17 April 2023

What do sheep eat?

By Killian

What do sheep eat?

Sheep or domestic sheep (ovis aries), are mammalian animals, which are among the first to be domesticated by humans. The physical characteristics are highly variable, because a large number of breeds have been produced, but in general they are small to medium-sized animals, with a length between 1.2 to 1.8 meters, height from 0.6 to 1.2 meters. and weights ranging from 20 to 200 kg. Unfortunately, these animals have been heavily exploited, from which various products are obtained and marketed due to their adaptability to habitat and easy maintenance. In relation to the latter, we refer to food, which is particular in these animals. We invite you to continue reading this AnimalWised article so that you know what do sheep eat.

Type of feeding of the sheep

Sheep are herbivorous animals, which have a preference for consumption of grasses and short vegetation, developing adequately in monoculture areas, something that not any herbivore can do. The sheep they are ruminant animalswhich use their lips and tongues to take the parts of the plants that are nutritious and easily digestible.

Like other ruminants, the digestive system of sheep is quite complex, which is made up of four chambers. In fact, they are sometimes referred to as animals with several stomachs, but this is not really the case, since they have only one divided into chambers and one of these, the abomasum, is the true stomach.

This type of digestive system then allows sheep, by consuming various parts of a plant, to effectively process the cellulose that composes them and thus obtain the nutrients they need from the simplest carbohydrates.

The food journey begins in the mouth, where these animals form the bolus, which will be transported to the rumen to be fermented by a population of bacteria, fungi and protozoa, which allow the start of nutrient absorption. From here, part of the food is regurgitated into the mouth again to continue being chewed and salivated, swallowing it again until it reaches the rumen.

Subsequently, the food bolus passes to the reticulum to continue the digestive process and finally to the abomasum, where the final digestion occurs, and then passes to the intestines. Domestic sheep are considered very resistant animals, this is because they can supply their nutritional requirements from cellulose, starch or sugarsfrom where they obtain energy, in addition, from some source of hydrogen.

Here you can consult some Examples of ruminant animals.

What do baby sheep eat?

Sheep are mammalian animals so, at birth, baby sheep they must consume their mother’s milkIn fact, it is essential that they do so within a few hours of birth to get the colostrum, which gives them immunity. A lamb on the first day of birth must consume at least 20% of its weight in colostrum.

As for what the lambs eat, the first few weeks they continue to suckle, which provides them with the necessary nutrients. Then they begin to graze, to be completely weaned at about three months.

How to feed an orphan lamb?

An orphaned lamb must be attended to quickly to ensure that it is washed and that it grows up healthy. In this way, if you are newborn, it is important to look for colostrumwhether of another sheep just given birth, or some supplement the same as they usually sell in specialized stores.

For about a month and a half, the lamb should eat at least twice daily, for which commercial sale milk substitutes can be supplied. While they are lactating, you can also include some special concentrated feed for sheep. In any case, to feed a lamb correctly, it is important to consult a veterinarian, who will indicate the amounts and supplements necessary according to the weight and conditions of the baby sheep.

What do sheep eat?  - What do baby sheep eat?

What do adult sheep eat?

As we have mentioned, sheep are ruminants, so their diet is based exclusively on plants. So, the essential food of adult sheep is fodder, which they obtain directly from the ground. Also, they can consume wide varieties of hay, oats and legumes.

Additionally, when grazing, they are incorporating certain important minerals for their nutrition. Sheep should be prevented from consuming some plants such as oaks, acorns, tomatoes, potatoes, among others, because they can cause some level of toxicity.

What do farm sheep eat?

On farms, sheep are fed by the selection that people make. Generally, certain types of plants are planted so that the sheep feed directly from the soil, so that it is as natural as possible. Thus, some types of grass are planted that the animal consumes.

However, usually this diet can also be supplemented with:

  • Hay: which is dried fodder.
  • cereal straw: which consists of a by-product when cultivating cereals.
  • Concentrated feed or feed: which are commercially formulated and produced and have a special mixture of proteins, carbohydrates and minerals for sheep.

It is important that all processed food that is supplied to a sheep is special for them, because feed made for other types of animals can be harmful to them.

If we were to find an injured sheep, depending on the severity, it may need immediate medical attention, but if we can care for it initially on our own, we can offer some grass, grains, almond shells, walnuts, chestnuts, cashews, leftover broccoli, cauliflower, artichokein addition to clean and fresh water, until it is taken to a rescue center to be attended by professionals.

What do sheep eat?  - What do adult sheep eat?

How much do sheep eat?

Sheep are animals that consume large amounts of feed in a day, which varies according to size and weight. between about 3 to 6 kg. They feed during the day, spend some time grazing, another resting and ruminating the food consumed. Unlike many other herbivores, sheep can process high-fiber feeds, which they digest with ease.

If you want to read more articles similar to What do sheep eat?we recommend that you enter our Home Diets section.


  • Government of Argentina. Sheep nutrition. Available at: https://www.argentina.gob.ar/sites/default/files/02-6-21_materialnutricion_de_ovinos.pdf
  • Reavill, C. (2000). “ovis aries“. Animal Diversity Web. Available at: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Ovis_aries/
  • Silva, J. (2021). Keys in handling newborn lambs. Available in: