Have any of you hand milked dairy sheep? I have two Lacaunes that are due to lamb in June, and I'm planning on training them to the stanchion and hopefully milking them. This will be their first lambing. I am thinking of keeping the lambs on for at least two or three months, and then possibly continuing milking after that. When is a good time to begin milking them? Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks! Eden
Hey Eden! You have pure Lacaunes? Cool! I will be VERY interested in talking further with you. I'm interested in dairy sheep, too, but we live down in the hot and buggy south of Texas. So...I think I'm going to have to work into dairy sheep crossed with our native, parasite resistant Gulf Coast Native sheep.
I've located a GCN breeder just north of me and am going to see her stock next week. She has one adult sheep and two lambs for sale, and I'm seriously thinking of buying them. I want to add diversity to our pasture rotation for "sanitizing" the pastures, and have read that you can run 1 sheep for every 1 cow without putting any extra pressure on your grass. I also understand that the GCN hardiness makes them a good sheep with whom to learn southern shepherding. IF we all work well together, I'm very interested in adding in dairy blood to increase these girls lactation volume and duration. From what I understand, GCNs only give about a pint a day over an 8 week lactation. However, I understand that between 25 and 50% dairy blood at least doubles their milk volume and trebles or quadruples their persistence. Also, apparently their milk can be frozen for up to a year with no loss in cheese making quality, so you can save up milk until you have enough to do a batch of cheese. I think it's going to be a real juggling act for us down here...milk quantity vs. parasites/heat. I gather that the pure dairy sheep DON'T do well this far south.
I've found a very interesting commercial sheep dairy, Green Dirt Farm (Sarah Hoffmann [email@example.com]) in Missouri that runs GCNs, Dairy, and crosses (mostly EF, with some Laucaune, I gather). They don't milk their GCNs, but use them in crosses to increase heat tolerance/parasite resistance. They make and sell wonderful cheeses, and of course lamb (yum!), at their local area farmer's markets and restaurants. Let me copy in a few quotes from Sarah's wonderfully informative letter...
"I strongly suggest that you join the dairy sheep group and the Gulf Coast sheep group on Yahoo. There are many others on both those sites who can help you get the advice you need. Two good books to get are books on the care of lambs and ewes by Laura Lawson."
"Our dairy sheep give on average 2.5lbs of milk per day (8.6 lbs/gallon of milk) GC sheep can be expected to give about 1-1.5lbs/day (about 1 pint) Sheep in general have a very high proportion of milk solids, so make much more cheese per volume than cows milk. I have not yet done testing to see if the GC have higher milk solids than our EF/Lacaune cross dairy sheep. We use both F1 crosses from the dam side and the sire side (we have both GC rams and ewes, and dairy rams and ewes). I have not noticed a difference between the two. We do not find our dairy ewes to be flighty at all. They are, in fact, quite tame (which is, at least in part, a requirement for good milking ability- they have to be able to relax and let down and they have to be willing to come into the parlor) GC sheep, on the other hand, can be very wild by comparison. Since they are a breed which historically were managed very little so that natural selection did most of the management, it is not surprising that their temperaments are more wild. That said, it is amazing how much careful kind handling and hand feeding improves a wild temperament."
I hope Sarah's information helps. I need to join those Yahoo groups, only I seem to have a real dislike of Yahoo, in general. Sigh. This may force me to overcome my dislike...ugh.
I know that I haven't answered your question directly, but hope I've pointed you in the direction of people and places you may get your answers. I'd REALLY appreciate it if you'd post anything you learn back here so I can learn, too. You are going to be a bit further down the same road I'd like to travel, so let's keep in touch, ok? ;D
Last Edit: Mar 20, 2009 6:05:49 GMT -5 by catherine
The lambs are due in April?! AWESOME! Remember...post photos?! That's that much sooner to find out how all this sheep dairying works! Did you read the article on sheep dairying in one of the recent Stockman Grass Farmer magazines? It was a VERY interesting discussion of how profitable a sheep dairy can be, though on a bit bigger scale than we can manage here, I'm afraid.
Well, we bought our first two ewes, a Mama and baby pair of Gulf Coast Natives. They will stay on their home farm until May so that the Mother ewe can be bred by the new ram that the owner's will be getting. That suits me fine, as I don't yet have a flock for them to join, here on our place. We went over to see them yesterday, and the Mama ewe looks like she's got a nice udder, but she isn't tame at all, yet. Her lamb is the next to youngest of 10 lambs, but she's next to biggest in size, maybe because of all that milk. I'm hopeful that once they come to our place, some close penning and food treats may help with taming. Please, do let me know what works in the training ewes to stanchion stuff, ok? Thanks! ;D
Last Edit: Apr 2, 2009 6:50:28 GMT -5 by catherine
Post by friesianmilk on May 5, 2009 16:41:13 GMT -5
Did your lacuane's lamb?
I have hand milked EF in the past. (I greatly prefer handmilking sheep to cows right now...don't tell the cow).
DH built a stanchion much like the one in Olivia Mills book and it works excellent. Your plan of weaning at 60-90 day's should work fine. You can start training them to the stanchion whenever. Training the sheep to the stanchion was very similar to the cow. They are a bit easier to "place" in the stanchion as well if needed. =)
Katy Boxholm, Iowa Mom to 2 beautiful kids, and one on the way! Bossy Belle (aka "Cow", Grade Holstein Rosie (aka "Calf"), Holstein/Angus calf
I know this thread is a bit older... but still, maybe some of you who are milking sheep might still respond?
I've got an EF cross ewe, Honey, who I bought 2 years ago with the intentions of milking for home cheesemaking. Honey is so darn dominiant, aggressive, and flighty/nervous that I've never bothered - she just intimidates me a bit too much. She tries to kill the dogs every chance she gets, she's really big, and she's very smart.
I spent the first year taming her - she comes every time I call her and wants her pets and treats. But that is it - every time I've tried to put a halter/rope on her she utterly panics. I swear, even the ram is intimidated by her.
Her udder bags up so big that the vet always has a fit about it ('did you cross that ewe with a holstein?') and she clearly has a ton of milk - her twin lambs both were over 80 lbs about 10 weeks post-birth. She accepts their nursing for over 6 months and only stops when it's time for breeding.
I'm kinda resigned to not milking her but get hopeful and optimistic every once in awhile. Any ideas? Would you bother to try? I am keeping her daughter with hopes of trying to milk train her in the spring next year.
Oh wow...sounds like she's got the volume and the persistence in milk that you're looking for. Ya, my two thoughts would be to either figure out a super sturdy stanchion for her, or train up her daughters. We are very new to sheep, and have a very shy and skittish ewe. She apparently makes loads of milk, but you can't get near her. We also have her daughter, who is much friendlier. I've been hoping we can milk train the ewe this next lambing, but if that does't work out, we'll just have to keep and tame her lovely daughters. Please do let us know how things work out???
You posts on dairy sheep were very interesting. My husband and I are researching the possiblity of starting a sheep dairy in Alabama. We are wondering if you ever successfully bread a GC sheep with a Lacaune? That is what we are thinking of try too. We are still a year or so away from starting to buy some "practice sheep." Are the GC sheep just too wild to milk? Thanks! Ana
Post by WoodSpryte Farm/Tiffany on Nov 17, 2010 8:02:31 GMT -5
I have milked out FInn X and finns. Getting about 1 gallon a day from the Finn X. we have added in a high producing EF milk sheep ram to cross into these girls. If you really want to milk, the best way is to pull the lambs at 1-2 days and begin. before lambing is the best time to start them on the stanchion, if you have not already. get a nice big bowl of grain, since they will be starting to be grained about 6 weeks prior to lambing. once they figure out that is the feed, they will run right up and wait for the grain. This is another reason for pulling lambs. If you bottle feed the ewes espically, they are MUCH easier to handle. so if you plan to keep any of them for milking prospects, this is nearly imperative for a nice acting easy to handle milker. Yes dam raised grow faster, but they also remain fairly leary of humans to a point, they are a flock animal and if not accustomed to people, this will make them nervouse. I actually enjoy milking the sheep and goats. its just as relaxing as milking the cow, if you dont have to give chase daily, wrestle them to the stand and fight to milk them. 15 years of goat milking and this is the best way I have found. You can maybe leave the rams with the ewes, if you dont want to bottle feed them all. Just my 32 cents..
Tiffany Rich Wife, Mom of 2 army soldiers, and an 10 yo, 13 layers, 2 dogs, beared dragon, and Miss Clarice, Reba , Ruby, Ruthie, Porter & Chuck the steers,Doe Doe and Stella. WoodSpryte Farm Finnsheep & Gourmet Garlic www.woodsprytefarmfinnsheep.webs.com
Hi Tianita! Welcome to the KFC! I'm very sorry that I've been so long getting back to you. Life has been on overdrive around here lately, and this is the first I've been on the KFC in ages.
About your questions, well, we're experimenting here, too. We've got a small flock of 5 GCs, and yes, I very much would like to cross in some dairy blood. This last Spring, we were getting about a pint of milk OAD from our Mama Ewe and another pint from her daughter while sharing milk with their lambs on a 12 hour separation. So, I'd think we'd probably get more like 2-3 pints a day from each, if we weaned off the lambs. That's actually much better than I was expecting, based on what Sarah at Green Dirt Farm told me. So, I'm pleased, so far.
I wanted to learn about sheperding with just a few animals, to see if we liked sheep and sheep's milk or not. I also wanted to make our mistakes on low care critters. These GC sheep seem to be especially worm resistant, as advertised. However, it seems that their crosses lose a good bit of that resistance. Liz, here on the KFC, bought some GCs and a couple of GCx meat sheep. She was worming her's regularly, and lost one of the meat crosses to barber pole worm. We have only occasionally used some herbal wormer with our sheep and goats, and they have nice pink eye lids and seem very healthy. I know that several universities have been running GC flocks for 30 odd years with absolutely no wormers, and that was something that I was esp. attracted to, here in hot, humid and buggy ole' Texas. I do think that rotational grazing helps with this, constantly moving animals away from their parasite load.
We've now been through one lambing and milking season and are anticipating our second. I would say that the milk is awesome for cheese (sweet, thick, rich, makes great cheese!). Our older ewe is EXTREMELY flighty. She's the only mama who managed to survive unscathed from not just one but two dog attacks on her home farm, and she was the only one who kept her lamb safe, too. These sheep had never been milked before, and were seldom handled. So, I'll grant you that the old girl has some call to be skittish. She was absolutely fine on the stanchion, and gave more milk than her first freshner daughter, but that was to be expected. However, trying to get her onto the stanchion was like trying to reign in eagles! She would sproink off a fence and come flying down on us out of the sun like a Japanese fighter plane! Once caught, she was fine, but omg, the catching was something else! Her daughter was much easier to deal with, but still nothing nearly as easy going as the cows or goats. I expect that the granddaughter will be even easier to handle. However, both ewes were great on the stand, as both let down just fine and stood totally still while they were milked. I have to warn you that milking a sheep is a bit like stripping slightly greasy pencil erasers...they have tiny little teats, but they are VERY elastic! lol. Oh, and I think our girls stayed in milk for at least 3 months, and would probably have gone longer if we'd kept at them.
I can really see what Woodspryte means about hand rearing the daughters, if you intend to milk them. In general, I am against bottle babies, because they tend to treat humans like their herd, but a sheep is a lot smaller and less able to hurt you than a cow. I think we'll try hand rearing any girls we get this spring and report back. We had two lambs last spring, a boy and a girl. Of the two, the boy is by far the friendlier, as is his Dad, from whom we've never had any hint of aggression or flightiness, though we always keep an eye on him when we're in the pen. The boys will come up for petting though, which none of the girls would dream of doing. I'm hoping that his temperment is seriously heritable!!!
Yes, I want to try crossing in some EF or Laucaune dairy blood, someday. We were too preoccupied with other things during breeding season to mess with it, this year. I'm hoping we'll have our act more together next year to give it a try. These GCs are supposed to be able to have 3 lambings in 2 years, but we've not yet seen that, nor has the flock from which we bought our ewes. That home flock DID appear to have udder development and they all seemed to be pregnant this fall (the owner even pre-sold some lambs), and there was great excitement all around, but either the flock all had false pregnancies, or they all slipped their lambs, or coyotes got the babies in the night. One way or another, there were no lambs seen, sadly.
I'd originally intended to purchase a new 50/50 percentage GC/dairy ram lamb from Green Dirt Farm, once we felt more confident at sheperding. I'd very much like to improve the amount of milk our ewes give, without loosing too much of the parasite resistance, so I thought having 75% GC/25% dairy ewes might be a good first step. I really like not having to use chemical wormers on our place, as I love our dung beetles and worms so much. I'd still like to get such a fella, but I've heard rumors that they are no longer crossing GC with dairy, and have opted to go the pure dairy route. I need to give Sarah a phone call and see if she could help me locate a nice boy to be raising up for next year.
So, to cut my novel short, we're continuing this experiment in dairy sheep. So far, we've milked two ewes and like the milk. We plan to do more taming with future ewe lambs and see if we enjoy the tamer animals more. Then we hope to bring in some percentage dairy blood to try to increase quantity and persistence in lactation without creating fragile sheep. There are a number of chefs in the Houston area that are drooling at the thought of possibly being able to get either "LOCAL sheeps' milk cheese" or "LOCAL sheeps' milk" to make their own cheeses, as there just isn't anyone else that's doing it around here.
Good luck with your own project, and please do post what works and/or doesn't work for you. Keeping sheep in the South is a real challenge, but if we can make it work, we're trailblazing pioneers and then...hmmm!?!?! ;D
Last Edit: Dec 7, 2010 10:11:28 GMT -5 by catherine
Equipment: 2-3 people who are willing to help. 1 strong halter 1 even stronger post preferably with a wall next to it 1 small bucket 1 bigger bucket
Corner the booger and get a halter on her - remember if she isn't halter trained to hold onto the head. If she tries to over power you push that nose up until she stops - she will but will probably try to go backwards. Move her over to the post and tie her firmly with as little lead left as possible - you MUST use a slip knot incase she does something truly stupid. Leave her be for as long as it takes for her to calm down and stop fighting the halter - always be near by because she can do something stupid.
Next move calmly towards the ewe so she can see you. Pet and talk to her. If she is okay with that introduce the helpers. Then have them move to push the ewe against the wall so she cannot move. One at the sholder and if she is truly bad one at the hips. She will fight this so hanging onto the wall is probably a good idea. Milk into the small bucket and transfer into the big bucket so that when she knocks you over you don't loose everything. Switch sides if needed.
I did this to my 250+ lb suffolk ewe her first year lambing because she didn't accept one of her lambs so I fed it her milk and then she took. After 3 days of milking I was down to 1 helper who stood by the sholder and she had stopped kicking at me. If I had continued I would have worked it until she let only me milk her and then started in on the stand. This year she produced too much colostrum and was engourged so I had to milk her again (after two years off) and she only required one helper to reminder her of her manners.
Post by ticketyboo on May 13, 2011 14:12:00 GMT -5
I agree that it's best to pull the lambs and bottle feed. Or better yet with just a couple/few, you can leave the lambs on during the day and take them off overnight so you only milk 1x/day and the lambs are still nursing on their own. We started out with that, but once our flock tripled, chasing 20+ lambs around was just insane, as well as keeping everyone straight - "Oh this sheep is getting milked 2x/day, this one only 1x/day, and she has twins" etc. Way too confusing.
I would also select stock that have large teats, these are different than the typical Lacaune or EF dairy sheep. We only have a few that would be suitable for hand milking, the rest are great for machine milking but even just pre-stripping is ridiculous. And collecting colostrum? It's just silly using finger tips lol! If you manage them well, you can plan to average out 1qt per day per sheep for a regular lactation length (if you take the lambs off). If you leave the lambs on, they can easily be weaned from 3-6wks of age, once they are well started on solids.
Those of you who want to cross something low-maintenance into a dairy breed, try dorpers. I am milking two, one was a purely paddock sheep before I got her as an adult and the other is her daughter, dam raised. The volume is good for a non-dairy sheep and they get placid very quickly, plus have the low care features.
There is a photo in this section somewhere, our stanchion is a feed tub and some sides to keep her udder within reach, they aren't tied or headbaled at all.
And then someone has to reply to this as I seem to be the last responder on most of these recent threads, you can't let me be the threadkiller ;-D
Big Moo (dexter cow), Little Moo (dexter steer), Jack (lowline steer), Ziggy (lowline x dexter steer), Flora, Di & Daphne (lowline cows), Sieka (lowline x jersey heifer), Erg (lowline calf). A dozen sheep (dorper and awassi x white dorper), two cats, Willy the merino lamb and Alvin & Poppy the Amazing Maremmas.
This book is intended as an inspirational manual for keeping a family milk cow. A lifetime of practical experience has been bound into one volume. Practical advice for the everyday and procedures for cow emergencies. Plus, answers to FAQ's like, 'Should you get a cow?' and 'How Much Space do I need?'