Sheep are known for being prolific grazers, eating grass, hay, and other pasturage in great abundance. But what some people might not know is that sheep also eat certain fruits and vegetables, which can serve as a valuable source of nutrition for them and tasty treat.
How about carrots? Can sheep eat carrots?
Yes, sheep can eat carrots including greens. Carrots are a valuable source of vitamins and minerals for sheep so long as they’re given in moderation. Too many can cause nutritional imbalance or digestive upset in sheep. Whole or large pieces of carrot can cause choking, so always chop them up.
Carrots are yet another vegetable that can be a wholesome snack for your sheep, or a reward for good behavior.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about properly serving carrots to your flock.
Health Benefits of Carrots for Sheep
Carrots have excellent nutritional benefits thanks to abundant vitamins and minerals, most notably a ton of vitamin A equivalent and beta carotene, but most of the B vitamins are present, including B3, B5, B6, and folate. Vitamin C, E, and K are also well represented.
The mineral content of carrots is similarly varied and present in good quantities. Carrots have calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, and potassium along with a little bit of sodium and zinc. All of these nutrients are important for sheep:
- Vitamin A and beta-carotene are crucial for good vision and healthy skin and wool.
- The B vitamins are all important for energy metabolism, nervous system function, and cell division.
- Folate is especially important for pregnant ewes as it helps prevent birth defects.
- Calcium and phosphorus are essential for bone health while magnesium, potassium, and sodium all play roles in maintaining electrolyte balance.
- Potassium is also essential for proper fermentation of rumen.
- Iron is necessary for red blood cell production and manganese is an important antioxidant.
While carrots provide many valuable nutrients, they are also relatively high in sugar. This means that they should only be given to sheep in moderation.
However, they also contain lots of water, around 88% by mass, meaning they can help keep your flock hydrated on hot, dry days.
Can Sheep Eat Carrots Raw?
Yes, and this is the best way to give them to your sheep. Raw carrots are more nutritious than cooked carrots and easier for sheep to digest.
Carrots can be fed to sheep whole, but you should always chop them up into smaller pieces to avoid any choking hazards.
Can Sheep Eat Carrot Greens?
Yes, though surprisingly they usually don’t like them nearly as much as the root part.
Can Sheep Eat Carrots Cooked?
Yes, they can. However, it is a bit of a tradeoff. On one hand, cooked carrots are easier to chew and digest for sheep.
On the other hand, cooking carrots reduces their nutrient content somewhat. So, if you do give your sheep cooked carrots, consider supplementing their treat with other healthy foods.
Never Feed Carrots to Sheep that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Carrots are actually pretty good for sheep, and they can provide some essential nutrients. However, you should never feed carrots to sheep that have been prepared with harmful ingredients.
Things that we usually cook carrots with, such as onions, garlic, salt, sugar, butter, broth, and the like are all bad for sheep.
If sheep were to eat any of these ingredients, they could potentially get very sick, or even die. Weight gain from excess calories is a real possibility, but more serious conditions like liver disease and bloat are also possible.
You might enjoy your carrots prepared in any number of ways, but your sheep shouldn’t have any. Only feed sheep carrots that have been cooked without any harmful ingredients. If you’re not sure whether or not your cooked carrots are safe for sheep, it’s best to forgo feeding them to your flock.
Beware of Pesticide on Grocery-bought Carrots
Another factor to be wary of is the likely presence of pesticides on grocery-bought carrots. Pretty much all of our store-bought produce today is treated with some form of pesticide, and carrots are no exception.
These chemicals can be dangerous for sheep, building up in tissues over time, eventually causing serious health problems.
The best way to avoid this issue is to buy organic carrots, or better yet, grow your own. If you do opt for store-bought carrots, make sure to wash them thoroughly before feeding them to your sheep.
How Often Can Sheep Have Carrots?
Carrots are a healthy snack or treat for sheep, but I want to be clear that they are in no way a staple or primary food choice. Your sheep should not be eating carrots every day.
A couple of times a week, in moderated portions, is more than sufficient to give them a boost of nutrients and minimize the chances of negative effects.
A good rule of thumb is that sheep should only be getting around 25% of their total calorie intake from supplemental foods like carrots and other produce. The majority should come from their usual diet of hay, grass, and other forage.
Preparing Carrots for Your Flock
We’ve established that carrots are definitely a good option for feeding to your sheep, but your work doesn’t end there.
You need to prepare the carrots properly so your sheep can enjoy them safely. Carrots are actually a pretty serious choking hazard if served whole or in large pieces, so you’ll need to spend some time chopping them up.
The size of the pieces you chop the carrots into will depend on the size of your sheep. As a general rule, the pieces should be no bigger than what can fit comfortably inside their mouths.
This will minimize the risk of choking or getting stuck in their throats. Small slices or chunks, or julienne-cut carrots are a good option.
You could even grate your carrots into a fine hash and mix it with other dry food if you wanted to. Anything that can make your raw carrots easier to eat is worth doing.
If you are cooking carrots the pieces can be a bit larger than usual since they are so soft and easy to chew. This will make sheep less likely to choke, but you should still avoid anything too big.
Can Lambs Have Carrots, Too?
Yes, lambs can also have carrots. However, you should take care to introduce them slowly so their digestive system can get used to the new food.
Start by giving them only a small amount of carrots, and gradually increase the amount over time.
Also, be sure to wait until lambs are old enough to be eating solid food all the time. If they are still drinking milk from mom they are too young.
Keep in mind that lambs have pretty intense nutritional requirements. It’s best not to take any chances, so if you’re unsure whether or not your lamb is ready for carrots, it’s always best to check with your veterinarian first.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.