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Milk and Fiber breed for a family aiming for self-suffiency?

Discussion in 'Breeds & Breeding - Sheep' started by Nuevomexicano, Feb 25, 2018.

  1. Feb 28, 2018
    CaprineDream

    CaprineDream Just born

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    Personally, I recommend Icelandics. They are much tougher and hardier than EF, can milk 1/2 gallon per day depending on bloodlines, excellent wool but not as soft as some, and generally require no grain to maintain a healthy weight while milking. Plus they're beautiful.
     
  2. Mar 1, 2018
    chicken little

    chicken little Just born

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    Maybe, Navajo Churros...Very hardy breed and some of the moms are very good milkers. southwest natives too...wool is generally course...but again individuals have verytough fine, easy to spin wool. We love them
     
  3. Mar 2, 2018
    Ridgetop

    Ridgetop True BYH Addict

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    I am partial to Dorsets myself. Have raised them for years as well as Suffolks and Hampshires. Dorsets are easy keepers, smaller (100-150lbs) and excellent mothers. The ewes have been used for milking for cheesemaking and their docile temperaments make them easy milkers. The ewes and rams breed out of season which is important for a home rancher since you will be able to breed year round. Dorsets also will breed and lamb 3x in 2 years. They are one of the breeds which have been used to produce other high production commercial crosses. On good pasture the lambs will make butcher weight in 4-5 months without supplements. Our lambs made 100 lbs at 4 months last ye
     
  4. Mar 2, 2018
    Ridgetop

    Ridgetop True BYH Addict

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    SORRY ABOUT THE WIERD POST - HERE IS THE CORRECT ONE.
    We raised our family on our own goat milk, lamb, veal (it is not unkind when you raise it yourself), rabbits, etc.
    We are partial to Dorset sheep. They are easy to find rather than being one of the exotic breeds, which makes them better priced and the gene pool is larger. Easier to replace rams (1/2 your flock) when you need to do so. We raised them for years as well as Suffolks and Hampshires. Suffolks and Hamps are larger and taller. They take more feed and really, all that leg length is useless on your plate. We only had them for the kids to show in 4-H. We pre commercial Dorsets. Dorsets make a nice size home carcass. They are easy keepers (less feed), smaller (100-150lbs), hardy, and excellent mothers. The ewes have been used for milking for cheesemaking and their docile temperaments make them easy milkers. The ewes and rams breed out of season which is important for a home rancher since you will be able to breed year round. Dorsets also will breed and lamb 3x in 2 years. They are one of the breeds which have been used to produce other high production commercial crosses. On good pasture the lambs will make butcher weight in 4-5 making and their docile temperaments make them easy milkers and easy for youngsters to handle.
    Since you are spinners, you will know that wool fibers have "scales" which is the stuff that makes wool able to be spun into strands. Fibers that are coarser are easier to spin, while the exotics and super soft wools are much harder to spin due to the smaller size of the scales. Exotics like alpaca and angora have to be combined with a coarser fiber in order to be able to spin it. Dorset wool is much desired by hand spinners, particularly beginning spinners, because it is easy to spin. It is a harder wool better for outer wear and really good for socks since it is long wearing. If you spin it with a super soft wool or exotic fiber, it would be ok, or wear a soft shirt under the garments.
    Now, as to milking sheep, there are very few breeds that are suitable for dairying. Specific milking sheep breeds are hard to find and will be expensive. For the money they take to produce milk you might as well keep a standard size dairy goat.
    We raised our 4 kids on goat milk from our home dairy. Nubians produce the richest milk, around 1 gallon per day. If you find someone who is on milk test, you might be able to buy e of their older high producers. Ask to see milk records for the year since all goats produce a lot right after kidding and then their output reduces if they are not milked constantly on a 12 hour schedule. Some of our high producers used t give 6 quarts daily for at least 5 months, gradually decreasing until we dried off 2 months before they kidded again. If you want milk production, you need to milk 2x a day, every day during a 10 month lactation. By staggering their breeding and kidding dates, you will have plenty of milk year round for drinking, cheese and yogurt making, and feeding calves, pigs, chickens, etc. You can eat the buck kids, while keeping the doe kids to expand your herd. Goat meat is just as good as lamb, just less greasy. If you do not want to increase your herd, find a Boer buck to breed your large dairy goats to and you will half Boer kids which will be meatier. For best milk production do not keep your Boer crosses. We prefer full size dairy goats since they are taller and easier to handle than having to bend over all the time.
    Like Southern says, raising more than 2 lambs means milk replacer. Lamb replacer will get costly, take longer to put the lambs in your freezer, and really not be as cost productive as 2 lambs at a time, 3x in two years with Dorsets. Your lambs will take longer to get to market weight since the commercial replacer is not as good as mama's milk or even goat milk. Many people who raise sheep keep a couple goats for milk to feed orphan or bummer lambs. Our Nubian goats routinely had 3-4 kids and we used replacer once they were drinking 2 quarts a day. At 2 months we took our bucklings to auction and at 3-4 months stopped all milk feeding, freeing our daily milk yield of 10-12 gallons for feeding calves. We did not make cheese but if you are interested in complete self sufficiency using part of your milk for cheese and part to raise a steer would do the trick.
    Whatever you decide, you will enjoy doing it! Just don't get Toggenburgs for house milk - their milk is not pleasant to drink. For flavor and high butterfat content we preferred Nubian milk for house use, followed by LaManchas. The Swiss breeds were ok but I had to make all our Toggenburg milk into chocolate milk before we could drink it. Since we kept goats for home milk use predominantly, we phased out the Toggs pretty fast. LOL
    HAVE FUN!!!
    We raised our family on our own goat milk, lamb, veal (it is not unkind when you raise it yourself), rabbits, etc.
    We are partial to Dorset sheep. They are easy to find rather than being one of the exotic breeds, which makes them better priced and the gene pool is larger. Easier to replace rams (1/2 your flock) when you need to do so. We raised them for years as well as Suffolks and Hampshires. Suffolks and Hamps are larger and taller. They take more feed and really, all that leg length is useless on your plate. We only had them for the kids to show in 4-H. We pre commercial Dorsets. Dorsets make a nice size home carcass. They are easy keepers (less feed), smaller (100-150lbs), hardy, and excellent mothers. The ewes have been used for milking for cheesemaking and their docile temperaments make them easy milkers. The ewes and rams breed out of season which is important for a home rancher since you will be able to breed year round. Dorsets also will breed and lamb 3x in 2 years. They are one of the breeds which have been used to produce other high production commercial crosses. On good pasture the lambs will make butcher weight in 4-5 making and their docile temperaments make them easy milkers and easy for youngsters to handle.
    Since you are spinners, you will know that wool fibers have "scales" which is the stuff that makes wool able to be spun into strands. Fibers that are coarser are easier to spin, while the exotics and super soft wools are much harder to spin due to the smaller size of the scales. Exotics like alpaca and angora have to be combined with a coarser fiber in order to be able to spin it. Dorset wool is much desired by hand spinners, particularly beginning spinners, because it is easy to spin. It is a harder wool better for outer wear and really good for socks since it is long wearing. If you spin it with a super soft wool or exotic fiber, it would be ok, or wear a soft shirt under the garments.
    Now, as to milking sheep, there are very few breeds that are suitable for dairying. Specific milking sheep breeds are hard to find and will be expensive. For the money they take to produce milk you might as well keep a standard size dairy goat.
    We raised our 4 kids on goat milk from our home dairy. Nubians produce the richest milk, around 1 gallon per day. If you find someone who is on milk test, you might be able to buy e of their older high producers. Ask to see milk records for the year since all goats produce a lot right after kidding and then their output reduces if they are not milked constantly on a 12 hour schedule. Some of our high producers used t give 6 quarts daily for at least 5 months, gradually decreasing until we dried off 2 months before they kidded again. If you want milk production, you need to milk 2x a day, every day during a 10 month lactation. By staggering their breeding and kidding dates, you will have plenty of milk year round for drinking, cheese and yogurt making, and feeding calves, pigs, chickens, etc. You can eat the buck kids, while keeping the doe kids to expand your herd. Goat meat is just as good as lamb, just less greasy. If you do not want to increase your herd, find a Boer buck to breed your large dairy goats to and you will half Boer kids which will be meatier. For best milk production do not keep your Boer crosses. We prefer full size dairy goats since they are taller and easier to handle than having to bend over all the time.
    Like Southern says, raising more than 2 lambs means milk replacer. Lamb replacer will get costly, take longer to put the lambs in your freezer, and really not be as cost productive as 2 lambs at a time, 3x in two years with Dorsets. Your lambs will take longer to get to market weight since the commercial replacer is not as good as mama's milk or even goat milk. Many people who raise sheep keep a couple goats for milk to feed orphan or bummer lambs. Our Nubian goats routinely had 3-4 kids and we used replacer once they were drinking 2 quarts a day. At 2 months we took our bucklings to auction and at 3-4 months stopped all milk feeding, freeing our daily milk yield of 10-12 gallons for feeding calves. We did not make cheese but if you are interested in complete self sufficiency using part of your milk for cheese and part to raise a steer would do the trick.
    Whatever you decide, you will enjoy doing it! Just don't get Toggenburgs for house milk - their milk is not pleasant to drink. For flavor and high butterfat content we preferred Nubian milk for house use, followed by LaManchas. The Swiss breeds were ok but I had to make all our Toggenburg milk into chocolate milk before we could drink it. Since we kept goats for home milk use predominantly, we phased out the Toggs pretty fast. LOL
    HAVE FUN!!!
     
    Latestarter and Baymule like this.
  5. Aug 31, 2018
    ohiogoatgirl

    ohiogoatgirl Loving the herd life

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    I grew up with dairy goats and now have sheep, primarily for wool but I am interested in butchering for my own use and a little milking for my own use.

    I grew up with problem-animal goats. You put something up and they'd go over, through, under. Goats have their merits and sheep have their merits.

    Sheep are a bit more difficult to hand milk. We hand milked our goats (8 does, twice a day and then on my own I had 2 does) so I have plenty of experience there. With goats you can milk until the udder looks/feels empty, massage and bump it a bit, milk out a bit more, massage a little, milk out the last. When you hand milk sheep you HAVE to bump a lot, if not constantly. I think this will vary a little by individual sheep but they do require bumping for the milk to let down. Some ewes might let down easier than others. You can either set a rhythm of several squirts then bump up the udder a couple times, repeat.. Or change the hand motion itself a little and more gently bump the udder between every or every couple squirts. It takes some practice to get a rhythm even when you are a proficient hand milker.

    My advice would be to see what is available within your driving distance first. Look up the breed standards for those breeds, just do a search with the breed and 'association' and there will be a standards page on their site. See what you think of the breeds and if you can visit some farms to see them in person, how do they look, how nice is the barns and pastures, do the animals look too big for you to want to handle?
    You can milk any breed. Some breeds will tend to be more milky than others (outside of the 'milk breeds') but it seems to depend more on the specific lines of the breeds and what people are breeding for. And if you find some you like you can always breed for and cull for milking quality/quantity.

    When you go to look at animals to possibly buy ask about multiple teats. It is culled for in dairy goats but I am seeing it a lot here with sheep and crossbred goats. Sheep have two teats, same as goats. But they often have extra teats that can be anywhere from a big mole sort of thing up to a near full on third/fourth teat that is very in the way and often non-functional, no teat orifice.
    In my experience the most annoying thing to deal with is the little 'dangly' extra teat that is on the functioning teat and it has some form of tiny orifice because it will excrete just enough against your hand as you milk. It drove me batty. Especially on real hot days and now your hand is wet against a hot udder and bugs annoying you.. or on those bitter well-below-freezing days and your hand it freezing..

    If I was going to get more into milking.. I would just bring in an East Friesian ram. Of the offspring from him see which ewes build the best udder and produce the most and cull down to those. Continue from there.

    If you want the wool that is going to be another consideration. What do you like working with now? What do you not like working with? Make a list of definite yes and no, not finer than X not coarser than X, not bigger than X lbs, etc. Are you planning on sending wool to be milled yarn/roving or processing yourself? As soon as you find sheep you want find the shearers and get names and phone numbers you want on someone's shearing calendar asap in the year!

    I have shetlands, 25-75% shetland cross with cormo, 50% border cheviot/shetland, and several mutts. The only one I milked regularly was a mutt. She produced much more than I thought I would get from a non-dairy breed sheep. Depending on how things go this coming year I may train a couple ewes to the stand and try milking some more.

    Good luck!
     
  6. Sep 1, 2018
    Donna R. Raybon

    Donna R. Raybon Loving the herd life

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    Might want to price lamb milk replacer and do the math on what it will cost to raise lamb to weaning???
    Sheep can have very short teats and can be hard to hand milk.
    A friend milking several hundred sheep said they do well to milk ewe for 6 months. They have high percentage Fresian and have been at it for about 10 years. :)milk goes to BlackBerry Farms in Walland, TN.
     
    frustratedearthmother likes this.