Babydoll sheep for family cheese production?

stephd

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Ok, so I am a complete newbie here but have done a lot of research. Trying to create my suburban food oasis in Central Florida, and I want to include animals for eggs, milk, meat, fertilizer, insect/weed control, etc. etc. I really want to have my own source of milk since local dairy is hard to come by around here. I've been considering sheep and goats, but I am more inclined to sheep because of their more calm and docile and non-escape-artist nature. Also, I read that goats are more "aggressive" munchers and can destroy trees. I have just 1/2 acre property smack in the middle of town, so I need to keep small and discrete creatures (I'm also looking at quail and rabbits for eggs/meat/fertilizer). Babydoll southdown sheep seem like a perfect size and temperment, but I am having a terrible time finding out anything about their milk production. I know that it wouldn't be much, but I did find a website where someone milked them for making soaps to sell, so I think it can be done. Even if between two sheep I only got a quart or two a day that would be enough for my small family. But can it be done at all? Some say it is "difficult" to milk them...difficult how/why? I have reached a roadblock here, so any information/ideas you can share will be helpful. I'm so glad this forum exists...what did we do before the internet?! :)
 

dragonlaurel

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Welcome! I don't have sheep yet, but have been studying because I want to. Since you haven't got any responses yet- I'll give it a try.

I grew up in the Orlando, Fl area. I have to wonder how the Southdowns would do in that weather. Most sheep can handle some heat, if they have shade available - but hot and humid makes it more challenging for them. Do you have some nice trees or other shade they could use?

You might also look into Gulf Coast native sheep. They are naturally adapted to the hot-humid Southeast weather and some people have milked them. They are not specifically a dairy sheep breed, but they can work for it. Tunis sheep also handle heat well and are used sometimes as dairy sheep. The wool types are different than Southdown wool, but it is still useable.

You might ask the local county extension service if 1/2 an acre would be enough pasture for a couple sheep. I don't know what the zoning regulations are like at your place, but you wouldn't have to give them your street address ;) to ask some questions.
Part of creating a good food oasis is raising crops and animals that will thrive in the conditions you have. Being too crowded would increase your feed expenses, and not be healthy for them, including higher parasite risks, so it's worth checking. Another idea- would be paying a local farmer to pasture them for you. That would complicate milking but you might work out a deal about it.

If the fencing could be worked out- Nigerian Dwarf goats might be great for you. They produce lots of milk for their size and the small bodies don't need as much pasture area as larger breeds. Lots of people use them where it would be cramped for full sized animals. You would absolutely need at least 2 with goats or sheep since their instincts require hanging out with their buddies.

You would need to protect your trees from goats or sheep to keep them from nibbling enough bark to eventually kill the tree. A small fence around the tree works. Other people may have more solutions.

Smaller goats and sheep tend to have smaller teats. Some people don't like to deal with that. Arthritis could make it pretty difficult. If people want to use milking machines, I've heard that the milking attachments for smaller goats can work for sheep.

Do an internet search for milking sheep. There is some good info out there. The info on how people do it in the other parts of the world might be handy too, since they tend to not rely on huge, fancy equipment. It's nice to see other people solutions in case we can borrow the ideas.
 

SheepGirl

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If you're going for the Babydolls because of their small size...but actually want to milk them...get Icelandics instead. They are more of a dairy breed and they are about the same size as Babydolls, too.

Check your town's regulations to see if keeping livestock is allowed...makes me wonder since you said you need to keep small and discrete creatures.
 

Bossroo

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To have milk production, the ewe needs to produce a lamb first, so one will need a ram so that he can get the ewe pregnant. Southdowns are not known for extream heavy milk production, just very rich milk for their lambs, so what will their lambs eat if you were to take away their breakfast, lunch or dinner ? Also sheep tend to produce milk for about 3-4 months when the milk production drops sharply as the lambs start to eat grasses and grains and start to dry up by 5-6 months post partum in preperation for the next pregnancy that fall. Dwarf goats ... dito ...do not produce enough milk to even bother with milking. Dairy goats, on the other hand are milked regularly, so may be the better choice. But she would have to make a yearly visit with a billy goat.
 

elevan

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Just because a mammal doesn't produce the quantity of milk that you'd like doesn't mean that the quality isn't what you want. What I'm saying is that sheep's milk has a purpose that some would argue cannot be substituted with goat's milk. There are, however, more appropriate breeds of sheep for milking....doesn't mean that you can't milk the babydoll sheep - but you'd need a lot of them to produce enough for cheese and then you still have to answer what are you going to feed their young...unless you sell them as bottle babies right away.
 

aggieterpkatie

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Lambs can be fed milk replacer, just like what's done with other dairy operations. Or they could be separated at night for once a day milking just like some people do with their goats. I also think the Icelandic would be a good option, but they tend to be a little more wild than most Babydoll Southdowns, but maybe if they were purchased at a young enough age they'd be tame enough.
 

TheSheepGirl

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If you don't mind waiting for 6-8 weeks to milk the ewes, then you can wean the babies and start right in on milking them. If you are not having to meet high production needs, then there is no need to sell them as bottle babies or feed them milk re-placer.

They are difficult to milk because of their smaller teats, but will produce an adequate amount of milk for a small family. Their milk is known to be very rich in fat, so it will be great for cheese making and such. Just save up the milk for a few days until you have a gallon of milk for the cheese. If you like the breed, then go with it. My Shetlands are not milk sheep, but they produce an adequate amount of milk for making cheese with.
 

stephd

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Thanks, everyone, for all the great info. After doing some additional reading I am leaning toward a couple of Dwarf Nigerian goats as a more steady milk source. One of my other questions was sort of already answered in this thread. I know that you have to breed the ewe to have her keep producing milk, but I wondered what the baby drinks if a human is taking all the milk. I wouldn't want to steal a baby's milk! How does this normally work..?
 

SheepGirl

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The babies are fed milk replacer...which is essentially baby formula. Some larger cow dairies do keep a couple cows on hand to provide milk for the calves so they don't have to purchase milk replacer.
 
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