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Can Sheep Eat Goat Feed?

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Do you have sheep? What about goats? If you have sheep and goats, you will discover that both animals make great teammates. They have many similarities and are easy to care for.

Can you minimize the cost of feed by feeding both animals with the same feed? Can sheep eat goat feed? Read this article to find out.

Can sheep eat goat feed?

It is not advisable for sheep to eat goat feed because of the different protein requirements of the two animals. Goat feed also contains a lot of copper that can lead to copper poisoning in sheep.

You can, however, give a small quantity of goat feed to sheep until you replenish your sheep feed supply.

What are the protein requirements of sheep and goats? Can goats and sheep get along? Continue reading.

Sheep Eating Goat Feed

A Grazing Sheep in a Green Field

People who raise both sheep and goats observe that both animals get along well and will eat out of the same trough (if they are not separated).

Aside from feed such as hay, fruits, grass, etc. that sheep and goats can eat together, can sheep eat processed goat-specific feed?

Many homesteaders have the opinion that goats and sheep are similar and so assume they can eat the same kind of feed. How similar are goats and sheep?

Are Goats and Sheep Similar?

Here are the similarities between goats and sheep:

  • They are Both Herbivores: As herbivorous animals, sheep and goats rely on plants and plant products for food. This means that they eat leaves, fruits, grains, flowers, etc.
  • They are Both Ruminants: Ruminant animals are animals with multiple stomach chambers. One chamber of their stomach, the rumen, is home to tons of microbes that breaks down food particles, allowing the animal to digest some materials that other animals cannot digest. Ruminant animals such as sheep and goats can digest cellulose (dietary fiber).
  • They Have Similar Size: Although there are dwarf goat breeds, many goat breeds have a similar size to sheep. Sheep may look larger than goats, but it could be because of their wool.

What Determines the Nutritional Needs of Animals

mother and daughter feeding sheep

Most animals can get what they need in the wild. For farm animals, however, relying on grazing alone might not offer enough nutrients (especially in regions or seasons where food is scarce).

Animals such as pigs, cows, goats, sheep, etc. are farm animals (or livestock) and must be given different kinds of feed.

What kind of feed should you give to sheep? Well, the kind of feed you give to an animal depends on the use of the animal and how the animal grows.

For example, chickens raised for meat will be given a feed rich in protein, while those raised for eggs will have extra calcium in their feed ratio.

What are sheep raised for? Here are some uses of sheep:

  • Milk
  • Meat
  • Wool
  • Grazing

What about goats? What are they mostly used for? Here you go:

  • Milk
  • Meat
  • As pets

From the use of both sheep and goats, it is clear that both animals have similar uses. What about the way they grow? Do they require the same (or similar) nutrients to grow?

mother sheep and baby sheep grazing

Comparing the Nutritional Requirements of Sheep and the Nutrients Found in Goat Feed

The protein requirement of sheep (i.e. needed crude protein in their feed) can be from 9% crude protein to 15% crude protein depending on the age of the sheep. (Source)

Goats, however, have a protein requirement ranging from 10% crude protein to 15% crude protein depending on their age. (Source)

The amount of protein (and other nutrients) needed by sheep of a particular age is not the same as the amount found in the feed of goats.

This means that you might be feeding your sheep with feed containing lower (or higher) nutrients than what they need.

Another nutrient that differs in the feed composition of sheep and goats is copper. According to The Cooperative Extension Program, goats need as much copper as cattle.

The amount of copper needed by goats can cause copper toxicity (or poisoning) in sheep.

Most goat feeds contain a high amount of copper.

Some Tips to Keep In Mind When Feeding Sheep with Goat Feed

Before giving goat feed to sheep, please consider the tips below:

  • Check the Feed Instructions: Goat-specific feed products that cannot be fed to sheep usually have clear instructions and warnings reminding you to avoid feeding them to sheep. Before giving a brand of goat-specific feed to your sheep, read the instructions carefully or ask an expert at the feed mill.
  • Availability of Copper: Most goat feeds contain copper levels needed by goats and too much copper can cause copper toxicity in sheep. Just like the previous point suggests, make sure that the goat feed is safe for sheep before giving it to your sheep.
  • Do Not Feed Sheep with Too Much Goat Feed: You can feed sheep with goat feed, but do not feed them too much of it. Goat feed is made for goats, so your sheep can get some nutritional deficiency (or too much of other nutrients) when they rely fully on goat-specific feed for an extended time.

Great tips, right? Aside from processed goat-specific feed products, are there are common food sources for both animals? Continue reading.

goats and sheeps grazing

Other Great Feeds for Sheep and Goats

Some examples of feed that you can feed to your sheep and goats every time are:

  • Hay
  • Grass
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Vegetables
  • Twigs and branches
  • All-purpose feed for livestock

Before giving a new kind of feed to your sheep or goat, ask an expert farmer in your area, club, or an online forum.

Questions Related to Sheep and Goat Feed

Got any questions? Do not worry, I have guessed some of your questions and provided the answers for you:

1. Can Goats Eat Sheep Feed?

Of course. Unlike goat feed brands that can cause copper poisoning in sheep, sheep feed is safe for goats.

You, however, should not feed your goats with too much of sheep feed because they may not be getting enough (or might be getting too much) of the nutrients that they need.

2. How Do You Prevent Sheep from Eating Goat Feed?

In a barn, you can place the feeding trough of both animals in different locations.

You should place the feeding trough of sheep nearer to the sheep section and that of goat nearer to the goats. If you are feeding both animals with processed feed often, you can feed them in their pens or compartments.

goats and sheeps on farm

3. Why Do Sheep and Goat Have Relatively Low Protein Requirements When Compared to Birds, Fish, and Other Animals?

Chickens need more than 20% crude protein while fish can need up to 45% crude protein. Sheep and goats, however, have a far lower protein requirement.

It is because sheep and goats are ruminants. As ruminants, sheep and goats have bacteria, fungi, and other microbes in their rumen that can easily digest food particles that other animals cannot digest.

In addition, the microbes in ruminant animals can be digested along with the food particles.

This means extra nutrients are absorbed by the animal and therefore, no need to provide too much protein. Too much protein can lead to ammonia or urea poisoning in ruminants.

4. Is There Any Difference in the Eating Habits of Goats and Sheep?

One major difference between sheep and goats is that sheep are grazers while goats are browsers.

As grazers, sheep will eat grass, shrubs, weeds, and other small plants growing near the ground. Goats, however, are browsers and will stretch to reach their food.

They eat leaves at higher levels. Many farmers who raise goats observe that their goats will not eat any food that has dropped from the trough to the ground.

Does this difference in eating habits affect the nutrition of both animals?

It slightly does. As grazers, sheep will mostly eat food composed of grass leaves, flowers, seeds, etc. while goats will eat the leaves, fruit, and seed of higher plants.

Grasses are monocots while most high plants are dicots. Monocots and dicots have different nutrient compositions in their leaves, fruits, and seeds.

5. Do Sheep Get Along with Goats?

Goats and sheep do get along. They can even make great friends.

When allowed to graze, both animals will help by clearing grass, weeds, and shrubs as sheep will eat the plants below while goats will stretch to eat those above. Do you see? They make great teammates.

You now have your answers, right?

selective focus of herd of sheep and goats grazing in corral at farm

Final Thoughts

Sheep can eat goat feed, but not too much of it. Before giving your goat feed to sheep, check the instructions for warnings about copper and protein levels.

Remember that aside from pellets and other goat-specific feed, your sheep and goats can always eat hay, grass, fruits, cereals, etc. together.