Sheep are commonly stereotyped as animals that subsist entirely on grass, but maybe a little bit of hay for variety. Most of us seasoned shepherds know that just isn’t true, but what is true is that compared to many animals sheep do indeed have a pretty limited diet, and they can’t eat just anything.
However, it’s known that sheep can eat various fruit safely, but once again you’ve got to be cautious with what kinds you feed them and how much. How about strawberries? Are strawberries safe for sheep to eat?
Yes, strawberries are safe for sheep to eat periodically as a treat or snack. Strawberries are a good source of energy, a reasonable source of nutrition, and wholesome. Still, excess consumption has been linked with diarrhea, bloat, and other digestive issues in sheep.
You can feel good about giving strawberries to your sheep. They’re wholesome, reasonably healthy, and sheep certainly like them. However, you’ll be making a big mistake if you let your sheep eat strawberries free-choice or if you for whatever reason make them a big part of their diet.
You’ll definitely have major digestive problems to deal with and potentially even bloat and worse. But, you don’t need to worry about that so long as you use a little bit of common sense. Keep reading and I’ll tell you what you need to know.
Do Sheep Like Strawberries?
Yes, they sure do! Sheep will happily eat strawberries as with most sweet, tasty fruits. Use it to your advantage by rewarding them for good behavior with strawberries or using them to lure them.
But, you need to be cautious to never let sheep overeat on them! Believe me, they will, and if they do, there will be problems…
How Nutritious are Strawberries for Them?
Strawberries are reasonably nutritious for sheep. But compared to other fruits, and certainly vegetables, they are lackluster. They are a reasonable source of energy because they contain a have amount of carbohydrates in the form of sugars and a little bit of fiber, but almost no fat or protein.
Concerning vitamins and minerals, strawberries are only a good source of vitamin C and manganese, and they have significantly lesser amounts of all the others.
They do have a decent smattering of the B-complex vitamins in the form of thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, and folate, along with a decent shot of magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, but that’s about it.
Considering they have fairly high sugar and relatively little nutrition, this is all you need to know concerning how often your sheep should get strawberries.
How Can Strawberries Benefit Sheep?
Despite not being the best fruit in its category in terms of nutrition, strawberries are still definitely good for your sheep in the context of a snack or tasty, occasional supplement to their usual fare.
Strawberries are a good source of energy for sheep as they are easily digestible and the sugars they contain can help sheep feel perky or cope with stress.
They’re also great as immune system boosters thanks to the ample vitamin C they contain and manganese is needed in all sorts of processes throughout the body, including cellular regulation, growth, reproductive health, skeletal growth and repair, and more.
Strawberries are not a life-changing dietary supplement for your sheep, but they are certainly a snack you can feel good about feeding them
Can Sheep Eat Whole Strawberries?
Yes, sheep can have whole strawberries. Strawberries are super soft and easy for sheep to chew, so you shouldn’t need to worry about choking or anything like that.
Can Sheep Eat Strawberry Tops?
Yes, they can. Those little arrangements of green leaves on the top of every strawberry, sometimes called a strawberry crown and correctly called the calyx, are edible greenery for your sheep. You don’t need to pluck those off prior to feeding.
Can Sheep Eat the Leaves?
Yes. The leaves of the strawberry plant are tender, nutritious, and very good for sheep and you can certainly let them eat the leaves along with the berries if you’re allowing them to forage and graze.
What About the Stems?
They can eat the stems, too. Strawberry stems are healthy, nutritious, and reasonably easy for sheep to digest. There are no concerns associated with eating them.
Can They Have Indian Strawberries?
Yes. Indian strawberries, also known as backyard strawberries or mock strawberries, are those tiny strawberry look-alikes that grow pointing straight up and are commonly found in yards and lawns.
They offer very little in the way of nutrition, and they don’t even taste very good, but they are safe, and sheep are likely to eat them as they munch on grass anyway.
Can Strawberries Hurt Sheep or Cause Health Problems?
Yes, potentially, but this is only a real concern if you give them a huge quantity at once or if you give them too many strawberries in their diet generally.
The first concern is diarrhea, which is not a unique problem caused by strawberries. Anytime sheep get lots of sugary or moist food, diarrhea is a possibility…
Although this is mostly an annoyance for adult sheep and is likely to stop once their diet gets back to normal, it is still a messy problem for you- it can contribute to the spread of parasites and diseases. It’s a stupid thing to have to deal with because you gave your sheep too many berries!
The other, bigger consideration is bloat. Bloat is often triggered by a sudden change in diet, and again sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods tend to be major perpetrators. Strawberries are not particularly bad about causing bloat, but really any fruit can if sheep can get too much, particularly if you do not allow their rumen time to adjust.
Moldy Strawberries Can Definitely Harm Sheep
Make it a point to never give your sheep any strawberries that are moldy, spoiled, or rotten in any way. Sure, sheep and the wild might have to eat what they can get regardless of overall quality, but your domestic animals don’t have to worry about that problem.
Spoiled produce of any kind, including strawberries, is far more likely to make them sick or cause serious digestive upset. Don’t risk it!
Throw out any bad strawberries you have, and don’t let your flock graze on any strawberry crops or wild strawberries that have gone bad.
Avoid Pesticide-Laden Strawberries
Another issue associated with strawberries is pesticide absorption. Most berries, and strawberries worst of all, absorb high quantities of pesticide at all phases of growth. Assuming, of course, the berries in question have been treated with them.
These pesticides don’t just wash off, and worse have been implicated in all sorts of chronic health issues in sheep and other livestock, including reproductive harm and genetic damage.
Never give your sheep any strawberries that have been treated with pesticides, and that means that if you haven’t grown them yourself you really should get a certified pesticide-free organic variety.
How Often Can They Have Strawberries?
Only occasionally, once or twice a week at most. Strawberries are a wholesome treat for sheep, but that is all they are. Just a treat. I don’t need to be a majority part of their diet and they don’t need to get them all the time.
However, there is no harm in giving your sheep a single strawberry or two more regularly as a reward for following you, so if you’re trying to incentivize or train them, strawberries are a good treat to help you do that.
How Should You Prepare Strawberries for Serving to Sheep?
All strawberries should be thoroughly washed prior to serving to your flock, assuming you got them from someone else or from the grocery store. Remember to get an organic variety if at all possible.
You don’t need to remove the calyx from the berries prior to feeding, so don’t waste your time but do consider cutting the strawberries in half to make them a little smaller for any of your sheep that have difficulty chewing or swallowing, or for very young sheep.
Are Strawberries Safe for Lambs to Eat?
Yes, assuming the lambs have started to wean and are now eating solid food at least part of the time. But do keep in mind that carbohydrate-rich foods can be very problematic for young lambs, and they have very strict nutritional requirements for optimal growth. Give them just a strawberry or two occasionally until they have reached adolescence.
I’ve taken over this blog from Kendra Lynne around 2018, and turned it into one of the best an most comprehensive homesteading website out there. I was raised partly in the countryside living a very frugal life ever since I can remember.