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Dairy Sheep Questions

1169 Views 23 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  CindyinSD
I got three dairy lambs this spring; one ramling and two ewelings. Now I have three ewelings (I guess they're all ewelings still... the seller didn't know when the original girls were born). The ramling seeded the littlest eweling and maybe (hopefully) got the other ewe pregnant as well before he went bonkers and ended up in freezer camp. He was huge. I had no idea he was gonna get that big. (Okay, you can laugh now...) 🤦‍♀️ I think they are polled East Freesian/LaCaune cross (sorry about the spelling), but the seller wasn't sure about the mix. I was fortunate to find dairy stock around here at all so I wasn't about to make any complaints. Besides, they're all nice, healthy gals and the ram has contributed significantly to filling up our freezers.

The baby (Sugar Plum, 'cause that just seemed to be her name) was born Dec 29th. How long should I wait before sharing some of that milk? I was thinking a couple of weeks, but that's just a guess on my part.

I've been giving both of them alfalfa/grass (~50:50) hay since SP made her appearance. (Before that, they'd been grazing a mixed grass/alfalfa round bale most of the days, with a rack-full for when they're stalled. They share a stall, so... Also an extra ration of all-stock sweet mixed grains. That's a Folgers canister twice a day for the two ladies to share. Chickens take some of that... prolly a considerable quantity of "some". The sheep don't seem desperate to get at it, so I'm assuming they're getting plenty. They also have a protein block and of course, fresh non-frozen water. Should I be giving them more feed, or maybe less? Different?

I have materials to build a milking stand and it won't take too long, but what with the bomb-cyclone winter blast event and the garage stuffed with vehicles and feed and all, I haven't started on it yet. Now that the ordinary cold doesn't seem so bad, I'd like to get that built asap. The ones I've seen on Youtube just have a stanchion at the end of the rectangular platform, with a food dish. The ewe hops up and goes to her munchies and you milk her. Would it be better to have side rails? A ramp to ascend? Am I over-thinking this? Can I use this platform to shear them as well? (They came freshly shorn, so I haven't had the shearing experience yet.)

Okay... in fewer words:
1. Am I feeding them properly?
2. When can/should I start milking (lamb-sharing?) I don't want/intend to separate them (esp at night), but I wonder whether Ewekalalie will reach her production capacity If I don't place some demand on it fairly early in the game. 🤷‍♀️
3. Will a platform with a stanchion be sufficient for shearing, hoof trimming, etc.?
4. Thanks so much for any wisdom ya'll can share with me!
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How wonderfully exciting! I have always been curious about milking sheep. I have a small herd of dairy goats, so all my knowledge is based in that experience. It is still ruminant.

Sweet feed is always a poor choice for ruminants. The molasses isn’t beneficial for their digestion.

Folgers cans come in many sizes. We get the BIG ones. I know that would be too much.

A quart of goat feed weighs about a pound. My bred doe (HUGE Saanen) gets about 3/4 pound morning and evening. The dry goats get about 1/4 pound.

Are you in central Texas or southern Missouri. I have too many milk stands! Yes, I trim hooves and milk and everything on a simple platform with the stanchion at one end.

Reconsider separating them at night after two weeks so that you can milk in the morning. Otherwise, you won’t get much milk.

Train the ewes to the milk stand as soon as possible. Train them to having their udder messed with. This prevents rodeos later.

Keep us posted about how it’s going.
Thanks for your response! I haven't been able to get sheep feed here since I bought them. I got show-lamb a couple weeks before I brought them home and since then there's been nothing available. The mixed sweet grains seemed most like that, which is the reason I bought it, but I could get whole bags of, say, oats, etc and mix them together (I think/hope). This whole apocalypse thing is really inconvenient. 🤨 So maybe a half pound of grains (pint jar) for Eweka and a bit less for Sweetie, morning and evening?

Eweka is bigger than Sweetie Pie, but she's older, too. Sweetie was a bottle baby--weaned just before I got her. Would I put Sweetie and Sugar Plum together at night, or put little Sugar alone? I'm worried she'll get too cold without her mama. It was -2 Fahrenheit this morning (though the ice on their water wasn't thick so it can't have been below zero for very long...) Sometimes it does get awfully cold, all night. I'm just grateful she wasn't born a week earlier. 🥶 Maybe I should separate Sugar from mama in the morning and milk in the evening... (around 4:00 p.m. here, this time of year). I'm excited about sheep's milk yogurt, cheese, butter... Thanks again!
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My husband built the milk stanchion off the Fias Co. farm website. Have had it now for 15+ years and still sturdy as ever.
Mine has a removeable headstall because I the girls like to play/sleep on the base. It has held two full grown adults and a full size Saanen at the same time. (We were having to doctor her and it was a rodeo)
He also covered it with artificial grass, stapled down. It keeps it from being slippery and can still be hosed off and dries quickly.

That said, can't help with the sheep info. Always wanted to try dairy sheep, but figured goats were MORE than enough trouble. Looking forward to hearing about your experiences.
Thanks! I'll see if I can find the plans for that stand. The astro-turf sounds like a great idea.

I actually went for sheep because I thought they'd be less trouble. I figured they would be easier to fence in. I haven't had any troubles that way, but maybe I wouldn't have anyhow. We put up 4' high field fencing all round our place, and around the barn as well. Deer hop right over it; elk, too. The sheep haven't tried it yet, and we haven't seen coyotes inside since then, though I've been assured that coyotes could, if they wanted. Maybe they don't want to, or maybe they can't or at least think they can't. At any rate it seems to be working well.
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Yay, dairy sheep! My neighbor from whom I got my foundation hair sheep, and with whom I often share goat bucks, got dairy sheep. They're way cool.

Two weeks is about right for starting to share milk.

You've gotten great advice here. Get the ewes trained to that stand ASAP.

@Alice In TX/MO is8 so right: sweet feed is not the best choice. Ruminants don't need all that sugar.

A mix of oats/barley, corn in cold weather, some Black Oil sunflower seed (BOSS) is nice.

Your hay sounds good. You could probably get by with a grassier mix, but if they're happy and doing well on what you're providing, and it's plentiful in your area, don't mess with success.

Looking forward to reading all about your adventures in sheep dairying!
Thanks so much! They do seem to love the corn. I'm feeding it to the chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese. (I usually feed them fermented all-flock, but it's wet so it freezes, so...) I started mixing a bit of corn in with the dry all-flock, but the birds ate the corn & ignored the all-flock. Corn is cheaper and easier to find, plus it's been pretty cold, so that's what they're getting at present. The sheep pick delicately all through the straw bedding just to get one or two grains of corn. 😂 It's obviously easier for birds, but worth it to the sheep. I want them to have some, so they won't get sick if an accident happens and they get too much corn. I give them a handful every now and then. They'll be happy to have it in their feed dish, with the other grains.

The sunflower seed is wicked expensive here now, if it's available at all, but it doesn't sound like I need to give them nearly as much grain as I've been doing, so I'll see what I can manage.

The alfalfa mix hay is cheaper here; the pure alfalfa even more-so. I thought thtat was odd, but that's the way it is. I'm not gonna complain.
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Here's our new baby. DH took it the day she was born. I'll have to take the sticker off my iPad camera and get a couple more...
Sheep Fawn Grass Working animal Wood
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I don't know much about sheep dairy but I'm looking forward to learning more. Welcome.
Still trying to figure out the little nuances of this forum. I meant to post the pic as a reply to you, but it doesn't seem to have worked out that way... At any rate, all I have of little Sugar Plum is the one you see here.... above... I think.... 😂
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You're blessed! Alfalfa hay here is $360/ton.
Alas, ours is more... but still less than the grass. We had a really dry year. 😢
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...he lets them graze to the point that his pasture is stripped. His next-door neighbors says by doing this it causes them to develop worms. Is this true?

I'm a new sheep owner, so others here are better qualified to answer your questions, but I'll take a shot on the ones I do know (or at least have an opinion/guess on)...

From what I have read that you have written, and a 10-minute additional internet study brings me to the point of a few questions.
*~7 months old and well before the lambs develop adult teeth is the best time to slaughter/butcher?

I think slaughter time it may be a case of personal preference and economics. If you keep a meat animal too far beyond the point where it stops getting meatier, you lose money because of feed and other expenses. Also, some (like poultry, bull calves) will toughen up. Some will develop flavors you may or may not enjoy. Plus, a larger animal is or can be (from my general experience) more dangerous to keep and also harder to process because of the weight, thickness of bones, etc.

I processed my ram because I just couldn't handle him any more, plus it didn't make sense for us to provide him with what he really needed; a wethered (neutered) buddy and his own separate premises & yard. IMO, he tastes great and while toothsome, isn't tough at all.

*Is ramling meat just as good as eweling meat?

I don't know. I'd probably sell a surplus eweling before I'd process her, esp since dairy stock is hard to find around here.

*What is the treatment for worms?

Fenbendazole and/or Ivermectin (that I know of). Joel Salatin uses Shaklee's Basic H. When I got the sheep, the seller said she was worried about the Ramling. She'd tried Ivermectin and would go with Fenben if he didn't start gaining weight. I believe the two dewormers work on different life stages (live worms vs eggs), but do your own research. I just gave them and everyone else in the barn, water with ~a tsp of Basic H3 per 7 gallon bucket for three days. The difference between Basic H & H2 is that the H2 is concentrated a bit whereas the old Basic H is already diluted. (I had to look pretty hard for that info.) People apparently also add it to their coffee in minute amounts as a wetting agent to get more flavor from the grounds. It won't hurt and may help. At any rate, Rambo started gaining weight right away and was very healthy at the time of his demise.

*Is the wool off of the 7 months old ones plentiful and easily sold to people wanting raw wool?

It's my understanding that many sheep owners end up with copious bags of fleece tucked into corners of their barns and no takers. If you want to sell fleece, do some research as to what kind of wool is desirable to hand crafters. If I hadn't wanted dairy production, I'd have gone for "hair sheep," because they shed every year. The meat is supposed to be better as well. You'll still need to trim hooves, but not needing to shear is a big deal, esp for a very small flock and/or a locale where sheep-keeping is rare, where you might not be able to get shearers to come out. I'll be shearing my girls myself.

*and is a seven-wire alternating ground wire, hot wire system effective when it comes to keeping coyotes out or should the wires be on the outside of the pen to zap the coyotes when they approach the enclosure. (Wires on the inside to keep goats in).

We have a self-installed 4' high field fence around our perimeter and haven't seen any coyotes on the property since we put it up. I'm told coyotes can jump that, but we've been fortunate in that ours apparently prefer not to. Deer & elk make free of it though, and last night elk actually knocked down a large, stout wooden post that's been standing for at least as long as we've had the place. With the ground frozen solid, I'm not quite sure what we'll do to mitigate that before spring comes. We had maybe a hundred through here in the last couple of nights, eating down what little grass was left and leaving lots of fertilizer in its place.

I think your fencing plan sounds amazing, though. Our place is too bumpy for that to work very well. Plus grass & weeds grow up into the perimeter and would short out wires closer to the ground. I'd have to keep it clear with a trimmer because it's too rocky and irregular for any other means. Some ranchers around here top off a plain barbed wire fence with one hot wire, but regulations vary as to what you can do.

For me, just the field fence keeps my two ladies plus the eweling in, no problems, and everyone sleeps secure in the barn. The worst we get are owls, raptors, a weasel 😨 (caught in a live trap INSIDE the chicken yard. 🤷‍♀️ That was one WICKED looking critter!) and a never-ending supply of skunks. Plus the odd bobcat or mountain lion on rare occasions.
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Good to know. People around here do say eweling/ramling. It's awkward to say, so I'm gonna stop now. 😂

I'm sorry, but somebody has to say something...

There are ewe lambs and ram lambs, not ramlings and ewelings.

In goats, however, there are bucklings and doelings.

I know, it's crazy, but that's just the way it is.
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