What Do Sheep Eat

The diet of a typical sheep is likely to contain large amounts of pasture plants. Some of their favorite foods are forbs, clovers and grass. When there is plenty of pasture available for grazing, sheep really don’t need any other food.

However, the weather must also allow for year-round grazing. When sheep don’t have this opportunity, their diet can be supplemented with grain and hay feed.

In the perfect world, sheep should be allowed to graze on well-stocked pastures for about seven hours per day. The amount of food that sheep need is also dependent upon how many sheep are actually in the flock.

Common Dinner Options

Sheep will eat a variety of different foods that can be found in a pasture. Some of their favorites are forbs, clover and grass. Forbs happen to be some of the top foods on the menu for these animals. When given several choices, most sheep would rather eat forbs than other types of food.

The forb is a broad-leaf plant, and it’s quite a bit different than grass. Since it’s a flowering plant, it offers a great deal of nutrition. When compared with cows, most sheep eat a much larger variety of plants, and they tend to eat a much more nutritious diet.

In terms of nutritious diets, goats are at the top of the list. Most sheep spend around seven hours per day grazing in a field. Their favorite times to graze are between dawn and late afternoon.

If pastured sheep are given supplements, it’s important to provide the supplements during the middle of the day to avoid disrupting the sheep’s natural grazing patterns.

What Types Of Plants Do They Eat?

Sheep love to eat several types of plants. The exact foods that they’ll eat depend on the natural environment that they live in. When compared with forages that grow in temperate climates, tropical forages aren’t nearly as nutritious.

The problem with many foraging diets is that they usually lack energy or protein. When eaten in a vegetative state, however, all forage diets are much healthier.

Storage Feed

The reality is that fresh forage might not always be available, so a great alternative is harvested or stored feeds. Some of the top choices are silage, hay, green chop and crop by-products.

Hay is actually grass that has been cut or cured, so it can be used as livestock feed. In some cases, pasture crops are cut, chopped and delivered to sheep. The name for fresh harvested forage is called green chop.

Bighorn Sheep

There are two main species of mountain sheep that can be found in North America, and bighorn sheep are one of them. The color of these animals can range from light brown to grayish or dark brown. They also have a white rump and lining on the backs of each leg.

When it comes to their ability to climb mountains, these animals are absolutely legendary. Depending on the season, they eat a wide range of different foods. In the summer, they prefer to eat sedges and grasses. During winter, some of their favorite snacks are rabbit brush, sage and willow.

The desert bighorn sheep consume brushy plants, like the desert cactus and holly. The diet of each individual really depends on its preferences and natural habitat.

Dall Sheep

Also known as Thinhorn sheep, the Dall sheep are native to northwestern North America. Their fur colors range from white all the way to slate brown. They have curved yellowish brown horns. During winter, they consume a limited diet, which consists almost entirely of sedge stems, frozen and dry grass.

When the snow is blown away, they eat moss and lichen. A number of Dall sheep populations are known to visit mineral licks in the spring and have been known to travel several miles to eat soil found around licks. The horns on these mammals can take eight years to grow, and they’re made of keratin.

Blue Sheep

Also known as the bharal, blue sheep live high up within the grassy mountains of the Himalayas. Their natural habitat spans many of the mountains in China and India. These animals look like sheep but act a lot like goats.

Some of their favorite snacks are grassy foods. For the blue sheep, the grass is almost always greener on the other side of the mountain. The blue sheep will eat whatever it has inside of its natural habitat, which is almost always an abundance of grass.

To get a rounded diet, these animals will also eat lichens, shrubs, leaves and moss.