Dairy Sheep

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by mysticokra, Mar 5, 2004.

  1. mysticokra

    mysticokra Well-Known Member

    Feb 5, 2003
    Estillfork, Alabama
    I was intrigued by a comment about milking sheep. Are there sheep that could be counted on for a quart to a gallon a day? Are they any more trouble than dairy goats? Any one do this on a quasi-commercial basis in the U.S?

  2. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    May 9, 2002
    Some do this on a very comercial scale!! They make their living milking sheep. What's a quart? East Freisan dairy sheep can produce on average 2 litres per day, some a lot more some less. There are some different dairy breed sheep in N America, Lacune, British Dairy sheep, and another besides the EF's I think. A local fellow has Lacunes and they are an impresive breed producing less milk but with higher components. Any sheep can be milked but I think all will have a shorter lactation than goats. (120-180 days with some exceptional sheep doing better than that) Sheep in general are a little more work than goats. There's a dairy sheep co-op in Wisconsin and of coarse the Old Chatam Inn in NY is a pretty serious sheep dairy enterprise.

  3. Hank - Narita

    Hank - Narita Well-Known Member

    Aug 12, 2002
    We are going to a sheep meeting tomorrow regarding forming a co op. Will find out more about milking sheep. My friend wants to get into it too.
  4. Try these two links the first is the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative (WSDC) www.sheepmilk.biz we were just accepted as a member and will be milking about 140 ewes starting in less than a month. The another good one to go to for info is Dairy Sheep of North America (DSANA) www.dsana.org Canada has a budding sheep milk industry as well. I like milking sheep over goats or cows because they also give valuable lambs and the wool, although currently not worth much as a commodity, it is still a valuable resource.
  5. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

    May 11, 2002
    From my book: (Becoming somewhat dated now.)


    Sheep milk is the base for some of the most popular gourmet cheeses sold in the U.S. Almost all of these, over 66 million pounds per year, are imported from Europe. In addition, it can also be used to make soap.

    The general practice is to wean lambs at thirty days and then to milk the ewes an additional 90 to 120 days. Unlike cow milk, sheep milk can be frozen for UPS-type delivery to a cheese plant. Sheep milk produces about twice the volume of a higher quality cheese than the same amount of cow milk due to its high fat content. It sells for up to several dollars per gallon wholesale.

    There are an estimated 100 U.S. dairy sheep operations. One of these is the Stoney Acres Sheep Dairy (www.geocities.com/heartland/fluffs/2479).

    The Spooner Agricultural Research Station’s Dairy Sheep Research Project (c/o College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706) estimates by milking sheep, gross income from a flock can increase 75 percent over just wool and meat production.

    The primary deterrent to development of a sheep milking industry in North America has been the only sheep available were developed to be wool and lamb producers, not dairy breeds. The dairy sheep used in Europe produce significantly more milk per lactation then these breeds, but have been prohibited from being imported due to concerns about also importing various diseases.
    However, Canada adopted European livestock procedures and the initial importing of European dairy sheep breeds from attested herds into Canada began in 1993, with the first importation of crosses into the U.S. in the following year. Researchers have doubled the milk production of the sheep breeds now used in the U.S. by introducing as little as one-quarter cross with the most productive of the European diary sheep breeds. Thus, once these breeds become available in quantity it may provide the stimulus needed to tap this potentially lucrative market.

    In addition to benefiting the dairy sheep industry, increased milk production should also benefit commercial sheep producers since ewes will be able to better nurse their lambs.

    Due to the significantly higher fat content, recipes for cow and sheep (or probably goat) milk cheese are not necessarily interchangeable. Do your research first or you may be disappointed with the results.

    If you are interested in producing your own brand of cheese:

    • Cheese making is taught in some colleges and universities. Among these are Cal Poly/U.C. Davis (805-756-6108); University of Wisconsin (608-263-5144); Utah State University (801-797-3466); University of Guelph, Department of Food Sciences, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, N1G 2W1 and the University of Washington (509-335-7516).

    • Suppliers of cheese making equipment and products include: New England Cheesemaking Supplies, P.O. Box 85, Ashfield, MA 01330-0085 (413-628-3808), Hoegger Supply Company, P.O. Box 331, Fayetteville, GA 30214-0331 (800-221-4628) and Gloryland Cheesemaking Support, P.O. Box 2580, Santa Maria, CA 93457.

    • A periodical is Cheesemaker’s Journal, P.O. Box 216, Northampton, MA 01061-0216 (413-585-5131).

    • One of the many book in this area is Cheesemaking Made Easy: 60 Delicious Varieties by Ricki and Robert Carroll, available from Countryside Classic Books, W11564 State Highway 64, Withee, WI 54498-9323 (800-551-5691) or Storey’s Books, Schoolhouse Road, Pownal, VT 05261.

    There is an excellent article on sheep dairying in the April/May 1999 issue of AgVentures (888-474-6397).

    The national group is the North American Milking Sheep Association, Route 3, Box 10, Hinckley, MN 55037. A cooperative is the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative, N50768 County Road D, Strum WI 54770.

    I understand there is an Internet site on dairy sheep using the keyword of “sheepmilk.” Also, that this is another associated place to obtain sheep milking information: dairysheep-subscribe@onelist.com.

    There is an excellent article on “An Economic Comparison Between a Dairy and Non-Dairy Sheep Operation: in the June 1999 issue of Small Farm Today, 573-687-3525. It concluded dairy sheep are slightly more than twice as profitable as a commercial slaughter lamb operation.

    For further information see:

    • Practical Sheep Dairying: The care and milking of the dairy ewe by Olivia Mills, available from the Dairy Goat Journal, W2997 Market Road, Helenville, WI 53137. (While written in Great Britain, much of the information would apply in North America. I will go as far as to say to not even consider milking sheep until you have read and understand this book cover to cover.)

    • Proceedings: 1989 North American Dairy Sheep Symposium, July 25-28, edited by W. J. Boyland, available from Minnesota Extension Service, University of Minnesota, Coffee Hall, St. Paul, MN 55108.

    • Profitable Milk Production from Sheep, booklet available from U.S. Feed Grains Council, 1400 K Street NW, Suite 1200, Washington, DC 20005 (202-789-0789).

    • Sheep Milking Facility Design. Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope with a first class stamp attached to Professor Boyland (address above). He is probably the leading authority on sheep milking in the U.S.
  6. mysticokra

    mysticokra Well-Known Member

    Feb 5, 2003
    Estillfork, Alabama
    Thanks for the book quote, Ken. When will an updated version be published?

    Will the politics surrounding BSE keep us from importing the dairy sheep from Canada? Does semen fall under the same restrictions?
  7. tim1253

    tim1253 Well-Known Member

    Oct 4, 2002
    East TN
    That's lots of excellent sheep dairy info. on the dairysheep group on Yahoo. Some of the folks there are extremely knowledgeable. I have recently acquired a dairy sheep ram: East Friesian X Lacaunne that I will be breeding to my Dorper X Katahdin ewes to create a hairy dairy breed.

    Knoxville, TN
  8. minnikin1

    minnikin1 Shepherd

    Feb 3, 2003
    Central NY
    HairyDairy!! :haha:
    Sounds like a great name for the enterprise!!
  9. :haha: omg, that is too funny... HAIRYDAIRY!!!
  10. ErikaMay

    ErikaMay Well-Known Member

    Feb 28, 2013
    Funny, I'm doing the OPPOSITE with crossing a Jacob and EF. I want one thats hardy with the more primitive features. I may be crazy but I like horns on my sheep! Helps a bit with the coyotes if they have the guts.
  11. Laura Workman

    Laura Workman (formerly Laura Jensen) Supporter

    May 10, 2002
    Lynnwood, Washington
    I sold a pretty red and white pinto Katahdin ewe last year that birthed twins and triplets and had a bag that would hold a half-gallon easily. Good udder support and, for a sheep, really good teat placement as well. I only sold her because I determined that it didn't make sense for me to keep sheep. Otherwise, I'd planned to train her to the milkstand. She was a seriously milky ewe (twins were 43 and 54 pounds at 63 days), and would have done very nice things for your program!