Livestock keeping has grown tremendously over the years leading to a sharp increase in the cost of feed. This challenge has been exacerbated by climate change with most areas receiving less rainfall, hence low quality forage. Even in areas receiving substantial amounts of rainfall, forage availability is a major problem during the dry season. Farmers are therefore actively seeking for feed alternatives in order to manage production costs. Sheep are not picky eaters; they can feed on a range of feedstuff that is considered as unsuitable for horses. Since both animal species are herbivores and primarily feed on forage, there has been some consideration on whether sheep can eat horse feed without adversely impacting on health, reproduction or production. Research studies conducted on the subject matter reveal that sheep can eat horse feed as supplementary diets, provided the feeding system is properly managed.
Table of Contents
Horse Feed for Sheep Diets
Sheep can eat horse feed for different reasons. Some farmers provide sheep with horse food simply because most of their diets are similar while some do this as a cost management measure. Despite the reason, it is essential for farmers to be aware of horse feeds that are in the same category as sheep dietary plans. Horse feed is mainly composed of hay which can be supplemented with fruits or vegetables to ensure a well-balanced diet. Horses are non-ruminant herbivores and so their primary dietary plans consist of forage which is similar to sheep. Note that although sheep can eat horse feed, their mineral requirements differ. For this reason, sheep should under no circumstances be given mineral supplements designed for horses. The following are some horse feed that can be provided to sheep:
Sheep can eat horse feed, particularly grass. Both animal species find forage diets palatable. As a matter of fact, grass makes up their primary diets. Grass contains nutrients and minerals necessary for health sustenance and production of both animal species. It also contains minerals needed for dental health. Note that grass differs in terms of nutritional value. Some grass varieties contain nutrients that are below the standard requirement of sheep and horses hence the need for complementary supplements. However, since grass varieties used as horse feed are nutritious, sheep can eat horse feed to absorb these nutrients. This is most valuable during the dry season when forage is insufficient. A common practice among horse and sheep breeders is to allow sheep and horses to graze the same area since their diets are similar.
Hay is also most valuable during the winter season. To add on, it is the primary feedstuff for horses. Hay provided to horses is carefully selected and tested to ensure that it contains sufficient vitamins and minerals. In cases of a nutritional shortfall, supplements are provided accordingly. Since sheep are not picky eaters and feed on a variety of forages, horse hay is an ideal source of nutrients. Keep in mind that although sheep can eat horse feed, their nutritional requirements differ. As such, farmers should make sure to provide rations that match their nutritional requirements. Excess horse feed, particularly hay, can cause some health related issues for sheep.
Horse feed is also made up of grain. This is similar to sheep diets. As such, sheep can eat horse feed without experiencing negative effects on health, production and reproduction. The traditional grain feed for horses is usually oats but other grains like corn can be provided though in limited amounts. Sheep can also feed on grain which is a common practice in some parts of the world that experience prolonged dry periods. An important point to note is that excess grain can be harmful to sheep. It can possibly lead to bloat among other health related issues. Consequently, production and profits are compromised and so is the success of the entire agricultural venture. Experts point out that sheep should ideally be given commercially produced grain pellets instead of those grown by farmers. These are designed specifically for sheep therefore are unlikely to cause health challenges. That being said, it is important for farmers to strictly adhere to the guidelines on labels of commercially produced grain feed. This is because over-consumption can be as detrimental.
Can Sheep Graze with Horses?
Since sheep can eat horse feed, it is natural to consider whether or not they can graze the same pastures with horses. Studies reveal that sheep and horses get along quite well and so can graze together. As a matter of fact, this is a popular practice among livestock farmers breeding both species. Sheep and horses prefer forages of different sizes; this means that they can be allowed to graze together as some sort of a strategy to manage the grazing land. To add on, horses tend to choose the most nutritious grasses whereas sheep prefer new green leaves as well as stems. According to research, it is a good idea to rotate these species because sheep will graze the areas that are avoided by horses. Alternating sheep with horses also works as an effective worm-prevention strategy. Most intestinal parasites of horses cannot survive in sheep and so grazing these animals together is a safe practice. Studies reveal that horses and sheep coexist well which allows for efficient management of the grazing system. Agricultural land conservationists point out that grazing sheep and horses together can improve fields.
Do Sheep Get Along With Horses?
As already emphasized, sheep and horses get along quite well together. For this reason, sheep can eat horse feed and graze together with horses. Various experiments have been conducted to establish the relationship between sheep and horses. These studies point out that horses are not as hostile with sheep as they can sometimes act among themselves. Horses have been known to sniff sheep occasionally out of curiosity however in most cases do not act hostile. They hardy sniff lambs. Also, sheep and horses prefer different pasture lands therefore have no reason to fight for grazing lands. Generally sheep and horses do not compete for food or water. Sheep tend to show submissive behaviour towards horses they usually back away from a water source when horses approach the area.