Can sheep eat apples?

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Apple, a king of all fruits. Because of its potential health benefits, apple is often described as a nutritional powerhouse. It’s often associated with good health and as a prevention for many illnesses. It promotes human health in many different ways. But, we’re here to tackle a different topic in this post. So, let’s try to answer the question if sheep can eat apples.

Sheep can eat apples, but you should give them only small amounts of this highly nutritious fruit. Most shepherds will let you know that their sheep love apples, and as long as they give their sheep apples as a supplement to their standard diet, there shouldn’t be any issues. There are only two things to consider. Firstly, as always, when feeding sheep, remember to provide them with a water source. Secondly, depending on the size of your sheep, consider cutting apples in smaller bites, so that you avoid a choking possibility.

At first, my sheep had troubles bitting into the bigger apples. So I crushed the apples by running over them with my tractor!

What are general apple health benefits?

We’ve all read about many different health benefits from eating an apple every so often. Let’s not go into too many details, but I’m going to mention a few most known benefits for us humans. Apples protect your heart, they can boost your brain health, help you lose weight. Apples can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and their antioxidant levels can help prevent certain types of cancer. I didn’t stumble upon much information on apple benefits for sheep, but I believe we can assume that there should be many benefits for sheep as well.

Do sheep like apples? How to introduce apples to sheep?

Every sheep owner is going to give you a different answer here. Most of them will probably say that their sheep love apples and they frequently provide their sheep with fallen apples from their orchards. These sheep owners often use apples to call or lure sheep back to them. Still, there are owners that report that their sheep just sniff apples and quite often reject them. Many sheep owners also note that sheep get bored of apples relatively quickly.

If your sheep don’t show appreciation for apples at first you could still do something about this. Try with the gradual introduction of apples to their diet, they just might develop a taste for them. Try mixing them with any standard feed you provide your sheep with. Sudden major changes in diet can cause problems, so this might actually be the best approach.

Can apples be bad for your sheep?

There was a windstorm overnight. My ewe ate a lot of windfall apples and became very ill, so now I always pick up windfalls and throw only a few of them to my sheep each day.

Most importantly, make sure that your sheep don’t choke on apples. The easiest solution here is to cut or crush apples. This especially applies to lambs and younger sheep.

Also, remember not to create any sudden and big changes to your sheep diet, introduce anything gradually. I noticed a good rule to follow. When introducing a new fruit to sheep diet, start off with 250g for each sheep so that their gut flora has a chance to get used to digesting new feed. Always monitor your sheep, especially their droppings when you’re introducing a new feed to their diet.

If you can, don’t let your sheep eat too many ripe apples. Too much ripe fruit in their diet can cause an upset stomach. They could suffer a lot the next day. It can actually look like a bad sheep hangover.

Sheep are grazers, so most of their diet should be in grassy form. Don’t feed your sheep with too many treats, and apples fall into the treat category. There is always a possibility that giving your sheep too many treats might make them overweight or they might develop serious conditions like enterotoxemia, lactic acidosis, bloat, or urinary calculi.

Besides apples, you can consider the following fruits and vegetables as treats:

  • Watermelon
  • Pumpkin
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Alfalfa pellets
  • Oats
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Lettuce

I found the apple acid can rot sheep teeth over time.

Can you let sheep in your apple orchard? Can the sheep damage the trees?

We had sheep in an orchard for years without any ill effects.

You can let sheep into your orchards, but with a few very necessary precautions:

  • As mentioned before, don’t let your sheep overfeed on fallen apples.
  • Consider protecting your younger trees with tree guards or just a simple chicken wire, because there’s a high possibility that sheep could ringbark (girdle or eat the bark off) your youngling trees. Some farmers go with plastic-mesh bark protectors made into a tube around the trunk. It looks like a dense plastic ‘chainlink’.
  • Consider stretching a wire fence around a wider tree area because sheep can use tree trunks to reach up to branches and strip them of everything.
  • Some people decided to go with electric fencing around the tree perimeter and in that way deter sheep from damaging trees.
  • If you’re in a tick-infested area, sheep tend to rub against the tree barks to deal with pests, so I would consider protecting trees for this reason as well.
  • Sheep are quite often used as natural grass trimmers. Shropshire sheep are traditionally used for orchard grazing in the UK. Sheep like fresh grass, fruits, or green leaves a lot more than tree barks. There are some exceptions though. I heard a couple of people mention putting rams into the orchard to keep the grass down, but rams preferred the tree bark.
  • Some breeds of sheep like tree barks and leaves more than other breeds. One good example is Charollais rams, but curiously enough not the Charollais ewes.
  • It can be quite amazing to watch agile sheep climb trees and eat fruit and leafy bits.
  • If your apple trees are big and you can cope with the loss of fruit and leaves on lower branches, then just let your sheep be fat and happy.
  • If you have other trees in your orchard, sheep might go for them before going for the apple trees. They quite often show a preference for peach trees.
  • If your sheep do decide to go for your apple trees, they will eat all the leaves, tear small branches off and eat most of the bark of the trunks. Sheep will obliterate those trees so fast you won’t believe it.

Each year we have fallen apples from our orchard. The vet says it’s ok to feed sheep with apples but in small quantities. I’d say as long as you’re throwing them over daily and not in huge numbers it should be OK.

Can sheep eat apple tree leaves?

Of course. After fruits, leaves are the next thing sheep will go for. Most farm animals love apple leaves. Bunnies are known to gobble them up in an instant. So, when pruning your apple trees, remember to keep your sheep right behind you.

Can sheep eat green apples? Can sheep eat apple seeds?

When talking apples and sheep, you’ll most likely hear about apple seeds, especially seeds from green apples to be toxic to sheep. In my experience, I don’t believe there is anything to worry about. Firstly, sheep are known to spit the seeds (or stones) out. They chew the fruit, roll the seeds around in their mouth, then spit them out. Secondly, you’d have to feed your sheep very large amounts of seeds for that smidge of arsenic in them to be poisonous for sheep. I guess you won’t feed your sheep with cider mill waste, so don’t worry.

Video evidence of sheep eating apples

Sheep eating green apples:

Feeding sheep with apple slices:

Sheep eating apples in orchard:

Feeding sheep with apples: