Do Sheep Eat Flax? Benefits And Cautionary Notes

Sheep are known for their diverse dietary preferences, but when it comes to flax, there are some important considerations. In this article, we’ll explore whether sheep eat flax, the potential benefits and drawbacks, and how to safely incorporate flax into their diet.

Can Sheep Eat Flax?

Yes, sheep can eat flax, but it should be done in moderation and with caution. Flax, specifically flaxseed, can be a nutritious addition to a sheep’s diet when used correctly. Here are some key points to consider:

Benefits of Feeding Flax to Sheep

  1. Nutrient-Rich: Flaxseeds are packed with essential nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber. These nutrients can contribute to a sheep’s overall health.
  2. Improved Wool Quality: Some sheep owners believe that feeding flax to their flock can result in softer and shinier wool due to the omega-3 fatty acids in flax.
  3. Digestive Aid: Flaxseed’s high fiber content can aid in digestion and help prevent constipation in sheep.

Cautionary Notes

  1. Moderation is Key: While flax can be beneficial, it should be given in moderation. Excessive consumption of flaxseed can lead to health issues in sheep.
  2. Ground Flax: It’s best to feed sheep ground flaxseed rather than whole seeds. Whole seeds may pass through the digestive system undigested.
  3. Balanced Diet: Flax should be part of a balanced diet. It should not replace other essential feed sources like hay and grass.
  4. Consult a Veterinarian: Before introducing flax into a sheep’s diet, it’s wise to consult a veterinarian or an experienced livestock nutritionist. They can provide guidance on the appropriate quantity and frequency.

How to Feed Flax to Sheep

When incorporating flax into a sheep’s diet, follow these steps:

  1. Ground Flax: As mentioned earlier, grind flaxseed to make it easier for sheep to digest.
  2. Mix with Regular Feed: Combine the ground flax with your sheep’s regular feed. This ensures that they get a balanced diet.
  3. Monitor Consumption: Keep an eye on how much flax your sheep are consuming. If you notice any adverse effects, such as diarrhea or changes in behavior, adjust the amount accordingly.
  4. Rotate Feeding: Flax can be fed intermittently rather than daily. This prevents overconsumption and allows you to assess its impact on your flock.

What Animals Eat Flax?

Flax, particularly flaxseed, is a versatile and nutritious food source that can be beneficial for various animals beyond just sheep. Here’s a list of some animals that can consume flax as part of their diet:

  1. Chickens: Flaxseed can enhance the nutritional content of chicken eggs, thanks to its omega-3 fatty acids.
  2. Horses: Flaxseed, particularly flaxseed oil, is added to horse diets for improved coat sheen and skin health.
  3. Cattle: Flaxseed is included in cattle feed to enhance the quality of beef and dairy products.

What is the Most Nutritious Grass for Sheep?

When it comes to providing the best nutrition for your sheep, selecting the right type of grass is crucial. Different grasses offer varying levels of nutrients, and choosing the most nutritious ones can significantly impact the health and productivity of your flock. Here are some of the most nutritious grasses commonly fed to sheep:

1. Fescue Grass:

  • Tall Fescue: Tall fescue is a cool-season grass that provides good nutrition for sheep. It’s rich in fiber and is known for its tolerance to grazing.
  • Meadow Fescue: Meadow fescue is a cool-season grass with higher nutrient content compared to tall fescue. It’s especially beneficial for lactating ewes.

2. Ryegrass:

  • Perennial Ryegrass: Perennial ryegrass is a high-quality grass that offers excellent nutrition for sheep. It is palatable and provides a good balance of protein and energy.
  • Annual Ryegrass: Annual ryegrass is a quick-growing grass that can be a valuable addition to a sheep’s diet, particularly in the fall and winter.

3. Clover:

  • Red Clover: Red clover is a legume that can be interseeded with grasses. It’s rich in protein and can improve the overall quality of pasture for sheep.
  • White Clover: White clover is another legume option that is highly palatable to sheep and provides essential nutrients.

4. Timothy Grass:

  • Timothy grass: Although it’s more commonly associated with hay production, Timothy grass can also be grazed by sheep. It offers a good balance of fiber and nutrition.

5. Bermudagrass:

  • Coastal Bermudagrass: In warmer regions, coastal bermudagrass is a popular choice for sheep grazing. It’s drought-tolerant and provides adequate nutrition.

6. Orchardgrass:

  • Orchardgrass: This cool-season grass is known for its high-quality forage. It’s palatable to sheep and provides a good mix of nutrients.

7. Bluegrass:

  • Kentucky Bluegrass: Kentucky bluegrass is a cool-season grass that can be beneficial for sheep. It’s palatable and offers decent nutritional value.

Remember that the nutritional content of grasses can vary depending on factors like soil quality, climate, and management practices. It’s essential to monitor your sheep’s condition and consider supplementing their diet with other feeds if necessary to ensure they receive a well-balanced diet.


In conclusion, yes, sheep can eat flax, but it should be done with care and moderation. Flax can provide nutritional benefits and potentially enhance wool quality, but it should not replace the staple components of a sheep’s diet. Always consult with a professional before making significant dietary changes for your sheep.