Sheep have been milked for thousands of years and were milked long before the first cow was milked. The globe’s commercial dairy sheep trade is concentrated in Europe and therefore the countries on or near the Mediterranean Sea. The dairy sheep business is very tiny in the United States. Most sheep dairies are located in the Upper Midwest (Wisconsin and Minnesota), California, and also the New England states.
Sheep’s milk is usually created into gourmand cheeses. Some milk is made into yogurt and ice cream. Recent sheep’s milk is seldom consumed. Milk will be sold to a processor for conversion to cheese (or other products) or the milk will be processed on-farm by the producer and marketed as a price-added product.
Whereas any breed of sheep will be milked, there are specialized dairy sheep breeds, much like there are specialized breeds of cattle and goats for dairy production. The 2 dairy sheep breeds raised in the US are the East Friesian and Lacaune. The Awassi, a dairy breed from the Middle East, was recently introduced to the US via embryos and semen.
Non-dairy breeds that are best tailored to dairy production are Dorset and Polypay. They solely manufacture a hundred to two hundred pounds of milk per lactation, while crosses between domestic breeds and specialised dairy breeds average 250 to 650 pounds of milk per lactation. There’s some interest in making a dairy hair sheep by crossing the Katahdin with the Lacaune.
The nutritional needs of dairy ewes are considerably over for ewes being raised for meat and/or wool. Total feed necessities will rely genetics and length of lactation. It’s important to notice that some feeds will impart undesirable flavors to the milk (e.g. fish meal) and should not be fed in large quantities during lactation. Dairy ewes have the best water demand of any category of sheep at approximately 3 gallons per head per day.
While most non-dairy producers wean their lambs at sixty days old or later, dairy lambs are weaned at 30 days old or younger, therefore that the ewes can be milked when they are still producing vital amounts of milk. Milking facilities and equipment will be the most important expense in an exceedingly dairy sheep operation. The kind of milking parlor could vary consistent with the size of the operation. Producers milking but 50 ewes could utilize a platform for milking, whereas a “pit” parlor is desirable for larger operations.
When milk is cooled, it can be shipped to a processing plant or frozen for later use or cargo. Whereas recent milk could end in a product of slightly higher quality, frozen milk has been shown to provide very acceptable product. The ability to freeze milk on the farm and deliver giant quantities to the processor at infrequent intervals allows the establishment of sheep dairies nice distances from a processing plant.