If you own a small farm with a few acres of land, you may wonder whether or not you can keep your goats and sheep together. The short answer is yes, goats and sheep can live together in harmony.
That said, you might’ve also noticed that most farmers tend to separate their sheep from goats, and for good reason. With that in mind, in today’s guide, we’ll look at why that is and things you can do to help your sheep and goats live together in harmony if separating them isn’t a choice in your situation.
Why Farmers Separate Sheep From Goats
To help you better understand why farmers separate sheep from goats, we will list five different factors to keep in mind when rearing these animals. These are the same factors that motivate farmers to separate their sheep from goats.
Have you ever heard of the geep? No, it is not a misspelling of Jeep. A geep refers to the result you get when you breed a goat and sheep together. Needless to say, breeding the two (whether accidentally or on purpose) is problematic.
Why? Well, first, sheep and goats are different species. Sheep have 54 chromosomes, whereas goats have 60. That implies that while the two species can mate (which is rare in itself), it’s unnatural, explaining why Geeps typically end up infertile or even die at birth.
Again, this is uncommon, so to reduce your risk when keeping the two animal species together, isolate the rams and bucks in separate pens with their respective females. Ensuring the two are breeding separately will also help reduce any potential aggression.
Perhaps the most common reason that experts advise farmers to separate their sheep from goats is that they can transmit diseases to one another. That said, this usually proves to be a moot point if you are, one, keeping more than one animal anyway, and two, you have an excellent disease prevention plan in your flock or herd.
After all, what is the difference between two sheep getting sick versus a sheep and a goat getting sick?
With that in mind, to prevent any issues that may arise, ensure you employ great pasture management practices as well, like rotational grazing. Also, deworm all your sheep and goats and ensure you administer all necessary vaccinations to prevent outbreaks of diseases. Anytime you bring a new animal to the farm, confirm beyond a reasonable doubt that it is healthy first.
What’s more? Sheep and goats are susceptible to hoof rot, which occurs when the ground your animals live in remains wet for extended periods. As such, ensure you practice hoof hygiene by trimming your animals’ hooves and offering dry shelters as required.
If you were previously used to only raising goats and are now required to add goats, you might be surprised to learn that sheep are more susceptible to internal parasites. This is primarily because, unlike goats, which tend to browse over vast territories, sheep eat close to the ground and rapidly overgraze a pasture.
As a general rule of thumb, both goats and sheep are sociable animals, implying they’re likely to compete for spots in the herd. That said, while the two animals will usually ignore each other, they may still get confused at times and try to compete.
For that reason, if you opt to raise the two together, do them a favour and only pick sheep and goats without horns. Both animals can have horns, but you can disbud your goats and pick polled varieties of sheep.
Another reason you really need to do this is because of times of intense competition, like mating seasons, when the two animals are likely to injure each other with their horns.
So ensure you keep kids and lambs with their mothers away from horned animals for the first few weeks after birth.
To keep animals protected from the elements on your farm, you need to ensure you have sound housing infrastructure in place, and sheep and goats are no exception. Usually, three-sided shelters are fine for both animal species.
Note, though, that while goats need shelter during rainy and cold seasons, sheep tend to prefer shelter on hot days instead. You’ll also need to be careful and intentional with your fencing.
Unlike sheep, which are obedient when it comes to minding fences and other parameters, goats are natural escape artists and explorers who tend to manoeuvre through ‘insufficient’ fences easily. With that in mind, you’ll need to erect stronger, more impervious barriers if you have goats.
If you’re raising your animals for dairy production, note that you’ll be required to call some of the animals into the barn for milking sessions approximately twice a day. This can be a challenge if two different animal species live in the same quarters.
The most consideration that farmers have when separating their sheep from goats is feeding. Both sheep and goats are ruminants, which implies that they’re herbivores with stomachs that have four compartments.
The two animal species will graze in similar pastures, sheep-like grass and broad-leafed plants, whereas goats, too, are browsers who prefer to eat brush, shrubs, trees, leaves and grass. As a matter of fact, when the two animals are reared in conjunction, they allow you to create a pretty effective pasture management plant.
That said, what’s tricky when it comes to feeding these two animal species is their supplementation. Both goats and sheep need mineral supplements along with grain, hay, and forage. Goats, however, need mineral supplements rich in copper. Sheep do as well, but in minute amounts because a huge amount of copper is fatal to them.
Most often than note, you won’t run into any issues while raising your sheep and goats together, as the two can actually work together in harmony. better yet, goats tend to act as significant predator deterrents for sheep since they’re more aggressive and boisterous than sheep (particularly young lambs.)
That said, there are some tips you should ensure you heed while rearing these animals together. As noted earlier, they’re the same reasons why farmers separate sheep from goats.