I have received numerous inquiries regarding the feeding of the Barbados Blackbelly. Hence, the reason for this particular page. It seems there are fewer sheep in this area of Texas, which is more abundantly populated with cattle, and that makes it a little harder to obtain sheep feed at the nearby local feed stores. Actually, Barbados Blackbellies can maintain on grass as long as it is plentiful. If grass is not readily available, then hay should suffice. Blackbellies are known for being able to survive by browsing, not just grass grazing. In the wild, they eat tree and plant leaves, fresh or dry, they eat weeds, they eat Yaupon and many other brush items to fill their wide ranging variety of tastes. I understand that some people say pine needles are a natural dewormer, although I have no experience with that. I do know from experience that they will eat moss off of tree bark, they will eat hard tree bark to the tune of killing the tree by stripping it of its protective and live covering. When we moved to the country and got our first sheep, I remember having two cedar trees in our pasture. Not really knowing what sheep would eat, I asked my husband if he thought we should put something around the cedars to protect them from the sheep. Mike stated that is wasn't necessary because the cedars are so bitter the sheep shouldn't bother them. They were young saplings and as I remember, we came back in about an hour and both were completely destroyed. The bitter cedar greenery was gone after the sheep had stood on their hind legs to reach each branch, or had pulled each one down to nibble on it. All the bark had been completely stripped and they were working on the core of the tree and enjoying every minute of it. They love Chinese Tallow trees which are a bane in this area and you can forget about a garden if it is not fenced. Speaking of gardens, when your growing season is over, open the gate and let the sheep come in. They will clean up and save you a lot of work.
There are many natural things that BBs will eat, given the opportunity. However, if you are on a small amount of acreage, and don't have abundant pastures for them to graze and browse, hay will work just fine. When you start adding things to it, just remember that three-quarters of a Barbados Blackbelly sheep's diet should be grass or hay to keep their stomachs in working order. If you feel that you must add supplements to their diet, be sure that if you use manufactured pellets, it must say "For Sheep" on the label. Many goat foods have
Lone Star Farm | Barbados Blackbelly Sheep
copper in them which can be dangerous to a Blackbelly sheep's health. You can add cracked corn, rolled or steamed oats, or all of those things, but I would caution you to start slowly and increase it up to one pound per sheep gradually. Remember, the secret to feeding sheep is to do everything gradually. NEVER INCREASE THE QUANTITY OR CHANGE THE VARIETY OF THEIR FEED ABRUPTLY! It can make them sick and may even be fatal. Something to help counteract problems is giving a Clostridium Perfringens & Tetanus (CD&T) vaccination. For lambs, you should give one shot of 2cc, then three weeks to a month later give another 2cc injection. After that, an injection of 2cc can be given annually as a booster.
I have heard of sheep eating all sorts of things as treats, including such bizarre things as cupcakes. I would suggest that if it is something that does not grow in the wild, you should probably pass it up for a more nutrient-filled sheep food. A protein block is beneficial to their diet.
Sheep can also benefit from a mineral block, loose minerals, or a tub of minerals in a molasses base. You may choose whichever one you want, but make sure that it specifies "FOR SHEEP" on the label. If it does not say for sheep on the label, it is the wrong vitamin for your sheep. It could have too much copper in it that is stored in the sheep's liver and becomes toxic if there is too much copper. Be sure to check for copper content in your pellets also.
Remember, most Barbados Blackbellies should be able to maintain on grass alone. They begin to graze at a very young age. The photo at the top of the page is of a three day old lamb already trying out her grazing skills.
Feeding Blackbelly Sheep
The most important thing besides nutrition, is to never abruptly change their diet.