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Sheep are from Mars, Goats are from Venus

A question I often get is, “What are the differences between sheep and goats?”

Actually, there are quite a few differences between these small ruminant species.  There are so many differences it leads me to believe sheep are from Mars and goats are from Venus.   They are almost as different as horses are to rabbits (except for the huge size disparity).

Called small ruminants because they share similar digestive systems as cattle (four stomachs that utilize bacteria to ferment cellulose for energy), sheep and goats are much smaller in stature, but they still have differences between their natural eating behaviors.  Sheep are technically grazers, meaning they prefer chewing grass and clover low to the ground. Goats, on the other hand are known as browsers, meaning they often choose to select leaves, shrubs, vines and weeds.  They like to eat at the tops of plants, higher off the ground. They are very agile and will stand on their hind legs to reach vegetation.

This natural difference between the two animals is key when it comes to pasture management.  Sheep have an overall better resistance to pasture parasites because they have evolved eating close to the ground, putting them in close contact with roundworms, tapeworms and the like.  Goats, in contrast, developed eating off the ground over time.  With less contact with parasites in manure on the ground, goats have a less developed natural ability to resist parasitic infections.   

Sheep have a narrow tolerance for excess copper in their diet, though toxic levels depend upon the level of other minerals in their diets.  Breeds also vary in their sensitivity to copper toxicity.  For this reason, it is generally recommended that sheep not be fed grain and mineral mixes that have been formulated for other livestock (including goats), as these feeds likely have copper added to them.  Goats require more copper in their diets than sheep and are not sensitive to copper toxicity.  Their maximum level of copper is considered to be similar to cattle.  When sheep are co-mingled with goats or cattle, sheep products should be fed as a safety factor. 

Lambs (sheep) tend to grow much faster than kids (goats), no matter what the diet is.  Sheep convert feed more efficiently.  For that reason, grain-feeding is less likely to be profitable in goat meat production.  Sheep and goats often “fatten” very differently.  Goats will deposit fat around their internal organs before depositing external fat over their back, ribs and loin.  Sheep deposit external fat before depositing the internal fat.

Another notable difference is the general behavior.  Goats are naturally curious and independent.  Sheep have a natural flocking instinct and will prefer to stay together and follow each other.  It is easier to keep sheep inside a fence, while goats will look for creative ways to get out.  Goats will look for shelter from a storm while sheep don’t mind weathering a storm in a tight group in open terrain.

And finally, appearance differences abound.  Goats have hair (not wool).  Most sheep have a thick coat of wool covering their bodies that needs to be sheared off repeatedly during their lifetime.  Goat tails will stand up while sheep tails go down.  Most sheep tails are docked at birth for health and sanitary reasons.  Many breeds of sheep are polled (meaning they have no horns).  Those sheep who do have horns often have thick, tightly curved horns at the sides of their heads.  In contrast, goats have horns in most cases.  And the horns tend to be narrow, upright, less curved, and come to a sharper point.

A final bit of trivia: Which female has a longer gestation (pregnancy)?

The doe (goat) has a 150 day gestation and the ewe will range from 145-147 days.

I hope this information has been interesting and maybe even helpful.  To learn more about high quality feed products available for sheep and goats visit

Posted on 3/30/2016 by Amy Brown  |  Category: Sheep, Goat
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Chick Days Happening Soon Near You

With spring not too far away we start to think about projects for the ‘outdoor’ season ahead.  Some will no doubt be starting a garden and others will be looking at your chicken coops and thinking I need to get them ready for a new crop of chicks. Your local Hubbard Life Dealer can help with most every aspect of this from providing the chicks, the Hubbard® Life Homestead® Poultry Feed, bedding, waterers, heaters, etc.

Check out our Homestead Poultry Tips & Tools where you will find a wealth of information on poultry and chick days.

If you haven’t already you will want to prepare the poultry housing for a new group of birds. The following are highlights of an article published by Cornell University written by Michael J. Darre. You can read the full article here.

  • Decontaminating your poultry house is crucial in order to prevent Marek’s disease, mycoplasma, respiratory viruses, E.coli, mites, and other poultry health problems. Even more important is the control of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE), especially in laying hens.
  • A complete dry cleaning, washing and disinfection of the poultry house after each flock or at minimum once each year is recommended.
  • Start by removing all birds from the building to be cleaned, along with all equipment that can be cleaned in another place, such as feeders and waterers.
  • Sweep or blow dust and other loose dirt off ceilings, light fixtures, walls, cages or nest boxes, fans, air inlets etc. onto the floor.
  • Remove all feed from feeders.
  • Scrape manure and accumulated dust and dirt from perches and roosts. Remove all litter from the floor.  Litter can be added to a compost pile.
  • Sweep the floor to remove as much dry material as possible.
  • Wash every surface in the building, especially window sills, ceiling trusses, wall sills and any surface where dirt and dust may accumulate. A high pressure sprayer is good for this step, but manual scrubbing with a moderately stiff brush is one of the best ways to insure a thorough cleaning.
  • Disinfecting is a crucial step which the small flock owner might normally overlook. Disinfectants should be applied only after the building and equipment have been thoroughly cleaned, ideally right after rinsing.
  • The types of disinfectants generally used are phenolic compounds (e.g., Pine-sol, One Stroke, Osyl),  iodine or iodophors or (e.g., Betadine and Weladol), chlorine compounds (e.g., Clorox, generic bleach). Follow the manufacturer’s directions for mixing and dilution of these disinfectants.  A good rule of thumb is to apply at the rate of one gallon of diluted disinfectant per 150-200 square feet of surface area.

Now you are ready for your Hubbard Life Dealer’s annual ‘Chick Days’.  Find your closest dealer at our Dealer Locator and contact them to learn more.

Posted on 3/2/2016 by Dr. Dave Whittington  |  Category: Poultry
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