Can Sheep Eat Barley? (What You Need To Know)

Can sheep eat barley?

Sheep can definitely eat barley, it is a cereal grain, like wheat, and is a good source of protein and fiber. Barley also has a higher energy content than wheat, meaning it is a more nutrient-dense grain. Barley contains vitamin B1, niacin, riboflavin, iron, calcium and magnesium.

Some of the types of barley that they eat include hulled barley or pearl barley, which is what you find in stores.

What Is Barley?

Image by from Pixabay

Barley is a cereal grain from the grass family. It is easily digestible, filling and rich in nutrients. Barley is an ancient grain and was one of the first grains cultivated by man.

Barley is used as a staple food as well as in the production of beer. Barley was once a major part of the human diet, but it has been supplanted by rice, wheat and corn in many parts of the world. Barley is still a useful food source worldwide and especially so in areas where other grains are not readily available or not consumed at all. However, barley continues to be eaten around the world.

In fact, malted barley is widely used in beer making as well as being found in numerous other foods due to its pleasant flavor, high protein content and mild natural sweetness.

Barley can be grown just about anywhere, even when other crops might not grow well due to drought or soil conditions. It also grows quickly so those who live where winter lasts for months can plant their crop late in the year before the first snow fall and have an early harvest before the next winter starts making it easier to get through a long winter without starving or freezing over during their time of need.

Health Benefits Of Barley For Sheep

Barley is a rich source of fiber and many minerals and vitamins. It is particularly high in thiamine, protein, Vitamin B complex, niacin and phosphorus.

Fiber is important for digestive health. The soluble fiber in barley can help to clear out the colon and prevent disease by reducing the amount of cholesterol produced in the liver and cholesterol absorption. Soluble fiber also helps to lower blood sugar levels by slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugar which keeps blood sugar levels steadier throughout the day.

This prevents erratic behavior usually associated with swings in blood sugar that can cause depression or other mood disorders. It can also decrease cravings because it slows down digestion which makes you feel full longer so you eat less during any given meal time period.

It also helps with water retention as well as prevents constipation as well as intestinal disorders such as diarrhea and diverticulitis.

Thiamine is used for nerve development, muscle movement, cellular energy production and even plays a role in cell division along with carbohydrate metabolism within cells.

Thiamine deficiency can lead to anemia of neurological damage including muscle atrophy and even death if left untreated over time. It is found in many whole grains but most notably within barley due to its excellent balance of nutrients and high protein content which makes thiamine easier for pigs to digest versus other grains or starches like corn or other processed foods made from wheat or rice flour like pasta.

Protein found within barley aids in healing wounds faster due to its elasticity along with helping wounds heal without scarring. Its fiber content helps with healthy digestion while keeping the colon clear.

It’s also a good source of both monounsaturated and linoleic fatty acids which makes it a healthier choice than soy protein yet still not as good as whey or egg protein which are the best sources of protein on the market today.

Manganese is an essential trace mineral which is an important part of thousands of bodily functions including growth, reproduction and even maintaining healthy skin and bones. It acts as a cofactor for a number of enzymes which are responsible for neutralizing free radicals in the cells.

Furthermore, manganese helps with the conversion of tyrosine and phenylalanine into dopamine and norepinephrine. These two neurotransmitters are responsible for mood and memory as well as neurological function.

Manganese is also good for the immune system by fighting bacterial, parasitic, and yeast infections.

What Should Sheep Eat?

Image by from Pixabay

It is important for ewes to be fed a diet that is high in protein throughout the entire year. Protein is required for fetal growth, feed conversion and wool production. The protein requirement will be the highest in ewes during the fall and winter months just before lambing. Ideal protein levels are between 20-25%. Feeding ewes a diet high in crude fiber may not give enough energy to sustain good reproductive performance.

The staple food required in a healthy diet for sheep are:

Grass: Grass is the main food source for sheep. However grass can be very different in quality, depending on the season, weather and location. Good pasture will contain 15% protein and 3% crude fiber.

Corn: Sheep are able to eat corn as a forage crop just as cattle do. The use of corn silage will provide up to 17% protein, however it is not recommended to be used by itself or in high concentrations due to potential problems with mold growth and feed palatability issues. When fed in total mixed rations it provides an excellent source of energy and a more consistent supply of feed during times when pasture quality may decline such as winter or when there’s a shortage of grass due to dry conditions during summer months.

Legumes: Legumes are a relative of peas and beans that are high in protein, low in fiber and can be used as an excellent source of protein. Some of the most popular legume crops grown for sheep include alfalfa and red clover. In fact, alfalfa is one of the highest quality feeds available and provides 20-25% protein, 2% crude fiber; red clover ranges from 16-18% protein and 2% crude fiber. When feeding legumes it is important to note that they are high in protein and should be fed as a protein source and not a total mixed ration. Sheep should also have access to grass and/or other forage crops so they do not rely on the legume alone for nutrients.

Fruits: Fruits are great for supplementing sheep diets due to the vitamins and minerals they provide. However, most fruits are very high in sugar and because sheep have a short duration of rumination they can quickly dehydrate if not offered water frequently. Some of the most popular fruits that can be fed to sheep include apples, apricots, bananas, berries, cherries, grapes, peaches, pears and plums.

Vegetables: Vegetables can also be fed to sheep if they are not over-supplemented and/or fed in excess. Most vegetables are high in moisture and therefore can cause digestive issues, as well as cause scouring and diarrhea. Vegetables that are higher in protein include alfalfa, clover (leafy), corn, cucumber, kale, melon, mustard greens (leafy), radishes, pumpkin and squash.