+31 20 261 96 37

Herengracht 449a 1017 BR Amsterdam, Netherlands

Minerals and Supplements for Sheep

Sheep should always have ready access to sheep-formulated minerals, either in the form of loose minerals in a clean dispenser or from mineral blocks in a clean holder. These help supply sheep with essential nutrients like calcium, chlorine, sodium, phosphorous, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, Vitamins A, D, and E, and trace minerals like copper, cobalt, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc. The most likely deficiency a sheep may have in nutrients is often Vitamin E and selenium. If you suspect these deficiencies, talk to a veterinarian about getting a blood test and options for supplementation in the case of confirmed deficiencies. A prolonged deficiency of certain vitamins or minerals can have catastrophic health consequences, such as stiffness, lameness, paralysis, neurological problems, and White Muscle Disease. Generally, a sheep should be fed a 2 to 1 calcium to phosphorous radio to prevent urinary calculi. Things That Are Toxic to Sheep Like many herbivores, there are some common plants and foods that are toxic and must be kept out of a sheep’s living space for their health. In the case of toxic trees, even their leaves in fall can contain enough toxin to seriously harm sheep. This includes:
  • Animal products of any kind
  • Avocado
  • Azaleas
  • Bracken Ferns
  • Buttercup
  • Cassava
  • Cherry, chokecherry, elderberry, and plum trees
  • Chocolate
  • Foxglove
  • Kale
  • Hemlock
  • Holly trees
  • Lilacs
  • Lily of The Valley
  • Oleander
  • Ponderosa Pine trees
  • Poppy
  • Potato
  • Milkweed
  • Mountain Laurel
  • Nightshades
  • Red Maple trees
  • Rhododendrons
  • Rhubarb
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Yew trees
  • Many ornamental plants
See a larger list of toxic things for sheep here. Special Food Recommendations for Older Sheep Older sheep can typically lose, break, or wear down some or many of their teeth through the course of their lives, especially if their food comes primarily from grazing on natural terrain. Damage to or loss of a molar can then cause issues in other molars- for example, without a matching upper molar to keep it ground down, a lower molar can become painfully sharp and may need to be routinely filed down by a veterinarian.  As a result, they may have a harder time chewing comfortably and getting the proper mix of nutrients from standard food. Tall or tough pasture grass and hay might be especially difficult for an older sheep with dental issues to eat. If you see someone dropping wads of cud, this is a telltale sign of dental issues.  They try their best to chew the grass or hay, but because of their dental issues, they just cannot break it down enough to digest.  It is especially important to monitor an older sheep’s weight as they age to ensure that they are getting enough to eat (and are able to eat the food available to them). If necessary, you can make your own special food by soaking grass hay pellets and beet pulp or offering chopped hay (for females, you can offer alfalfa if they truly need the extra calcium and protein, but this can lead to urinary calculi in males). By giving them foods that do not require the extensive chewing that hay and grass require, you can ensure residents with dental issues are still getting all of the nutrients they need. You can also have a veterinarian evaluate and file or remove any teeth that have gotten uncomfortably sharp or painful. Never put your hand near a sheep’s molars, as they have very strong jaws and sharp teeth which could cause a permanent injury. If it seems like older sheep are not thriving, it could be a vitamin or mineral imbalance due to less effective chewing and digestion or an underlying health condition. Make sure they continue to have easy access to minerals given where they graze and spend time indoors! If necessary, you can administer a sheep-safe vitamin booster, under the guidance of your veterinarian, to help clear up any nagging deficiencies. Elderly sheep can also benefit from vitamins A, B12, D, and E, Selenium, Calcium, Flax, Kelp, Sugar Beet, Molasses, Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, and multivitamin formulas depending on an elderly sheep’s needs. You should also regularly make sure that they aren’t developing anemia, which can lead to dangerous health challenges. Consult with your veterinarian before making big changes to their supplementation. In general, you should be very mindful of an older sheep’s weight. It is common for sheep to become overweight as they continue to eat at the same pace while lowering their general activity levels due to arthritis or stiffness. Overweightness in sheep can lead to a host of health issues. Underweight sheep may be losing out on food from competing sheep or be eating and ingesting less due to teeth troubles and may need their own special source of food to stay healthy. You can supplement a thin sheep’s food with a source that is higher in protein to help them put on more weight, just make sure to keep monitoring their weight to evaluate its effectiveness, and be sure to identify the cause of the weight loss to determine if other interventions are necessary!