I love my milking Sheep. If I had to choose between owning a good milking sheep or a goat, I am ALWAYS going to pick my sheep.
While the volume is not as much as a dairy goat, the fact that sheep milk has such a larger amount of proteins, it does not matter.. you will still get the same amount of rich creamy yogurt, amazing Ice cream, outstanding soft farmers Cheese or Hard Feta Cheese in a lovely salt brine. I even have skimmed cream off the top and made sheep butter.
The best part, your sheep ram does not stink or pee on himself like a goat buck will.. Not having that stink around is huge to me..
Having said that, I keep ending up with goats over the years lol.. I think its because I love having a goat or two on the farm. There is times where I think I should just get a nice weather and train it as a hauling/pack/cart boy just so I have one on the farm..
The biggest issue with having milking girls is that you need to milk twice a day ideally which means that you are after the first milking, pulling the babies to be bottle feed or you are milking once a day and co-sharing with the baby or babies.
I do tend to co-share most of the time, it works well, once the babies get to be weaning size, I can move over to full time milking for the rest of the milking season. I have always hand milked the girls and this works well for me.. I started hand milking and having my own goats at the age of 8 so its muscle memory to me.
However it locks me to the farm in a crazy way because hubby does not milk well, he tries and it never works.. and I can not teach him a way that gets the job done.. We have tried to work on this for years and nope!
This year we are taking our “honeymoon 20 years later” and we will have a full time live on the farm sitter for the two weeks we are gone. This means that either I need to find a work around for the milking and or have a VERY short milking season and or buy a new milker to bring in after I am back..
Buy a auto milker.. yup.. after 15 years of milking by hand on the farm, I am now the proud owner of a fancy steel goat/sheep two teat only plug in power milker with pulse built in.
I have not had anyone freshen so I can’t give any thoughts on how it works yet or on how interesting it will be to train the girls to it. I will have to change a number of things. I normally milk on a stand in the big barn but I will have to pull the house milking ewe out of the main flock and set up the milking area in the Croft as the Croft has power and the Big Barn does not.
No sheep likes to live alone and I can’t keep her lambs with her.. this means that I will need to have two house milk ewes this year so they can be their own little flock of two and that I will have bottle babies.
Still I want to have more freedom this year and in the coming years and this will allow me to have someone come in to do chores now and again. It will allow me to go away for a couple days to seminars and have hubby do the milking while I am gone. and it will allow my farm sitter to milk while I am gone.
Do you still milk by hand? or do you have a powered milker?
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J > This is full of interest – I’m going to have to read it again to glean as much understanding about keeping milking ewes and what the implications are for workload – what the commitment is. We have been unable to commit to a cow – even something small like a Dexter or Kerry – because there would be too much milk for D and I to cope with. And anyway, after getting accustomed to Roncal cheeses (sheep milk), and raw sheep milk, keeping a milking ewe is something we’d really like to consider.
If you use the search button on my main website and put in milking sheep, it will pull up a number of posts I have written about this subject over the years. Having said that I will be talking about it a good amount this year as well. It should take a lot less time now given the auto power milk machine, I hope.. I am the same, I had a cow.. way to much milk.. I have had a number of milk goats, lovely girls but I am not fond of the goats milk or the cheese as much as I am the sheep milk.. while you would find it to rich to drink as its.. its delightful with a bit of water, outstanding for cooking and its amazing for making yogurts, soft cheeses and so much more.
We have had milk cows, goats, and sheep over the years. Our favorite milk is definitely the sheep’s milk, but the small amount and short season doesn’t work well for a family of 7, so it is more of a special treat than a real source of milk for us. We don’t have any milk animals right now, but have been discussing getting back into it. We have always milked by hand, but with this new discussion of getting back into it we have been discussing getting a milk machine to give us more flexibility and freedom like you said. I will be very interested to hear about how you like your machine, pros/cons, etc once you try it out.
Hi Willowcreek, I will for sure be doing reviews. I can see it being a issue for family of seven.. but I do have a question ,when my milk sheep is in full go.. she can give a gallon or very close to a gallon per milking and then she settles down to a quart of milk 2x a day.. and will stay there for months.. Half a Gallon of sheep milk daily works really well for a family of two. I have worked hard to add in really milky lines.. at first I worked with the hair sheep that just had a great bag, teat placement and I got about half a gallon.. then I crossed over to a crazy milky line in Icelandic Sheep from a female line that had 3 or 4 lambs and could provide enough milk for all.. and the next two gens bumped it up nicely.. I am coming in on year two of king who comes from a Sheep Milk farm.. that’s what they do for a living and their lines not only should bump the amount a tiny amount but should really lengthen the amount of time they will hold at a the longer lactation, I really wish that we could just find a really great breeder or breeders that bred and focused on Milking Sheep, Instead I have spent 14 years working towards it.. I have a yearling coming online this year that I have very high hopes for and a two year old that will have her first year of joining the milk line. I will let you know how her rates are.. I would love to hear more about what yours were and breeds etc.
We never got milk lines. We were going to work that way and breed it in like you, but life has kept that from happening. We had a Lincoln Longwool that would give us a little over a quart a day. And she was so docile and stood beautifully for milking without even a stanchion. But then she didn’t take (pregnancy) two years in a row so we go rid of her because we need our ewes to be productive since we are so limited on space.
I would like to get a dairy line ewe in the future and see what we can do with her. We know a breeder of Icelandic, but I don’t think they focus at all on milk production, it is just for the wool. So I am not sure if that would be good or if we should try to find actual dairy lines. I know there is a sheep dairy about 4-5 hours from us, but when I looked into buying a sheep from them many years ago the prices were twice as much as fine wool breeds.
The milk really does taste the best though! I will enjoy watching how your lines go…maybe someday we can come get one from you – is it easy to get sheep across the border? 😉
I milked my goats by hand….the beauty of goats and sheep – they’re quick to milk. Hubby and I agreed to NOT have a milk cow until one of us was home full time ….. but the best laid plans and so on. Hubby insisted he would be able to milk the cow (how hard could it be? He said). No dice. I milked that cow for ten months straight – every time I tried to teach him, he couldn’t get a drop from her. I have carpal tunnel in both my hands, milking was misery – but we women do what we gotta do. I told him that next time the cow freshened, he either learned to milk – or he could buy a surge milker.
On her next freshening, she had so much milk it literally poured on the ground when she walked. Hubby comes in one day to ask if I’m coming out to milk…..nope. He took the bucket out and lo and behold, returned with milk. 😁
Three years later and we now have a second Jersey freshening soon. We also have a used surge milker that needs a small repair which he will be using, and an ‘inside’ heated milking parlour! 😂
I figure it’s an equal enough division of labor, I deal with the milk once it’s in the house.
You are right though, in that we have never been able to be off farm together during milking season.
Yup, I wish. Hubby once swears he spent almost 2 hours with my most kind sweetest milker in the world that didn’t kick the crap out of him and got like 4 oz out of her.. she was so full when I got home, I had to milk her out right away, and I only missed the one milking.. wow.. your girl has lots of milk.. heated milking area.. ah.. well at least mine will be out of the wind, have lights and such, I guess I could hang a red infer heater in the corner that only comes on while I am using the area, it would chase the chill pretty fast.. hmmm not a bad thought really.
I think hubby was tired of frozen hands. Basically he renovated a portion of the barn to bring them inside – we have a jacketed wood heater in there which he’s run ducting from, attaches a small fan to the back of the heater and blows heat to the milking area. But yeah – milking in the outside parlour was hard on my hands too.
We hand milk and have Fresian sheep (with a little dorset) thrown in. We generally milk just once/day (so we can have a life outside the farm) and get about a qt/ewe so we have enough for our family of 4. We often make ice cream with the milk and it is wonderful. I would like to do more cheeses, and, butter sounds amazing, can you tell us more about that!?! I am in upstate NY if anyone is looking for milking lambs come spring.
I have never used a power milker. I’ve milked cows and goats by hand and I’ve used a small suction milker owned by friends who I farm sit for when they go away. The suction milker is kinda neat, but has to be cleaned thoroughly. I think that, unless I had a lot of milking to do, I would prefer to hand milk.
Since I don’t have goats anymore, I guess the point is moot. 🙂
Hope you have fun on your honeymoon!
I have never used one either, so there will be a learning curve for sure, but I am one of those that really cleans her milking buckets and such and I do not think that what I got will be that much harder to clean with the brushes that it came with. I will just need to make sure its done correctly. I am hoping that with the faster timing that I can increase my milking to two girls this year. I am wanting to put up a good amount of cheese in the freezer and a good amount of feta in brine.
I’ve had both dairy goats and hair sheep. I only milked the goats but having had both I can say that the sheep are so much easier on fences than goats are. My hubby does not milk, period, so I can’t go anywhere during milking season either.
Its funny that so many of us have non-milking hubbies.. I agree. they are so much easier on fences that’s for sure.. while I do understand in larger numbers they can be more “ah flock” but I find with the numbers I have that they really let themselves shine though. I do miss a few of my girls that were really friendly, I need to work with a few of the younger girls and connect with them this year.
We have a milk cow and I am learning how to make cheese with the milk. All too often I see a recipe that requires sheep milk, and I end up dreaming of one day having sheep. Unfortunately, I would want wool sheep, and we just can’t have them here with our heat and humidity. I’ll just have to keep revisiting this post to live vicariously through you, Valerie!!!
I have one main wool sheep, I sometimes have two, I use their wool in the garden mainly with a bit of felting on soaps at times, but I love my hair sheep.. they have so much to offer a homesteader, I will need to do a post soon on why hair sheep are the better choice for the small holder.. I can talk about my sheep all day long, they are one of my favorite critters on the farm. I will be talking lots of about their milk and milk products. I think if you read and visit on it for the year, I might just sell you on sheep 🙂
Interesting article since I have never known a lot about sheep. I grew up on a farm but we never had sheep or did any of our neighbors. I have read that sheep milk have much more protein as you said. I just can’t find anyone in our area that seems to sell it. Thanks for sharing all this valuable information.
I enjoyed reading your post, I’ve always wanted to raise sheep and it’s never worked out for us. thanks for sharing your knowledge!
How much does a power milker for a small operation set one back?
I got mine for just under 400, so not to bad compared to the four large cow size