Dairy sheep

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by Faith Hope, Dec 11, 2011.

  1. Faith Hope

    Faith Hope Songster

    Nov 25, 2009
    We are doing some research. We are thinking of adding some sheep to our little farm. We would want the sheep for milk, meat, and probably wool. Here are some questions:

    1. Have you ever tasted sheep's milk? Did you like it? How different is it from cow's milk?

    2. Which breeds would be good for a dual purpose breed? (-- milk is the most important factor. ie the tast of the milk not the quantity.)

    There are probably other questions that I will come up with as we continue our research, but we will start with these.

    Thanks so much for any advice.

  2. bock

    bock Songster

    Oct 10, 2008
    Northern CA
    I'm not much of a help, but have tasted sheep yogurt from Bellwether farms. It tasted a lot different then cow's milk to me, I thought it was pretty good. I have been thinking about milk goats, or even sheep in the future too. Here is their webpage: http://www.bellwetherfarms.com/sheeps-milk-yogurt-/
  3. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Crowing

    Mar 31, 2008
    Grifton NC
    Which breeds would be good for a dual purpose breed?

    East Fresians produce the most milk.

    Most other breeds aren't worth milking​
    1 person likes this.
  4. zzGypsy

    zzGypsy Songster

    Aug 8, 2011
    sheep milk is my favorite! we have sheep for wool, dairy, meat, and goats (lamanchas) for dairy and will be cross breeding for meat, and have had a dairy cow as well...
    sheep milk is thicker, sweeter, creamier. PERFECT for coffee or cereal, but a bit rich for just drinking. kind of like sweetend half and half. makes aMAZing butter... milk from our cow makes butter that tastes like butter. so does milk from the goats. sheep milk butter tastes like "now THAT'S what butter should taste like!" if you're going to make sheep butter on a regular basis, you'll want a cream separator.

    there are no real tri-purpose sheep breeds, although many breeds can be milked they don't produce great quantities, even by sheep standards. there are individual exceptions, I've got one ewe with no dairy bloodlines who produces like the dairy girls, but she's quite unusual.

    so here's the thing with dairy sheep... they're really hard to hand milk. they've got little teats and they're half way up the udder (designed for suction, not for gravity feed) so it's hard to get them milked all the way down. and if you don't get them milked all the way down, they go out of milk very easily. they typically have no more than 6 months in-milk time, best I've been able to get is 4 months. I bought a milking machine so I can (hopefully) keep them in milk longer this year. they also produce considerably less milk than a dairy goat.

    we've got Lacouna / East Fresian crosses (full dairy), and 1st and 2nd generation daughters from them. there is a definite drop off in production as the dairy genetics thin down, but the second generation crosses are still milkier than the non-dairy lines. the rest of our bloodline is merino / balwin welsh mountain / romney / CVM. dairy sheep are NOT big on meat production, although our 1/2 and 1/4 dairy lambs make a nice sized, fast growing, marketable, and excellently tasty market lamb. dairy sheep have a medium grade wool, and produce a lot less of it than our other sheep. 1/4 dairy cross lambs are making a lot more wool, but we've not been able to refine the grade much. we're looking at bringing in a full blood merino ram to see if we can improve the wool on our crosses.

    if what you're wanting is good quality milk in larger quantity for the amount of feed, go with dairy goats. we find the lamancha milk is not at all goaty (until right before it turns), and the ease of milking and volume is much better than the sheep. still, we keep enough dairy sheep for coffee and cereal, and hopefully with the machine, we'll be able to get enough milk for cheese too.
    1 person likes this.
  5. Faith Hope

    Faith Hope Songster

    Nov 25, 2009
    Thanks for all the advice so far. We are just starting our research, so everything you all have said is very helpful.

    zzGypsy: Do you keep your goats and sheep together? I suppose we could have a few of each. Will goats eat in a pasture like sheep? How difficult is it to find a good dairy sheep? I am suspecting that is going to be the most difficult part.

  6. punk-a-doodle

    punk-a-doodle Songster

    Apr 15, 2011
    Now I want a dairy sheep. Thanks guys. [​IMG]
  7. Stacykins

    Stacykins Crowing

    Jan 19, 2011
    Escanaba, MI
    Quote:Goats are more browsers than grazers. They prefer shrubbery and other plants rather than grass. Which is why they are great 'bushwhackers' and are used to clear overgrown land sometimes.
  8. zzGypsy

    zzGypsy Songster

    Aug 8, 2011
    yes you can keep them together. we have not in the past, mostly because our sheep are trained to electric fence, and our goats were not. there are the usual issues... if you have both a buck and a ram in the same field, you may have issues, or you may not. some groups get on fine, other may take a while or may not ever. my first pair of goats were pretty sure that goats are what sheep have for lunch... couldn't keep them in the same pen, no matter the 6 ft fence, the goats were 1-leap-over-the-fence, eyes as big as saucers and running for the hills. my current herd & flock share a fence line so they're not naturally terrified. where we have just moved to, they'll be sharing a pasture, once they arrive later this month.

    there are some feeding situtations to be addressed. goat minerals, supplement blocks and pellet ration are too high in copper for sheep, possibly lethal over time, so depending on your type of feeding arrangement they may have to be separated for feeding. they will both graze, but as noted above, sheep graze then browse, and goats browse and then graze. my goats generally prefer leaves and branches to good grass hay, although alfafa trumps both. sheep and goats can both strip the bark from your trees. there are some poisonous plants that sheep or goats are more reactive to, but in general they can eat the same things.

    how difficult to find... that depends on where you are. there's one sheep dairy in CA and they don't always sell ewe lambs... just depends on what they're doing with the size of their flock. some of the northern states have sheep dairies, and I know there's at least one in maine. there is an increase in interest right now in dairy sheep, so availability may be changing.

    what area are you in?

    as far as "good" dairy sheep, I'd definitely be buying from a production dairy... they track production, know what bloodlines are producing, and breed for both health and milk production. they won't be cheap, but you'll get good stock. you might also ask at what age they start to rotate out production ewes. you may be able to buy ewes that are past their peak production years, but still have good or fair production and can make you lots of lovely dairy cross lambs.

    we've found the dairy line ewes typically twin and triplet fairly often. with triplets, we watch to see if one of the lambs is less competitive, and if there's one that's not keeping up, we bottle supplement that lamb, but we leave all three with the ewe. dairly ewes will make enough for three lambs, but sometimes two of them are hogging the milk [​IMG]

    the dairy ewes are good moms, can count to three (some of our other sheep have trouble counting two lambs) and lamb easily. you will need to provide some high-calorie and high-calcium feed while they're in milk, they do lose condition more than our other sheep while lactating, probably because they're producing so much more milk.

    did I get all your questions?
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2011
  9. Faith Hope

    Faith Hope Songster

    Nov 25, 2009
    Thanks so much for all of this information. I am just soaking it up!

    I think you have answered my questions so far. I am sure I will come up with more.

    My husband is planning on building them some housing, so my job is to research and find out what we will need as well as the breeds etc.

    We are in the Midwest -- about half way between St. Louis and Springfield, Illinois.

    I really appreciate all the advice.

  10. watchdogps

    watchdogps Songster

    Jun 4, 2011
    Central Ohio
    Icelandics are considered a tri purpose breed. Its what I want. There's a very nice breeder in Michigan, the farm is called The Lavender Fleece. I went there and was very impressed. The sheep are also a mid size and pretty easy to handle, which was important to me since I don't have extensive livestock experience.
    1 person likes this.

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