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Author Topic: Sheep minerals...?  (Read 489 times)


  • Joined Jul 2020
Sheep minerals...?
« on: July 12, 2020, 02:24:00 pm »
Hello everyone,

I own a smallholding in the UK. I have recently brought four sheep to keep as pets. The person I brought them off didn't provide them with any mineral supplements. He said they had grass through the summer and country mix and a bit of hay when they needed it during the winter months.

Although I am very new to the world of sheep and still trying to learn I am aware that they NEED a range of different vitamins and minerals as part of their diet.

At the start of spring I brought them a Magnesium Booster loose mineral which they have free access to
(containing Calcium 20%, Magnesium 10%, Phosphorus 1% & Sodium 8%) as I had read this was needed to prevent grass staggers. They don't seem to be eating this so i've been mixing a bit in with some concentrate when i give it to them but this is only about once a week. Do they need to be eating it or will they only eat it when they know they need it?

I'm also aware this by itself is not providing them with all the minerals they need but I'm very confused about what else to use.

What does everyone else use? And if i can find a complete mineral supplement that they can have access to all year round should I still also provide the Mag Booster in addition throughout the grazing period? I've read that providing too much of some mineral can block the absorption of other minerals. Does this mean I can only use one supplement at a time!?

It seems to be a very confusing a subject and most of the information online is targeted at breeding ewes and lambs! I'm sure the company that I buy minerals off would be happy to advise but I want to have a rough idea of what to ask for when i phone so I don't sound like a complete moron!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!!!

Can anyone reccomend any complete loose minerals? And do I still need to prov


  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Sheep minerals...?
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2020, 03:38:03 pm »
They won’t eat mineral buckets, but they will lick them as and when needed. Himalayan rock salt is good for all types of stock (ewes rams and lambs). A lot of mineral buckets are not suitable for Male sheep as they can cause urinary calculi- I don’t use any minerals for my rams apart for rock salt.

For the ewes and lambs we use buckets containing B1 as we had a deficiency in it a few years back. So bucket of choice tends to be mole valley feet and fertility and then they get high energy buckets at lambing.

Magnesium can be bitter, I have never had much luck getting sheep to lick mag buckets. Our ewes graze decent spring grass and never had much problem with staggers but the feet and fertility buckets have a small amount of mag in that they do actually lick. Mag buckets are definite no no for rams though.

You would probably be fine with some rock salt (normally around £6-7 for 25 kilo bag) and a general purpose mineral bucket for all year round. If they are as pets and not for breeding you don’t want any kind of protein or energy in the bucket or they will be fat as butter. They don’t even need hard feed other than a handful of nuts between all 4, a couple times a week to keep them tame.


  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Sheep minerals...?
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2020, 11:02:15 pm »
Grass staggers only tends to affect fast growing spring grass, and occasionally autumn flushes too. I was chatting to a vet about it the other day after we turned our cattle onto brand new fresh grass seeds, he said the risk at this time of year is fairly low even on all that grass. If you don’t fertilise your grass the risk should be even lower.

The sheep with missing teeth might struggle come winter to eat enough... best keep an eye on that (someone hasn’t sold you old cull ewes as pets have they?  :yuck: [size=78%]) [/size]


  • Joined Feb 2012
Re: Sheep minerals...?
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2020, 10:00:46 am »
If they aren't touching the minerals you have then I would say they don't want or need them. You don't say what breed of sheep? Have you discussed a health plan with your vet? They will know what your local problems are.

At this time of year they shouldn't need hay or feed unless you have no grass? If you have to top up the old ewe then pen her up for feed.

You could consider a mineral drench but you can't buy small quantities unless your vet can supply. I would definitely recommend discussing a health plan with them it could save you money in the long run.


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Sheep minerals...?
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2020, 11:29:42 am »
The old ewe whose front teeth are going could eat hay; she doesn't need front teeth for hay. ;)

There are licky buckets which are feed buckets with minerals in, there are licky buckets which are mainly about the minerals but include soya and molasses for palatabilty and hence are not nutritionally neutral, and there are a few licky buckets which are almost pure minerals and certainly contain no soya.  (Mole Valley's Rumigan range are one such).

There are minerals in concentrate, so personally, with pet sheep, I would give himalayan rock salt all year round, a little cake through the winter but take care they don't get fat as pets are doing no work except growing a fleece, hay over winter and a little year round for the ewe who's losing her front teeth, if she wants it.

Unless you are putting them on fast-growing, fertilised rye leys, pet sheep shouldn't ever need a hi-mag supplement.  We did used to put one out from tupping through winter for the pregnant ewes in north Cumbria, and we had significantly fewer ewes collapse and need subcutaneous calcium and magnesium once we started doing this.  They took very little of it, they almost never emptied the bucket over the winter, but the little they did take seemed to make a big difference.  The ground was unimproved upland and moorland but the ewes were mostly carrying twins and the weather in winter could put them under a lot of pressure.  Your pet sheep won't be under any pressure ;) 

Mind, I've just reminded myself now... a few Cumbrian farmers told me they would avoid buying draft ewes (ewes who've lambed a few times on the hill and will do a few more crops in kinder conditions) from the uplands and moorlands to take down to the lowlands because they would all get staggers on the grass which was better than they were used to.  So depending on what your sheep came from, maybe a hi-mag lick wouldn't hurt, but let them take what they need.  It's not very palatable so they won't take it if they don't need it.

Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing


  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Sheep minerals...?
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2020, 04:19:38 pm »
Can I just be completely contrary... pet sheep don't need any extra feed or minerals, all they need is grass, and if it gets really snowy in winter, then some hay (not ad-lib, but what they clear in about an hour or so, unless heavy snow), or preferably straw will do them just fine. Otherwise they just get fat.

My sheep - Shetlands with some Gotlands thrown into the genetic mix - have nothing other than grass, hay in winter if it gets frosty/snowy. If they are in lamb, then they will get a Red lick bucket usually late December onwards, and feed in the last four weeks before lambing. I don't scan and they all get the same, separated from the non-pregnant sheep of course. I lamb outside mid-April onwards.

My oldest ewe is 11 years old (though not lambed in the last few years). She has a full mouth.


  • Joined Jun 2016
Re: Sheep minerals...?
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2020, 11:23:05 am »
I've been scared to reply to this! I wouldn't give pet sheep anything either. Started doubting what I am doing. I keep shetlands, Cheviots and a few Zwartbles and ryelands. If they are in lamb they get a high energy lick bucket through harshest winter months. My overwintered lambs will get a bucket per field too if it's hard frost/snow. Ad lib hay for all. Hard feed for in lamb ewes in final 6 weeks. We don't scan either, everyone gets the same. Mixture of indoor and outdoor lambing late march/April.


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Sheep minerals...?
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2020, 12:05:03 pm »
Pretty much the whole of the UK is deficient in copper, cobalt and selenium, all of which are required for optimum health.

A very few sheep breeds have evolved to cope with low copper, among them Texels and North Ronaldsay.

Too much copper is more dangerous than too little.

Sheep will in general self-regulate their mineral intake if able to do so.  However, sprinkling minerals on feed, mixing minerals with molasses, or worse, soya, all have the potential to encourage partaking to excess. 

Hardworking ewes and rams will show evidence of mineral insufficiencies sooner than wethers and other sheep who are not breeding.  However, even wethers will benefit from some mineral supplementation.  Some of the things which might alert you to mineral deficiencies include :

  • browning of the tips of the fleece (different to sun-bleaching)
  • other changes in colour of fleece including light bands within the length of a coloured staple
  • scabby patches on ears
  • brittle wool
  • pink staining in the wool
  • general malaise / ill thrift
  • brittle hooves
  • lethargic lambs
  • lambs wobbly
  • lambs with poor appetite for milk

Some but not all of a sheep's mineral requirements will be met by ad lib Himalayan rock salt.

Most of us find that Yellow Rockies is not used, the molassed blocks are generally quite large so may be overkill for 4 pet sheep, and the free access pure minerals are not as easy to use plus may not be available in very small pack sizes.

For sheep which are not working hard, feeding a very small amount (like 1/4lb per head per day) of cake in the depths of winter is a quick and easy way to get a mineral top-up into any sheep.  And if it is limited to deep winter, it is unlikely to cause too much condition even on sheep who don't work.

For people with real good doers or who do not want to feed cake for other reasons, then one of the organic-approved mineral licks is a non-feed alternative, as is begging a few doses of a mineral drench from the local farmer.  Or you may have a vet who will dispense a small quantity.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing


  • Joined Jul 2020
Re: Sheep minerals...?
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2020, 05:08:14 pm »
Thanks everyone for all your advice, it's been really useful and I've definitely learnt a lot! 

I've brought them some general purpose loose mineral that they can help themselves to if they want it. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't touch it but at least it's there if they do want it. I will keep the Himalayan rock salt but get rid of the magnesium supplement.


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