Raising sheep and goats together isn't difficult. These two small ruminants are quite compatible, although you do have to make minor management adjustments. You'll have to shear your sheep annually, which isn't necessary for goats. Because they are more social and outgoing, goats make better pets and will dominate a mixed herd.
Sheep and Goat Reproduction
Sheep and goats have similar gestation periods and produce the same amount of offspring. The typical ovine pregnancy lasts 145 days, with the sheep giving birth to between one and four lambs. The caprine pregnancy lasts an average of four days longer, with one to three kids resulting. The estrus cycles differ, with sheep going through estrus for an average of 17 days and goats 21 days. While it's pretty obvious by her behavior that a female goat -- or doe -- wants to breed, ewes are more subtle. That's not such an issue if you breed sheep naturally, separating them from the goats and letting them live with a ram temporarily, but it is if you wish to artificially inseminate the ewes.
Sheep and Goat Forage
You can keep sheep and goats on the same pasture. If you have good pasture, you don't necessarily need to supplement with any other feeds. Goats are browsers, so they will eat leaves, shrubs and vines, while sheep primarily consume grasses. In winter, or if pasture is sparse, give your sheep and goats good grass or timothy hay. Your herd must have access to fresh, clean water at all times. If you give your animals feed, you must separate them by species or make sure they don't eat each others' food. That's because sheep can't process excess copper, a mineral goats require in higher levels. Don't give feed designed for goats to sheep, and vice versa.
Housing and Fencing
Goats and sheep need simple shelters to protect them from the elements. A three-sided run-in shed is generally sufficient. Both sheep and goats require fencing that keeps predators out, but goats are natural escape artists. When keeping them together, you need stronger fencing than for sheep-only pens and pastures. Woven wire fencing is a good bet. If you have board fencing, you must line it with wire mesh. Electrifying the woven wire or wire mesh adds an additional level of safety.
Sheep and Goat Health Care
A good vaccination and deworming program keeps your goats and sheep healthy. They need the same types of inoculations and have a similar deworming protocol. Because sheep graze more closely to the ground than their caprine counterparts, they have an added risk of acquiring internal parasites. These include tapeworm, lungworm and coccidia. Even though both species are vulnerable to the same worms, goats require a higher amount of dewormer than a comparably sized sheep. Annual vaccinations include a combination shot for tetanus and overeating disease. Consult your veterinarian regarding the recommended vaccination and deworming schedule for your herd and region.
- University of Maryland Extension: Sheep and Goats as Pets
- University of Florida Lee County Extension Service: Raising Healthy Goats and Lambs
- North Carolina State University: Forage Needs for Meat Goats and Sheep
- Sheep101: Separating the Sheep from the Goats
- University of Maryland Extension: General Guidelines for Feeding Sheep and Goats
- Sheep101: Sheep and Goat Production
- Photo Credit Zoran Radovanovic/iStock/Getty Images
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