Small livestock farms are the new normal for many people across the country, leaving many of us wondering which small animals get along.
Goats, as well as sheep, are extremely popular choices to break into the farm world, but can they live together?
Can sheep and goats live together? Yes, they most definitely can!
As with any livestock that is housed together, special considerations should be taken, but most sheep and goats get along well. Not every animal will coexist happily, but if you take the right steps, your combined livestock endeavor can be a success!
Sheep and goats are around the same size and they require the same kind of shelter and care, so housing them together, in theory, is a breeze.
Preparing them to be housed together is a different story. With a few precautionary steps, however, you should be able to prevent potential problems and keep injuries or upsets to a minimum.
Do Sheep Get Along With Goats?
On average, sheep do get along with goats. There will be normal issues that arise between males as well as mothers who are protecting their young. If you notice an ongoing issue between specific goats and sheep, separate the animals as soon as possible.
Herds should also be separated when intact males are introduced for breeding purposes. Although it is very rare, sheep and goats can mate and occasionally produce hybrid offspring.
To prevent this and any issues or injuries that can be caused by unwanted breeding or males in rut, just keep them separated until the females are bred.
Common Reasons Farmers Separate Sheep and Goats
Farmers will separate goats from the sheep or vice versa for several reasons. For the most part, it will be to keep the animals safe.
It is recommended to keep intact males separated from the herds until breeding is desired. Intact males of both species will fight over females, so it is best to keep them all separate when you can.
Pregnancy and Newborns
While is not necessary to remove pregnant sheep or goats from the herd, it is recommended to separate the pregnant animal when it is close to delivery. This prevents injury from other animals and keeps the mother from having to protect her young.
Newborns are small and need a few days to possibly a few weeks to gain strength and stay safe within a herd.
When new sheep or goats, or any livestock for that matter, are brought to a farm, they should be quarantined for around two weeks.
This prevents any sickness from being passed to the rest of the herd. It also gives the farmer a chance to medicate, vaccinate, or notice any issues with the animals before they are turned out with the whole group.
Can They Eat the Same Foods?
Both sheep and goats like to eat natural forage. Luckily, goats tend to go for the rougher foliage including leaves, shrubbery, and stalks while sheep tend to prefer the grass.
Both goats and sheep will eat hay that has been stored properly. When it comes to grain, you should choose one that is ideal for both sheep and goats, as sheep cannot eat goat-specific grain feed. Many farm supply stores carry an all-stock or all-grain feed that is safe for both species.
There are a couple special considerations you should be aware of when housing sheep and goats together.
As previously mentioned, sheep cannot eat grain feed made for goats. Most goat-specific feed is designed with copper supplements included. Unfortunately, while goats require extra copper, the mineral is actually extremely toxic for sheep!
Never feed a copper supplement or feed marketed specifically for goats to your sheep! Watch out for the copper ingredient on any salt or mineral block that you intend to provide to your sheep. Never forget that the copper mineral is fatally dangerous for sheep!
Horns and Disbudding
Many goat breeds have horns than can be used almost like weapons in a fight between animals.
If you intend on keeping sheep and goats together in a living area, you should have the horns removed by a professional. This will prevent future injury to your other goats and the sheep that are kept with them in the same enclosure.
Why Should Goats and Sheep Be Kept Together?
Many farms, especially smaller ones, do not have a lot of space and keeping two different species together is the more economical choice. Also, you only need to have one guard animal watching the combined herd instead of multiple ones for separated herds around the farm.
Feeding time will be shorter, herd checks are quicker, and the animals are typically much happier together. There is strength in numbers as well, so the more animals housed together, the less likely a predator is to attack.
Can They Crossbreed?
Sheep and goats can crossbreed, although they are different species. Sheep and goats are somewhat closely related scientifically speaking, so they can indeed successfully mate with one another, although it very rarely results in a live offspring. A cross between a sheep and a goat is often referred to as a geep, shoat, or simply a sheep-goat hybrid.
Sheep and goats can be kept together and with the right precautions, they can live together in harmony for years and years.
Not every sheep and every goat will get along, but that is the nature of life. For the most part, these animals can live together, just keep a watch out for that copper mineral!
The differences in raising sheep and goats are minor, but learning about how to raise sheep and goats together in harmony is a little more extensive. These are the sources used to craft this article.