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Can shetland sheep and pygmy goats live together?

 
Jordan Struck
Posts: 65
Location: Oregon (zone 7b), 31.3 inches/yr rainfall
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Can shetland sheep and pygmy goats healthily and happily live together? Also, I only have one 0.55 acre field. How many sustainably (combo composition?) could live there? How many with partial supplementation with feed?
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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Not my area of experience, but sheep and goats have very different needs. Sheep are grazers, goats are browsers. If you have trees, you do not want to have goats. If you have goats, you do not want to have trees (trees you want to keep, I mean). If you have no grass then sheep will not be happy. Supplementing with some feed is possible if you can get an easy, nearby source, maybe someone else's waste product? but you might start by looking at the function you want and then brainstorming at least 10 different elements you could use that would serve that function. (do you want poop? wool? certain less-savory companionship [just kidding, not that I judge]? meat? background noise to help you think? pets? warmth?).
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Sheep cannot have minerals with copper, goats need copper to maintain health, there are ways to do that though.

Sheep ram by forward movement goats stand up and head butt, this puts goats at a diadvantage, small goats might be fine with sheep that are cool, but if you happen to get sheep that dislike their roommates injuries can happen.

This being said I do know folks that have had it work for them.
 
R Ranson
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Behaviour wise, goats and sheep in the same pasture make a lot of sense. They get along well enough, once they work out their misunderstandings due to different body language cues. Because goats and sheep prefer to eat different plants, you can get more out of your land by having the two different species on the same pasture at the same time.

The other posters are giving good advice, albeit a bit generic. There are a lot more nuances to minerals than most people realize. In general, an old breed like shetland or other kinds who are descended from Finn Sheep, have sufficient copper needs and tolerances to live with goats and goat minerals, in some situations. If you are willing to do the research there is a lot of good that can be done with minerals - and even more harm if you don't do it right. If you don't have time to observe your livestock several times a day, then it's probably best to stick with the generic advice.

But if you want to know a bit more...

Most of what I'm saying here is from Pat Coleby's book Natural Sheep Care. The rest is from personal experience and consulting with local vets and livestock gurus. It is by no means universally accepted, especially these days as there is a huge movement towards buying pre-mixed mineral supplements; many people no longer feel the need to learn the ins and outs of how minerals work.

First off, sheep will die without copper! Sheep in general have a very narrow range where the copper consumption is healthy for them. Too little copper and they become parasite prone, have poor wool quality, some other stuff and death. Too much copper cause bad things and death. Each breed has a different range of healthy copper. For example, Icelandic and Shetlands have a very broad range, Black Welsh Mountain have very broad and high copper needs, Mernio has a higher need than say a southdown, but an extremely narrow range. This range has narrowed dramatically in the last 40 years or so due in part to breeding but more to how the pastures and hay fields have been fertilized. Chemical fertilizer changes how the sheep (and other mammals) take up the minerals, which makes an over-dose of copper more likely.


When it comes to having animals that thrive, as opposed to just live, on your land, there is of the utmost importance that they have the proper minerals they need. Sheep and goats both depend on the proper balance of minerals, which changes on the time of year, rainfall, feed, soil make up, and so on. Sure, a goat or a sheep will produce well enough with commercial minerals, which is enough for most people. The wrong balance of minerals can reduce milk production, increase the susceptibility to parasites and flystrike (lack of copper in BOTH sheep and goats will do this), produce poor grade wool, and of course toxicity and mineral deficiencies.

Most mineral mixes are made for a region or even for the national 'needs' of the animal. Our local sheep mix is made with very low Selenium because most of our province has high Se in the soil. If the sheep has too much Se then it can cause copper deficiency, hoof problems, and death. Too little Se causes an increase of mastitis (Not yet common knowledge so I'm citing my local goat guru who has done extensive work researching this and is consulted by vets all over the world), increase in parasite load, change in skin/wool/hair, reproductive problems like prolapse, and of course muscle paralysis and death. Feeding the commercially prepared mineral mix to our sheep causes the death, disease and discomfort of our sheep, even though this mineral mix is made specifically for our 'region', it is not sufficient for where we live.

We have some of our sheep living up the road a little bit, and their mineral needs are very different than the ones on our own land. Even this little difference in the makeup of the soil is enough that they need different minerals to thrive.

When it comes to minerals, location is a big thing.


Shetland sheep have a much higher tolerance for copper and other minerals/diets than modern breeds of sheep. They actually have a much higher requirement for copper than sheep 'officially' do. This of course will vary depending on your land, their feed, and other elements - like if their feed has been given chemical based fertilizer which will upset the balance of minerals and other nutrients their body can use. DEPENDING on your soil, and many other factors, it is LIKELY (but NOT certain) that the shetlands MAY thrive on the goat minerals. That's a very highly qualified statement, and there is so much it depends on that one has to know a lot more about your individual situation than I do.

When in doubt, gather up some local livestock gurus - Weigh any advise they give against the health of their flock.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Location: Volant, PA
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Thanks R,

I was only being generic because I had heard a lot of folks warn about sheep eating goat minerals, your knowledge certainly filled in the gaps in mine!

Chad
 
Katy Whitby-last
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Location: North East Scotland
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The other issue to consider is worms. Sheep have a much higher tolerance of worm burdens than goats so by keeping them together you can often create a problem for your goats. If you graze the goats on an area first then move on the sheep then rest for long enough it is doable but with .5 of an acre that's going to be difficult
 
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