Can Sheep Eat Ivy?

Ruminants are known for their superior ability to feed on a wide variety of plants, including those considered to as toxic. This is because they have some form of tolerance to some toxic compounds. The same applies to sheep as they also have a digestive system consisting of four compartments, thus being part of the ruminant family. As such, sheep can feed on ivy without experiencing any adverse effects on health, reproduction or production. This is made possible through a proper feeding management system whereby rations are closely monitored. In fact, when a management system is practiced wisely, sheep can feed on ivy without experiencing any negative effects on health, production or their overall well-being.

Table of Contents

Ivy for Health Sustenance of Sheep

There is currently very limited agricultural research studies focused on finding out whether sheep can feed on ivy. Most results on the subject matter are based on experimental practices by some farmers. Results recorded state that sheep can tolerate ivy without negatively impacting on health. In fact, most farmers concur; they reveal that no adverse effects have been experienced after this practice. A number of farmers even state that sheep can eat ivy because they relish it and it is an ideal way of getting ill ewes to eat again. Ivy is said to be highly palatable to livestock and therefore it is an effective appetite stimulant. For this reason, it is a valuable plant to livestock farmers.

Basically, sheep can eat ivy to improve their appetite thus allowing them to actively feed on forage and other supplements required for daily body functions. By doing so, not only is health sustained but so is production. This is because health and production are closely linked; for animals to reach the ideal slaughter weight timeously and produce superior quality meat, they have to be healthy. Resultantly, profits are increased thereby guaranteeing the success of the agricultural venture. Note that under normal circumstances, ewes that are ill and do not have appetite worsen the sickness which costs farmers a lot of money in veterinary costs. In severe cases, ewes may not be as productive even after treatment is administered and sometimes death can occur. Since there are currently few studies on the subject matter, the specific benefits of ivy on growth and development of sheep are unknown.

Is Ivy Toxic To Sheep?

There are different types of toxic plants; some contain high levels of toxicity that can be very harmful to sheep while other plants can be tolerated by animals to a certain extent. The same applies to ivy. Studies reveal that ivy berries are more toxic that the leaves. However, despite the toxicity of the plant, sheep can eat ivy provided that it is not consumed to excess. It is therefore of the utmost importance for farmers to possess adequate knowledge on various types of plants found in the forage and the appropriate rations for sheep. Basically sheep can feed on ivy for different purposes. Some farmers allow sheep to graze on land containing ivy as a means to clear the area and sometimes sheep can eat ivy out of choice. This is a common practice in countries such as New Zealand and its slowly growing to other parts of the world including Canada. Young lambs are placed in grape field where they are used as tools to prune weeds, particularly ivy. This is a cheaper option than paying workers to do the job. Research points out that lambs weigh less and are short therefore cannot reach the grapes on trees; they are also tolerable to ivy making them ideal for the job. As a matter of fact, sheep are known to be excellent weed eaters. They are used to manage various types of weeds, including those that are said to be toxic to humans because of their high tolerance levels.  It is however emphasized that farmers should monitor sheep to make sure that they do not overfeed on ivy as this can cause detrimental effects.  Also, it is important to make sure that there are no pesticides applied prior to grazing. The upside to keeping goats is that toxicity levels are only fatal when they eat incredibly large quantities. In most cases, they are able to efficiently manage toxic compounds found in most weed plants, including ivy.

Are Ivy Berries Poisonous To Sheep?

Since sheep can eat ivy plants without suffering from health distress, it is only natural to wonder if they can also feed on the berries. Studies show that ivy berries are more poisonous than the leaves. However, it is also stated that sheep can also feed on ivy berries to a certain extent without suffering from health issues. Similarly to the plant, ivy berries can only affect health and production when large quantities are involved.  While some farmers state that ivy berries are toxic to sheep, these records have been dismissed by majority of farmers making use of this practice. Sheep have been proven to be highly tolerable to most toxic plants including ivy berries.

What Plants Are Bad For Sheep?

Although sheep can feed on ivy and many other plants containing toxic compounds, some plants are highly toxic beyond the tolerance level of sheep. Sheep cannot eat plants such as green tomatoes and avocados. These plants contain toxic substances that can poison sheep resulting is detrimental effects. Sheep that consume avocado and unripe tomato plants often suffer from health related issues including diarrhoea, respiratory distress, gastrointestinal irritation, depression and trembling. Sheep do not normally feed on poisonous plants but in times of severe drought this can happen. To add on, plants belonging to the nightshade family like potatoes are also poisonous to sheep. Note that while some parts of these plants are quite safe, the leaves, stems and any green part of nightshades contain solanine toxins. Furthermore, sheep cannot eat any plants from the rhododendron family. These also contain toxins that can lead to compromised health and production. Keep in mind that despite the fact that sheep can eat ivy, excess consumption can also be poisonous to sheep. However, this is only applicable when extremely large quantities of ivy are consumed.