

Goat Feed That Is Not Suitable For Sheep

Although sheep can eat goat feed, their mineral requirements are quite different. Goat feed is made up of higher levels of copper whereas sheep have a very low threshold for toxicity of dietary copper. To add on, sheep should not have access to loose minerals or mineral blocks designed for other animal species including goat unless the label states otherwise. It is advisable to provide sheep with plain white salt block or plain loose salt without minerals if farmers do not have access to minerals designed specifically for sheep.

What Is Bad For Sheep to Eat?

Sheep can eat goat feed without negatively impacting on health, reproduction, or production. However, this does not mean that all types of goat feeds are safe for sheep. Neither does it imply that feedstuff considered as toxic but tolerable to goats can also be tolerated by sheep. Although sheep can eat goat feed, they cannot feed on supplements meant for goats, particularly those with a significant amount of copper. Goat require diets with higher levels of copper than suitable for sheep. As such, providing sheep with supplements exclusively made for goats can negatively impact on their health and production levels. That being said, there are various other feedstuff that are deemed unsuitable for sheep. These include plants belonging to the nightshade family like tomatoes and potatoes. Green parts of the plants contain toxic compounds that can cause diarrhoea, respiratory distress among other health complications. To add on, sheep cannot eat brassicas. This is because most mature brassica plants are highly toxic to livestock. Note that while some of these plants are highly nutritious and often used to enhance production, they contain toxic substances therefore should only be given by a knowledgeable farmer. Furthermore, sheep can feed on goat feed including fruits and vegetables but only as treats. Excess fruits and vegetables are bad for sheep and can result in a number of health related issues. The same applies to excess grain feed.

What Should I Feed My Sheep?

Sheep can eat goat feed but it is best to provide them with dietary plans that are tailor made to suit their nutritional needs. Ideally, sheep should be provided with dietary plans mainly made up of forage. Their digestive system is designed for the digestion of grass hence the need to ensure that it is given in sufficient quantities. Hay is often used during the dry period when forage is insufficient and of poor quality to sustain their dietary needs. Sheep can feed on grass or legume hay with the latter being the most nutritious. Alfalfa is the most common legume hay used as sheep feed. Note that forage and hay are sometimes lacking in nutrients; as such, it becomes necessary to make use of feed additives or supplements. Sheep can also feed on grain including oats and corn sparingly. Grain rations should be carefully managed as an overdose is known to cause bloating; in severe cases, death can occur. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of nutrients for sheep. Sheep can feed on fruits and vegetables including watermelon, bananas, celery, rhubarb and grapes among many others. However, like other feed supplements, they should be given in limited amounts, preferably as treats. Sheep can also eat hemp which has been proven to be rich in nutrients, minerals and antioxidant agents. Industrial hemp is not recommended as it can be toxic.