Sheep and goats in the fields

Here’s Why Farmers Separate Sheep From Goats

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Many farmers prefer to keep goats and sheep because they need less space, have minimal housing and maintenance needs, and do not consume much food. In addition, they adapt to different environments, making rearing them highly manageable. However, you may have noticed that these animals are kept separate on farms and wondered why farmers separate sheep from goats.

Farmers separate sheep from goats to curb disease transmission due to their contrasting fighting skills. In addition, it helps protect sheep from copper poisoning by ensuring they do not consume goat feed.

Since keeping goats and sheep together is not a great idea, how can you raise them on your farm without compromising their well-being? Keep reading to find out.

Sheep and goats grazing

5 Reasons Why Farmers Separate Sheep From Goats

Sheep and goats are kept separate for good measure. Here are the main reasons farmers keep these animals separate in their farms.

Different Nutritional Needs

The major reason for keeping sheep and goats separate is to protect sheep from copper poisoning.

While both are grazing animals, they require different nutritional content. For instance, sheep cannot tolerate some of the minerals and vitamins found in goat feed, with the primary one being copper.

Copper is an essential component of the goat diet. Thus, farmers supplement goat food with copper to help the animals grow a more robust immune system and bone structure. On the other hand, sheep do not need a lot of copper in their diet.

In fact, your sheep can suffer from copper poisoning if they ingest too much of it. Copper poisoning affects the sheep’s organs, like the liver. This can cause red blood cell deficiency and even death in severe cases.

In line with nutrition, you should keep your sheep and goats separate because they have different feeding styles.

Sheep are referred to as grazers because they wander pastures, while goats are known as browsers since they enjoy reaching for shrubs and tree leaves above the surface. Still, they can graze like sheep if necessary.

Sheep love eating the plants’ entirety, such as legumes, forbs, clover, and grass. Due to their different feeding styles, you are better off keeping these animals separate, keeping each where they will get the best nutritional requirements.

READ ALSO: Can Sheep Eat Goat Feed? (Is It Nutritious for Them?)

To Reduce Disease Transmission

Some diseases are easily transmittable between goats and sheep, so separating them is an excellent way of minimizing transmission.

For example, Sharpie is a prion-caused widespread disease that creates neurological problems and is transmitted from sheep to goats.

Sharpie is more rampant in sheep, does not have a cure, and leads to death. You must separate a sheep or goat from the rest of the herd if it contracts Sharpie.

Other diseases that can be transmitted between goats and sheep include chlamydiosis, rabies, and ringworm.

Noting a sick animal in a large herd is not easy, so besides reducing disease transmission, separating sheep from goats also allows you to catch disease outbreaks early.

READ ALSO: Why Is My Sheep Coughing? Causes and Treatment

To Prevent Injuries

Male goats and sheep fight from time to time, and fights between them are not fair because rams are stronger and more potent than male goats.

Therefore, it is best to keep them separate. In addition, the fighting styles of these animals are different, which gives one species an unfair advantage.

For instance, goats butt heads using their horns while standing on their hind legs when fighting. On the other hand, sheep charge toward their opponent with great power, bashing them in the heads using their horns.

A fight between rams and male goats can lead to severe injuries in the goats and even death in extreme conditions.

For Better Herd Management

Keeping track and controlling your sheep and goats is more challenging if they stay together, so separate them for better management.

For instance, tracking your goat and sheep diet is easier if they feed separately. Furthermore, the young ones and their mothers will bond better if you keep your sheep separate from your goats.

Sheep and goats will also create a bigger mess if kept together to ease your workload by confining them in different parts of your farm.


While this rarely happens, keeping your goats and sheep separate is best to avoid it altogether.

Interbreeding between a sheep and a goat results in a pregnancy that will likely not reach full-term but, if it does, produces a geep (they do not have long lifespans, usually dying at birth).

Sheep and goats in the fields

Can Sheep and Goats Be Kept Together?

You can keep your sheep and goats together if you are confident they will get their individual nutritional needs and the sheep are safe from copper poisoning. However, doing so is not the best idea because of these above-discussed reasons.

Mixing these animals can work, particularly if you only have female goats and sheep on the farm. This is because females are less aggressive than males, and fights between them are rare.

Do not consider keeping herds with males together because you will create perfect conditions for fighting outbreaks that could cause animal injuries, especially male goats.

Some farmers use a neutered buck to control and lead their sheep herd because male goats lead their herds, and goats are considered slightly smarter than sheep. However, this is a rare practice, particularly if you have a ram in your flock.

How to Keep Sheep and Goats Together

If you decide to keep your sheep and goats together, you must take certain precautions to avoid the shortcomings of keeping these animals together.

Mineral Needs

Due to the high copper content in goat feed, you must ensure your sheep and goats feed are separate to prevent copper poisoning. Also, provide all the animals with quality food.

Prevent the Production of Geeps

Keeping sheep and goats separate during breeding season is essential whether you keep your herd together or separately.

The separation prevents them from interbreeding. While these species can successfully mate, it is challenging, rare, and produces geeps that die shortly.


It is your job to keep your animals safe from predators and themselves. For instance, you must be mindful of the horns (nearly all goats are horned, while a considerable number of sheep do not have horns) because they can use them to hurt each other.

You must also erect a solid fence to keep your sheep and goats from escaping. Keep in mind that while sheep are happy to stay in one place, goats are adventurous animals who are good at jumping, so they will try to escape.

Therefore, you must build a reliable, tall fence if you intend to keep sheep and goats together.

When it comes to sheep and goats shelter, these animals can comfortably share and typically favor a three-sided shelter.

However, you must be mindful of each animal’s shelter needs. Sheep need to shelter from the summer heat, while goats do not like rain, so they will use the shelter during rainy days to stay dry.


Farmers keep sheep and goats separate because it is good for their well-being. Despite being similar in size, these animals differ in various ways, including dietary needs, so separating them allows you to attend to both species appropriately.


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