Goats and sheep are small ruminant animals. Both provide meat, milk and wool. Both clear brush and fields of vegetation. They're both of the Capridae subfamily of the Bovine family, so they have lots of physiology in common. They forage in different ways and prefer different types of vegetation. Many small farm operators keep both. But raising sheep and goats together requires special consideration.
Different Mineral Needs
The most important thing to consider when raising goats and sheep together is the different minerals they require. In addition to quality forage, hay or grain, goats and sheep require mineral supplements in order to ensure they are getting the necessary nutrients. The big difference between goats and sheep is the mineral copper. For sheep, too much copper can be fatal. They acquire all they need through foraging. However, goats do not and require a mineral supplement containing copper. When raising sheep and goats together, separate feeding locations limits the risk of sheep ingesting too much copper.
Goats are often referred to as animals that will eat everything, including tin cans. However, this is not the case and when it comes to foraging, they are actually picky eaters. Goats prefer leaves, twigs, vines and shrubs, with favorites being blackberries and poison ivy. Goats are known as browsers, looking for specific things to eat. Sheep, on the other hand, are grazers who prefer grass and clover.
Interactions and Horns
Most goats have horns, while sheep do not. As social animals that compete for a spot in the herd or flock, use care when keeping horned animals with polled animals. Disbudding, or removing horns, can help reduce the risk of serious injury to sheep. Confine lambs and kids to separate pens with their mothers to avoid injury risk from older sheep and goats.
Adequate Shelter and Fencing
As with any livestock, shelter and reliable fencing is necessary for both sheep and goats. While sheep are more likely to respect fencing, goats are curious animals who like to climb and explore. They are known as escape artists, so it is essential to provide fencing targeted to their behavior. Provide some form of shelter where the animals can escape the elements. Sheep need shaded areas to escape the summer heat, while goats are not fond of rain and need somewhere to go to stay dry.
Keep those rams and bucks separate from the herd during breeding season. Whether raising goats and sheep alone or together, keeping the males and females separate is essential to avoid unplanned mating. Raising sheep and goats together creates another concern: Even though sheep and goats are different species -- goats have 60 chromosomes and sheep have 54 -- mating together is possible, though rare. The offspring, known as geeps, often die at birth or are infertile.
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Deborah Lundin is a professional writer with more than 20 years of experience in the medical field and as a small business owner. She studied medical science and sociology at Northern Illinois University. Her passions and interests include fitness, health, healthy eating, children and pets.