Can Sheep Eat Bread? Is it Safe?

Sheep are capable of eating a remarkably varied diet once you come to understand their needs and nutritional requirements. While it’s true that they often live on a diet that is mostly grass and hay, they can eat all kinds of veggies and also grains.

a couple of sheep trying some bread
a couple of sheep trying some bread

Often, they don’t need a lot of these foods in their diet, but it can help give them well-rounded nutrition and also keep them from getting bored. And speaking of grains, is it possible that sheep can eat bread? It’s mostly just baked grains after all. So, is bread OK for them or not?

No, bread is not safe for sheep to eat. Except in the smallest quantities, bread has a nasty tendency to cause diarrhea, major digestive upset, lactic acidosis, and other health problems.

Bread is definitely bad news for sheep and you should never give it to them except in the smallest quantities and rarely as a treat. And I do mean rarely!

A little nibble of crust or a cracker isn’t likely to hurt them, but giving them bread regularly will invariably result in major health problems. Keep reading and I’ll tell you why it’s such a bad idea…

Do Sheep Like Bread?

Generally yes, and this is even more reason why you shouldn’t feed it to them. Sheep are generally pretty good at instinctively avoiding things that are truly harmful to them, but anything that tastes really good is going to be attractive and bread certainly fits the bill.

If you ever let your sheep try bread, they will eagerly look forward to it. You don’t want to taunt them with it, and you certainly don’t want to give yourself the temptation to treat them with it more often.

How Nutritious is Bread for Sheep?

It isn’t. Bread is pretty much all starch and carbohydrates, and even though it has some fiber, a little bit of protein, and occasionally decent amounts of vitamins and minerals, sheep aren’t going to be able to make use of any of these assets because it’s so difficult for them to digest.

Said another way, these nutrients aren’t accessible to sheep, and the quantities that the nutritional content of the bread would suggest and so they’ll be left with only the negative side effects.

Is Bread Good for Sheep?

No. Bread’s general indigestibility, lack of nutrition, and tends to cause serious digestive upset and other major health problems – meaning it is bad, bad news for sheep.

Charitably, you might call it a true junk food that they can have in very small quantities every once in a blue moon, but I think that even that is being too kind. Bread is nutritionally bankrupt and actively harmful to sheep.

They can get just a little bit of energy from it, but anything more than a few mouthfuls is likely to make them sick, more than offsetting that minor benefit it could be gained from other, healthier foods that won’t hurt them.

Just don’t give your sheep bread…

Can Bread Hurt Sheep or Cause Health Problems for Them?

Absolutely, it can. The consumption of bread, either in large quantities or as an ongoing part of their diet, has been linked to all sorts of health problems in sheep. The most likely, and worst, are listed below.

The first, and arguably the mildest, is pronounced, unhealthy weight gain and obesity. Obesity triggers lots of other problems for sheep, like a reduction in overall vitality, increased morbidity and increased tendency for injury, and a lot more.

Worse, bread contains yeast, and that yeast can easily cause contamination or disruption of the rumen.

This will in turn lead to a slowdown or even total stoppage when it comes to the digestion of other, healthier foods and potentially the cessation of moving food through the digestive tract. That will invariably have devastating health consequences for your flock.

Bread is also a known contributor to bloat, which isn’t mere gassiness and cheap as it is with humans.

When sheep experience bloat, they don’t have an easy way to alleviate that pressure and it will eventually put such a strain on their internal organs that they won’t be able to get up and can eventually die from it. Plus, they’ll be in agony the entire time.

Another bread-related malady is peritonitis, basically the inflammation of the membrane covering of the intestines.

It’s extremely painful, contributes to bloating, and can also cause a pronounced lack of appetite and fever in affected animals. It requires acute treatment to stop, and if left untreated will typically kill a sheep within a couple of days.

Arguably the worst thing that bread can do to sheep is lactic acidosis, another condition caused by the disruption of the pH level in the rumen.

When this happens, digestive processes will be disrupted or even stopped, but worse is the acidification of the blood and the eventual poisoning of the sheep accompanied by organ failure. It is sometimes known by the common names grain poisoning or grain overload.

This is a really serious condition that affects sheep that are allowed to eat too many grains or grain products of any kind. It is treatable, but much of the time it turns into sort of a runaway syndrome that requires lengthy and ongoing care to correct, a process which might take weeks!

Reading all of this, I trust you can see that bread is really a terrible thing for sheep to eat, even if you think it’s cute or funny to share with them if you crusts of your favorite home-baked sourdough. Folks, just don’t give your sheep bread, please!

Is Baked Bread Safe for Sheep to Eat?

No, not really, for all the reasons I just went through in detail above. However, if you absolutely insist on giving your sheep a taste of bread then it should be baked for safety.

Is Raw Dough Safe for Sheep to Eat?

Absolutely not, never, not even once! The only thing worse than bread for sheep is raw bread dough.

Raw dough is nearly indigestible in its entirety, and can easily physically block the digestive tract of sheep. This blockage can physically stop sheep from breathing, killing them or resulting in an agonizing death later on by the subsequent and devastating health effects.

Giving your sheep bread dough is a no-no – don’t even think about it!

How Often Can Your Sheep Have Safely Have Bread?

Ideally, your sheep will never have bread, ever. If, for whatever reason, you just can’t stand to see them go without it then you can give them a few small pieces of bread- and I mean small as in the size of croutons- every few weeks and not expect devastating health consequences.

But neither should you be surprised if your sheep seem a little “off” or get upset stomachs afterward. Keep in mind that bread has ingredients that are purely indigestible by sheep, including eggs. Even a very small amount can cause them to stress.

Is Bread Safe for Lambs to Eat?

No! All of the problems caused by bread I’ve mentioned above are greatly magnified concerning the health and wellness of lambs. Getting even a little bit is enough to make a lamb terribly sick, even if you wait until they are weaned entirely off of milk.

You’ll be setting them up for disaster during a phase of life when they can least afford to go without ideal nutrition or get sick. Please don’t risk it!

Leave a Comment