Separate names with a comma.
Discussion in 'Sheep' started by Eloy, Sep 8, 2004.
Okay, I love sheep cheese. Is anyone out there producing it?
There's little in the N American sheep dairy industry Yves Berger doesn't know. Some of the co-op's farms may know how to get you cheese couried to your door too. Old Chatam Inn is the largest sheep dairy but I couldn't find a link quickly. Lovetree farm would be worth a call too. http://www.lovetreefarmstead.com/home.htm
Thanks for the link Ross, will be taking a look at it.
The only sheep cheese for sale in this area, comes from Spain or Italy. But boy,, is it ever good. Like, Casa de Roma (Italian),, and Manchego (Spanish) cheese.
I guess my question is why there is little domestic production of sheep cheese. I buy pecorino romano and pecorino toscana at an import shop for $5 AND $10 per pound respectively. While I'd love to sample lovetreefarmstead's (whew!) product, I'd need to get an additional job to support my regular habit at their prices (though what they're producing is an entirely different cheese than what I consume, so maybe $35 /lb isn't that bad...)
Perhaps the process is too labor intensive (ergo, expensive) in the US?
I assume, too, that most sheep in the US and Canada are raised for their meat and wool and that only the occasional artisan maintains a dairy (sheep) flock?
Do sheep not lend themselves to mechanical milking?
I made pecorino cheese for 8 years -- I cant stand the stuff! ricotta yes -stinky sheeps cheese no (unless it is really really fresh or really really old)
Here in Italy it cost about10 bucks a pound.
I think pecorino is one of the easiest cheeses to make.... as long as the sheep eat the right things.
I never knew people milked sheep, let alone made CHEESE from the milk! I though they were an all-wool deal (expect for the lambies, everyone knows where some them go :S)
Many of the european countries support their cheesemakers with significant subsidies, even to the point of selling their product on the American market at below cost. That just doesn't happen in the US.
Labor costs are a large part of it, but there are also very large start up costs to making cheese commercially in the US. Equipment cost can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and are very difficult to recoup with a small volume, artisan-type cheese. The economics are set up to benefit the mass production of Velveeta, not small scale traditional cheese.
Take Lovetree, for instance. I know those folks. They are running a two man cheesemaking operation on a small northern Wisconsin farm that any of you would feel at home at, and in spite of getting $35/pound for the cheese, they're not getting rich, by any means. It just costs too much to make the product for there to be much profit.
Oh no, they can be milked mechanically very successfully. They don't give a lot, at least compared to Holstein cattle, of course, but the solids content of sheeps milk is very high compared to cattle and goats, and that gives you a boost in cheese yield.
Also want to add,, a lot of it has to do with tradition.
Greek, Spanish, and many areas in Italy, were raised on sheep cheese and products for centuries.
In the USA everything is made by cow,, we tend to have more land per person, and better and more forage.
Getting the general folks in the USA to change is very hard.
I for one would love to see more sheep dairies producing "normal" sheep cheese, double cream, ice cream,, etc.... (I do not need berries, peppers or what ever to change the flavor of the cheese I eat)
But I doubt it would happen until the market improves.
Until then, like you Eloy, am stuck buying imported sheep cheese.
added note... yes, sheep can be easy to milk. Had a few BHCheviots that had great udders for milking. They are smaller and easier to care for and feed than a cow.
Well we won't get into who has the worst (most) subsidies because as far as sheep milking is concerned its a mute point. It is profitable in Europe and it is here too. We looked into makign artisan cheeses, and at the time it was nearly impossible to afford the equipment (about 10 of those hundred thousand ) to meet the Canadian National Dairy code as enforced here in Ontario. Nutz! Quebec has made provisions so to Alberta, but small scale cheese production in Ontario has been hit and miss. The actual milking equipment isn't that expensive. We've mechanically milked sheep and have equipment to set up a single 12 parlour all stored away. No buyers locally anymore and I doubt we'll want to add processing even if the rules have been modified. We have some other priorities. We've milked Suffolks, Dorsets, Polypay, Rideau Arcott, and North County Cheviot, and of them all only the Chevies were a real chore. Feeding at milking helped keep things moving but I suspect we'd have gotten more milk if we could have fed before milking. There are dairy breeds too, East Friesans, Lacune, British Dairy sheep, and the Rideau is considered a dual purpose breed. It hasn't taken off here (Old Chatam is the biggest sheep dairy in N America) because marketing is still targeting the niche premium market, and we don't have large flocks of dairy animals. Its the place to start all right but it's a long journey to match the European experience and there is stiff international competition from places like NZ who may well dominate the N American market fro sheep's milk cheese. And they have no ag subsidies at all! I can buy some Ontario made sheep's milk cheese but I'm in Ottawa and one of those premium markets needed to sell the stuff.
Ross,, if you made normal sheep cheese,, I would buy it in a heart beat.
Just wish I could get another thousand people together to buy your products to make it worth while for you!!
I really really don't want to have to make cheese to sell milk. Mostly because you can only do so much well with one lifetime, and partly because the Govt. could change the rules monthly for cheese production. (like they did to my neighbor with the cheese factory) Keeps me out of a lot of things like raising guardian animals, growing all my grain etc. Free's me up to do things I'm interested in. Normal cheese is like a Cheddar? When I did sell milk it went to make a cheedar style and yes it was excellent.
Okay, so I'm hearing cost of equipment is high(start-up) or maybe not; possibly competing with subsidized producers; lack of effective marketing; making it is a stinky process....
Does NZ really have a sheep cheese market? I've never seen any. Been to NZ though where the sheep out number the people by a few magnitudes, so it makes sense.
I suppose the thing to do would be to visit Italy and see how they do it. Good excuse to go anyway.
Back to the stink thing, have you smelled some of the cheeses the French produce with cows milk?
Jock Allison is a dairy sheep researcher in NZ and offered to send out the NZ dairy sheep manual for about $100. I got one and it was very complete right down tot eh marketing of sheep's milk products. This is one reason i say the NZlanders could take over the N American market. So much effort goes intot he marketing of their sheep products that before they even start they're three or four steps ahead of everyone else with a solid yet adaptable plan. My hat is certainly off to them in that regard. They have a similar problem with dairy sheep numbers and farmer skill set but once they really get going watch out. As far as French cheese goes the French are the world leaders in sheep's milk cheese production last I heard. Read somewhere that more head of sheep are milked than cattle all tallied up, world wide.
We milk our flock of East Freisians for the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Coop. We are fortunate to be near enough to them so our milk is picked up fresh and frozen. In 2004 we milked about 120 ewes in 2005 it should be around 190. We really enjoy it.
We never got any govt$$ for cheese.
For the sheep yes- for planting grains yes.
If you want to do it right it is very expensive to set up.
I suppose some people can get rich on cheesemaking but you have to have a lot of money to start it all up.
We had a very small scale cheesemaking biz- the high season was about 3 kilos of cheese per day.
It is a lot of work and very easy to screw up-- for example if the sheep eat too much of a certain kind of grass .. or if a fly gets into your cheese room (ick- cheese with worms)
Sheeps milk makes great yogurt and the only real ricotta (in my opinion ) is with sheeps milk.
Cows milk - 10 liters milk = 1 kilo cheese
goats milk - 15 liters milk = 1 kilo cheese
sheeps milk- 6 liters milk = 1 kilo cheese