The FeedSafeNZ Guide to Feeding Sheep

March 25, 2024
Sheep and goats eating pellet food from a red bucket

Did you know the oldest sheep ever, a Scottish blackface named Matus, lived to almost 26 years old? If you want your flock to live long healthy lives, paying attention to their nutrition is key. Feeding sheep is an important part of successful sheep farming which impacts their health, productivity, and overall well-being.  

In this guide we walk you through the essentials for providing a balanced, nutritious diet for your sheep flock.

Sheep Nutrition: The Basics

Like any other livestock, sheep need a well-balanced diet to help them thrive. The nutritional needs of any sheep will differ based on factors such as age, weight, and reproductive status. A sheep’s diet mostly consistent of forages, grains and supplements and should include a balanced mix of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. 



Forages are a staple of any sheep’s diet. Top-quality forage provides healthy digestion and essential nutrients for sheep. It’s important that pastures are rotated to ensure the flock have a steady supply of nutrient-rich forage.



Grains are another key part of any sheep flock’s diet. They offer carbohydrates which are crucial for a sheep’s growth as well as maintaining their energy levels. Grain supplementation can be helpful during nutritionally demanding times for sheep such as late pregnancy, early lactation and over the tupping period. Some of the common sources are corn, barley and oats. Grain-based Sheep Nuts are a great option for supplementing sheep. 



Protein is important for muscle and bone development and overall health and wellbeing. Protein levels can be adjusted depending on a flock’s needs and especially during life stages such as lambing and breeding. Additional protein can be supplemented into the flock’s diet through sources such as speciality, high-protein Sheep Nutes, soybean meal, or other protein-rich forages.


Vitamins and Minerals

To make sure your flock stays in optimal health, it’s important to make sure they have access to the essential vitamins and minerals they need. Some of the main ones include calcium, vitamins A and D, selenium and phosphorous. Regularly testing pasture and forages will help identify any nutrient deficiencies, which additional supplementing can address.



A sheep’s nutritional needs must be adjusted according to the seasons. For instance, in winter sheep need help staying warm, so it’s important to increase the energy content in their food to help with this. In summer, the focus is on hydration as the hotter weather puts the flock at greater risk of heat stress. 


Body Condition Score

Body condition score (BCS) is another way to measure the overall health of your sheep and make sure their nutritional needs are being met. 

The BCS scale ranges from 1 to 5 and is used to understand when sheep are underweight, overweight, or in optimal condition. Diet can then be adjusted to help the flock continue to maintain a healthy BCS.


Providing a balanced diet that incorporates all the good nutrients sheep need will ensure they stay at optimal health and thrive on the farm. Alongside regular monitoring and seasonal feed adjustment, you can ensure a fit and content flock. Remember, a well-fed sheep is a happy and productive sheep!

Want to know more about FeedSafeNZ? Visit our About Us page to find out more about how we ensure high-quality feed for New Zealand farms.

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