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Can sheep eat carrots?
Questions like this are quite often asked. Every sheep owner wants their sheep to be safe and happy. They want to minimize the risks in all aspects of sheep life, including in the sheep diet. Can my sheep eat apples? Can they eat bananas? How much bread can I give them on a daily basis? What about carrots? Can they eat carrots? Will my sheep choke on carrots?
When those questions are asked, it usually means two things. The owner is considering adding some new treat to their sheep diet, trying to diversify their diet in the hope of improving sheep health or happiness, or the owner somehow acquired a large amount of some produce and now wants to know if sheep can safely eat it, especially in larger quantities, so that they don’t end up throwing all of the produce away. So, let’s answer our question. Can sheep eat carrots?
Sheep can eat carrots. You might be pleased to hear that you can consider carrots as a healthy version of sheep treats. But, there are a couple of important things to consider before feeding your sheep with carrots. First, don’t make any sudden changes to your sheep diet, and remember to cut carrots lengthways before feeding them to your sheep to avoid a choking possibility.
When you introduce carrots to your sheep, you’ll notice that sheep just love them. Giving them e.g. turnips, sheep will self regulate themselves and won’t try to eat everything at once. But, giving them carrots, they will jump at them and gobble up every single carrot in seconds. I can’t confirm this, but some people notice higher milk yield in sheep when giving them carrots alongside their standard feed.
Two of my sheep eat carrots, one doesn’t.
What are the benefits of eating carrots for your sheep?
Carrots are healthy treats for sheep just as they’re healthy for us humans. Carrots have a good amount of fiber, they’re full of beta carotene (a natural pigment that is used by the body to make Vitamin A) as well as vitamins like A and K. If given in a limited quantity, carrots can act as a good antioxidant boost and help keep your sheep healthy. Carrots are a source of some other good nutrients as well, like folate and potassium which makes them even more healthy for your animals.
When you search through carrot benefits for humans, you’ll get a very comprehensive list. I’m going to mention just a few of them, and I’m certain that a few of those apply to sheep as well:
- Carrots are good sources of lutein and lycopene which help maintain good eyesight and night vision.
- Carrots are full of fiber and can help in weight loss. Fiber takes the longest to digest and in that way promotes a feeling of fullness.
- Carrots can ensure bowel regularity and help in digestion. They can help with constipation.
- Carrots can actually boost heart health by removing excess LDL cholesterol.
- Carrots are full of potassium. Potassium enhances the blood flow circulation and in that way can lower blood pressure.
- Carrots can boost skin and nail health.
Be careful that your fingers don’t get mistaken for a carrot!
Are there any adverse effects of sheep eating carrots?
As mentioned before, there are a few threats that you have to consider when giving carrots to your sheep.
- Do not to create any sudden and big changes to your sheep diet, introduce anything gradually, like carrots in this example. Bacteria in sheep rumen need time to adapt to the new feed. Sudden change can mess up rumen pH, and that means problems with digestion. There is a good rule to follow. When introducing a new fruit or vegetable 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. Depending on the type of new feed that you’re trying to introduce, the change should usually take weeks rather than days. Always monitor your sheep, especially their droppings when you’re introducing a new feed to their diet.
- Carrots contain less than 1% of protein, while hay, sheep main feed has between 7.5% and 15% of protein. If you change your sheep diet so that it consists of e.g. 50% carrots, that would mean that you have reduced a big amount of protein from their diet. You have to take this information into consideration as well.
- Make sure that your sheep don’t choke on carrots. Carrots can get caught in the throat, and in the worst situation can even puncture the throat. They have a very similar shape to the sheep windpipe and can thus be very dangerous when digested uncut by your sheep. The recommended solution here is to cut carrots lengthways. This especially applies to lambs and younger sheep.
- Carbohydrates in large amounts can cause scours in sheep. Carrots can contain as much as 5% of sugar. However, this %5 of sugar is not really a high amount, so carrots will probably never cause glucose issues.
How to prepare carrots for sheep?
- Can shep eat raw carrots? Yes, the simplest way to prepare carrots is to just cut them lengthwise and that’s it. Sheep just love fresh, raw produce.
- Can shep eat carrot peelings? To make carrots even more easily digestible provide them in this form. Your sheep will not leave even one peel behind. This is a good way to slowly introduce carrots to your sheep, especially when mixing peeled carrots with sheep standard feed.
- Can sheep eat cooked carrots? Of course. Just boil carrots and serve. Don’t use any kind of seasoning, sheep are not your restaurant guests.
- Can sheep eat canned carrots? There is always a risk if you give anything with a high dose of sugar to your sheep and canned carrots usually contain added sugars. They contain all sorts of conservatives as well which might be detrimental to the health of your sheep. I wouldn’t recommend giving them canned carrots, stick with the fresh produce.
- Can shep eat carrot tops (carrot greens)? There used to be some gossip spreading around that carrot tops are not safe to eat. That is false. Carrot tops are safe to eat even for humans. Treat them just like the rest of this nutritious vegetable. Sheep might not enjoy them as they enjoy the root, but they are safe to eat none the less. Just don’t let carrot tops „heat“ before they are consumed by your animals as that could upset their digestive system.
How to introduce carrots to sheep?
As always, when introducing the new produce to your sheep diet, do it very slowly and with careful monitoring of your animals in the beginning, especially in the first few days. In the beginning, give your sheep just a piece or two to see how they handle carrots. For carrots, they’ll usually just gobble them all up. But, it can happen that they might not be very interested in the beginning. If you are adamant about giving them carrots on a regular basis, try introducing the vegetable in small amounts alongside their standard feed. Consider slicing carrots into smaller chunks or peels as well. You can consider carrots safe to eat for your sheep if in the next couple of days you don’t notice any digestive discomfort or bloatedness in your sheep. Remember not to give your sheep carrots in large amounts.
What vegetables and fruits should sheep never eat?
I mentioned this in a couple of other posts already, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it. I found a very interesting project online, a global list of toxic plants for sheep. The list probably doesn’t contain every known plant that is toxic to sheep, but from the size of the database, it seems that it comes very close to it. It’s a very comprehensive list, I really suggest checking it out. When you access the site, scroll down to the database itself and apply a filter „Species Afflicted = Sheep“. By following this instruction you’ll see a whole list of plants across the world that are toxic to sheep. Access site here.
What other vegetables or fruits can sheep eat?
For this question, I’d recommend checking out the whole list of posts on this blog that are looking into this question in detail. Open the category here.
Videos where sheep are eating carrots
Sheep enjoying sliced carrots:
Sheep eating carrot backwards:
Shetland sheep eating carrots:
Another sheep eating carrot:
Sheep chomps a carrot:
Sheep eating carrot from hand:
Farmers treating their sheep: