Surprised by their choice of food

Fluffy_Flock

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so guy I'm not sure if i just have weird sheep or if these guys are on to something. They are let out into a 3 acre pasture every morning and put themselves up at night. Recently we had a nasty storm roll through that took down a tree and part of the fence with it. Luckily we found it before anyone decided to munch on the field next door but i was shocked that once the tree was safely on the ground they decided to go to town on the leaves! It was a huge sugarberry tree and I couldn't get them to leave the area if i tried. They got so covered with sap my normally white sheep turned dark gray. Luckily a little rain took care of that.

I am noticing that they are being picky about what they want to actually eat as far as the grass we have. We plan to improve the pasture next year but for now I'm wondering if i should mow down the 3' tall grass they seem to not care for to give the stuff they like a better chance to grow or just leave them to figure it out?

We are also trying to figure out the best way to improve the pasture quality. We are hoping we don't need to plow/till the whole thing and start from scratch but what would yall suggest? It would be hard to get big equipment back there without taking down a fence but we will do whatever we need to. I can post pictures later if that helps.
 

Beekissed

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so guy I'm not sure if i just have weird sheep or if these guys are on to something. They are let out into a 3 acre pasture every morning and put themselves up at night. Recently we had a nasty storm roll through that took down a tree and part of the fence with it. Luckily we found it before anyone decided to munch on the field next door but i was shocked that once the tree was safely on the ground they decided to go to town on the leaves! It was a huge sugarberry tree and I couldn't get them to leave the area if i tried. They got so covered with sap my normally white sheep turned dark gray. Luckily a little rain took care of that.

I am noticing that they are being picky about what they want to actually eat as far as the grass we have. We plan to improve the pasture next year but for now I'm wondering if i should mow down the 3' tall grass they seem to not care for to give the stuff they like a better chance to grow or just leave them to figure it out?

We are also trying to figure out the best way to improve the pasture quality. We are hoping we don't need to plow/till the whole thing and start from scratch but what would yall suggest? It would be hard to get big equipment back there without taking down a fence but we will do whatever we need to. I can post pictures later if that helps.

Tree fodder is very high in nutrition, as you can imagine....trees mine for minerals and nutrients much deeper than grass and shrubs can.

Your grass has passed the "boot" stage and the seed heads are pretty indigestible to the sheep, so mowing it would be a good idea and it lets the young, more tender grasses, forbes and legumes have some sunlight. Those are more palatable for your sheep.

You can improve pasture quality by doing some intensive managed grazing, even on your 3 acres....Greg Judy has the 411 on that if you look him up on YT. We have a couple of pasture focused threads going recently that may have some info and links you'd like to watch for that:




Here's some info from a great site about small ruminants: https://www.wormx.info/browseplants
 

Sheepshape

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Sheep eat a very wide range of plants and are not always wise in their choices e.g they will eat rhododendrons/laurels which are poisonous to them. Fortunately, however, most young leaves are very nutritious to them, and they find them irresistible. Keep them away from oaks as there are too many tannins , but other trees are toxic to them like yew, holly, wild cherry etc.

With regards to grasses....all grasses are not the same and sheep have their preferences. In general new grass growth is the most nutritious, with sheep preferring sward heights of about 10cm.Very long grass is not palatable or have the same nutritional value for them. Long grass also predisposes sheep to getting scald between the cloves of the the hoof in wet weather. 'Topping' the tall grass will improve the condition of the field and make it more nutritious, allowing new growth to come through.

I suppose we would all ideally plough fields every 5 years or so to start off with 'new grass',. but there's not a lot wrong with old grass that has been looked after properly.

As Beekissed has indicated there are a fair number of threads on pasture management on this site. Take a look at some of them and modify the advice, if needed, to your own particular circumstances.

Take a few pics. of your sheep and your pasture and post them here....that always helps.(Or maybe I just like pics.)
 

Niele da Kine

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My friend says her sheep adore bananas. My two sheep turn their noses up at even the idea of eating bananas. They will, however, mug anyone walking through their pasture with an avocado. I don't think they're supposed to eat avos, but apparently they think they are supposed to.

We're hoping the sheep can make their own pasture. This was when they were first put into the field in August. It's still covered in tall grasses, but they have made some trails through it.

newpasture2020.jpg


I should get a current picture, they have made a difference, but they still have too much tall grass back there.
 

Nao57

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Tree fodder is very high in nutrition, as you can imagine....trees mine for minerals and nutrients much deeper than grass and shrubs can.

Your grass has passed the "boot" stage and the seed heads are pretty indigestible to the sheep, so mowing it would be a good idea and it lets the young, more tender grasses, forbes and legumes have some sunlight. Those are more palatable for your sheep.

You can improve pasture quality by doing some intensive managed grazing, even on your 3 acres....Greg Judy has the 411 on that if you look him up on YT. We have a couple of pasture focused threads going recently that may have some info and links you'd like to watch for that:




Here's some info from a great site about small ruminants: https://www.wormx.info/browseplants

very nice. thanks for the information!

I agree that the tree roots could pull good nutrients up from underneath!
 

Cotton*wood

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I'm a first year sheep-owner, and I too have been surprised about what they choose to eat. I thought that grass would be their main food source, but the forbs and the tree leaves are vastly preferred. This month, ragweed is the absolute favorite. Evidently my sheep never got the memo on what they were supposed to eat and not eat. Okay about the ragweed, but milkweed? That's the first thing they go after when let into a new paddock every morning. And snakeroot, which is supposed to be bitter. And green briar is another favorite. They do have plenty of grass, but they're more likely just to trample it down.

IMG_3894.jpeg
 

Jrios

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I just got sheep and they like trees and weeds too, but also Bermuda grass, which is why i got them. Our goats don't eat as much in general. I'm really pleased with how good mine are settling in, bribing them often with animal crackers is working!
 

Kusanar

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I'm a first year sheep-owner, and I too have been surprised about what they choose to eat. I thought that grass would be their main food source, but the forbs and the tree leaves are vastly preferred. This month, ragweed is the absolute favorite. Evidently my sheep never got the memo on what they were supposed to eat and not eat. Okay about the ragweed, but milkweed? That's the first thing they go after when let into a new paddock every morning. And snakeroot, which is supposed to be bitter. And green briar is another favorite. They do have plenty of grass, but they're more likely just to trample it down.
I don't have sheep yet, but have done a lot of reading and it seems that wool sheep tend to be more grazers and eat mostly grass and grasslike things but then the hair sheep tend to be more goaty in their feeding and will do more eating bushes and trees along with the grass. Kind of interesting. Of course, could be that wool sheep know they get stuck in briars so they avoid areas likely to have more briars and stay in the open pasture where it is safer.
 

Cotton*wood

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I don't have sheep yet, but have done a lot of reading and it seems that wool sheep tend to be more grazers and eat mostly grass and grasslike things but then the hair sheep tend to be more goaty in their feeding and will do more eating bushes and trees along with the grass. Kind of interesting. Of course, could be that wool sheep know they get stuck in briars so they avoid areas likely to have more briars and stay in the open pasture where it is safer.
I have neighbors who have goats in an absolutely beautiful pasture that's ALL grass, so I guess there's some degree of flexibility. That would make sense about the wool sheep and briars, though it didn't stop my hair sheep lambs who still had their wooly coats. You can see from my picture above how matter with burs they are.
 
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