Can you raise goats and sheep together? Raising sheep and goats together.
Interested in raising sheep and goats together? Then you’re in the right spot!
Sheep and goats are both small livestock, which makes them ideal for the small farmer or homesteader. But can you raise sheep and goats together in the same area?
Raising Goats vs. Sheep
Sheep and goats are both ruminants. A ruminant is an herbivore with a special stomach that has four compartments.
The rumen, one of the stomach compartments, works like a large fermentation tank. Bacteria in the rumen work to break down grasses and plant matter. The plant matter is broken down into nutrients that the animal can absorb and use.
Learn more about how ruminant stomachs work here.
Goats and sheep both eat plants and grasses. However, the way that they eat is a little different.
Goats are browsers. They prefer to eat leaves of brushy plants and forbs, or broad-leaf weeds. They also eat grasses.
It’s the tendency to ‘eat anything’ that make goats so good at clearing grown up land.
Sheep are more picky and prefer to eat grasses and cereal grains.
Goats will spread out and eat the most nutritious parts of plants. This helps to prevent areas from overgrazing.
Because of their browsing over a wide territory, goats are less likely to suffer from internal parasites.
Sheep, on the other hand, will flock together and can quickly overgraze a pasture. It’s important to rotate the pastures that sheep are on to prevent overgrazing from becoming a problem.
Both sheep and goats can be raise for more than one purpose. Sheep are frequently raised for wool and meat. Goats can be raised for meat, mohair and milk.
Can sheep and goats live together?
On a small scale, it’s very possible to raise sheep and goats together successfully. On a large scale, it becomes more difficult. This is especially true if you are raising either animal on a commercial level.
Simply put, it’s hard to create suitable pasture for both species for commercial production. Now, if you aren’t raising thousands of animals, then yes; you can raise sheep and goats together.
I mentioned that sheep and goats eat different types of plants. Sheep prefer grasses; goats prefer broad-leaf plants. You can put them on the same pasture and expect the goats to consume the weedy, brushy plants. Both species will consume grasses.
Feed sheep and goats separately
This is where it can get a little tricky. The nutrition needs of the two species is different.
Goats require a copper supplement to stay healthy. This is usually given to goats in a mineral supplement.
Large amounts of copper are fatal to sheep. See the problem?
If you are providing your sheep and goats with the same mineral supplement, one of two things is going to happen. You’ll either have goats that develop a copper deficiency (from feeding a sheep-safe mineral supplement) or have sheep that become fatally ill (from consuming too much copper in a goat mineral supplement).
If you can, feed the two groups separately. This will allow you to supplement their diet properly without causing the other group harm.
Remove horns or have polled animals
It’s a good idea to disbud or have polled animals anyways for safety reasons. Horns can easily get caught in fences and can create an emergency situation. Goats are notorious for getting their heads through fences, getting their horns caught and then screaming and attracting predators that take advantage of the caught animal.
Goats will show dominance over other goats and sheep by headbutting them. Goats that have horns can inflict serious damage to other goats and sheep.
Fencing for sheep and goats
Sheep and goats are similar in size and both require more extensive fencing than larger livestock like cattle or horses.
A woven-wire fence is ideal. Electric fencing can be used but it must be strong and multi-stranded. Electric netting is available and makes excellent temporary fencing for sheep and goats.
Sheep are flock-minded and are less likely to try to escape than goats. Granted, if one sheep can escape, the whole flock will likely try.
Goats on the other hand are content with a looser herd. They still like to be within a close distance to other goats, but are more daring, curious and likely to try to squeeze through fencing holes.
Keep a close eye on fences that house sheep and goats and quickly repair any damages to fencing to prevent animals from escaping.
Shelter for sheep and goats
Goats and sheep require shelter for different reasons.
Most sheep are wool sheep and don’t need help keeping warm. Hair sheep breeds are an exception to this and would need help keeping warm, similar to goats.
Sheep are content in the winter in a dry run in shed or barn. Lambs should be kept warm and special housing is needed for them. Adult sheep simply need an area to escape from the rain.
Goats will need help in the winter staying warm. They need access to not only a dry barn or shed, but one that has heat for them.
You may find that a large barn with heated areas works fine. As long as there is room for all of them, the goats will find the warm areas and the sheep will be content in the dry unheated areas.
You might be surprised that sheep don’t go into the barn at all. Their thick wool helps protect them from both the cold air and wet weather.
Both sheep and goats are susceptible to hoof rot, a disease that is usually seen when the ground is soggy for extended periods of time.
A good, dry barn or shed for them to escape wet pastures is one of the best ways to prevent hoof rot problems.
Holding pens and chutes
It’s a good idea to create an area that you can herd all of the animals into. You’ll need to work the animals at least several times per year for vaccines, pregnancy checks, shearing or general maintenance.
Sheep will easily flock together and can be herded fairly easily into a holding pen. Goats may require a little more convincing, especially if they are not handled frequently.
Plan ahead and create a funnel-shaped holding are and chute so that you can round your goats and sheep up and move them through a chute quickly.
Make sure that the chute is large enough to hold all of your animals, plus their offspring.
A geep is the result of a sheep and a goat breeding together.
Sheep have 54 chromosomes and goats have 60 chromosomes. When they mate, it’s usually unsuccessful.
In rare occasions, a geep is born. Geeps don’t usually survive and if they do, they are unfertile.
It’s similar to what happens when a horse and a donkey are bred and create a mule. Mules are much more likely to survive than geeps are.
If you’re raising sheep and goats together, it’s a good idea to keep bucks and rams away from the rest of the herd, at least during breeding season.
You can separate the goats and sheep during breeding seasons and then put the groups back together once all of the animals have mated successfully to prevent the possibility of geeps.
Sheep and Goat Diseases
Sheep and goats can get the same diseases. This is one of the main reasons that some people prefer to raise them separately.
With that being said, healthy animals don’t transmit disease. If your goats and sheep are healthy and disease-free, then this shouldn’t keep you from raising the two together.
Read more about raising sheep and goats:
- Sheep: A Small-Scale Agriculture Alternative by University of California- Davis
- Raise Goats on 1 Acre or Less by Hobby Farms
Raising goats and sheep together
It’s very possible to raise sheep and goats together, especially on a small scale.
With a little planning ahead, you can have healthy goat herds and sheep flocks living in the same areas.
Make sure that both animals have ample food. Sheep prefer grasses and cereal grains; goats prefer broad-leaf plants and will also make use of grasses.
Feed sheep and goats separately so that you can ensure goats are getting enough copper and sheep aren’t getting too much copper.
Keep animals dehorned or raise polled animals to prevent any injury from occuring.
Geeps are an unlikely, but possible, result of the mating between sheep and goats. Separate them during breeding season to prevent geeps from being born.
Plan ahead and create holding pens and chutes to work your animals. You’ll need to several times per year.