New member who wants to get sheep soon.

Jmiller89

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Hello, My family is interested in getting milking sheep within the next year. I have a little experience in milking goats, as I helped milk my sisters during times she was unable to. But I’ve never owned or milked sheep and am hoping to find out the best care/fencing and breeds for what I need.
 

Beekissed

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It kinds of depends on your goals for starting a dairy herd as to what breed would be best for you. East Friesian is considered the milkiest of the breeds and many use those for a sheep dairy, but if it's more for just casual, family use, you could even milk Katahdins, which are a hair breed that are very hardy, parasite resistant if bred for it and they shed their wool each season, so no shearing.

Welcome to the forum! :frow
 

Baymule

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Welcome to the forum. We have Katahdin Sheep. The only milking I ever did was to get colostrum for weak lambs. I called it thevwildcewe rodeo. LOL LOL

@mystang89 has dairy Sheep and can give you some pointers on them.
 

Jmiller89

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How much milk do you get from Katahdins? This would be for family use only and we would most likely use lambs for meat. Hair sheep are obviously more appealing since we would not have to sheer and better meat from what I understand.
 

Baymule

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I haven't milked mine for consumption. They do have big milky bags and the hair sheep meat tastes better than the wool breeds meat. Just my opinion.
 

mystang89

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Hi and welcome to the forums! You'll find a ton of great and useful information here. It's where I learned almost all I know about....well, living in the country.

My family is interested in getting milking sheep within the next year. I have a little experience in milking goats
Purchasing milking sheep was one of the best (and most expensive) purchases I've made since moving to this farm. If you are looking for milking sheep I personally have to say that Awassi are among the best I can think of.

Pros:
Nice utters. The teats aren't tiny. They aren't large either. Throw the goats out the window. Compared to the goat teats the sheep are much smaller. Once you get used to them though its all the same technique.
Attitude is calm. Except for rams....we won't go there.
Can be used for either milk or meat. Their grow out is respectable at 9months. I've dispatched my share of lambs for the freezer use and its fed a family of 10 quite nicely,
Depending on how intensively you plan on milking them the lactation can last up to 6 or 7 months past lambing. At least mine did. By that time the 7th month gets there it really isn't worth the small amount of milk they make by that time.
Brings us to the amount of milk you get. Now, here I must admit to not having a ton of experience with milking other animals or breeds. So the ewe that I'm milking now is an Awassi/East Freisian/Karakul. She's at 3 months since she lambed. I've been milking her for about a week now (I'm a bit slow this year. Normally I start 2 months after birth.) She's giving me 1 quart for morning milking. The lambs stay with her during the day so I don't get anything at night. It might not sound like much and I'm sure compared to some cows and goats its not, but I can honestly say that's my own fault. For instance, 2 years ago my 75% awassi was giving me 2 quarts a day, 1 quart morning and 1 evening. Again, it all depends on how aggressive you are.
Big pro in my opinion is how resistant they are to disease and parasites. When I first purchased them I was worried about worms and all that good stuff. A year later I took a stool sample to the vet for tests and he said they didn't have any. The wormer I was using must be working. (I wasn't using any.) Next year I did the same. He said the same. I still hadn't used any wormer and haven't to this day. I can tell you how many health issues I've had with my awassi in 4 years. Three. One - footrot. My fault. I nearly cut off the hoof of the poor sheep and didn't disinfect it well. Two - footrot again on another sheep but again, that was my fault. I hadn't trimmed the hooves in over a year and a rock had become lodged in the hoof which allowed it to get infected. In both of these cases, with the proper care, these sheep never suffered from footrot again. (Well, at least not yet.) Third - dumb ram ate Jamestown weed and got high. Well, guess that's not so much a disease as just dumb sheep.
I can also count how many times the East Friesians I've had have become sick. Four - First footrot, was ongoing. Could never get her better. Second - some kinda disease that kept a ewe from being able to use her 2 back feet. That one killed her. Third - ewe died of same thing as previous mentioned ewe. Forth - died from.....honestly don't know what it died from but its dead and I didn't do it lol. I had 4 East Freisians. All 4 got sick or died...actually, all 4 did both. None of these were ever separated from the Awassi sheep. No awassi sheep were harmed in the making of this post. (Knock on wood cause now they're all gonna die :eek::eek:
Their mother ability I'd say is about the same as any other animals I've raised. Hit or miss. Some are great, some good, some are terrible and don't deserve the title of female, much less mother.
For the most part they keep their weight well even during lambing and milking. One of the things I love about them, and this is something that many people don't, but they have fat tails. These sheep were originally bred in the desert areas of Iraq, Iran, Syria etc, (You get the point, hot dry, dead places where skeletons walk around with skin on them. I don't like the desert if you can't tell.) The tails help them to retain certain amount of fat so when they don't have the proper amount to eat, they are capable of living off their tails. I've actually seen this in affect. My first ewe had her lambs, twins. I started milking her shortly after birth but ....forgot? to give her extra feed. (Yes, I'm shepherd of the year. Thanks.) Her fat tail started to shrink which is actually what helped me to figure out what the problem was and fix it. Thank God he gave them fat tails for stupid shepherds like me. It's kinda the stupid button. "Not feeding your sheep properly? Here's yer sign."
So yeah, that takes me to the drinking water and eating. Um, they are pretty self sufficient. I've never had a problem with them overheating from the hot, humid summers here. That said, I've always had water in my springs, thanks be to God.

So, now on to the cons.

Cons:
Expense. If you buy a "full blooded" awassi. We are going to stop there before someone has a heart attack. No, in America there are no full blooded awassi. I believe the most you can get is 75% now? ish? I know its at least 75% So when I say "full blooded" I use the term very loosely. I simply mean an awassi that is high percentage. Good, heart attack averted. Anyway, you'll be paying a very pretty penny. I paid %1000 for 1 ewe and $1500 I believe for a ram. I only bought 2 ewes and 1 ram. There are people who are selling their awassi mixes out there but just know they aren't high percentage and could have traits (good or bad) from the other bloodline that is mixed in.

.........um, they aren't hair sheep. They are wool. Either learn to shear like I did NOT or learn to pay someone instead of butchering your poor sheep alive.....like I DID! lol I do believe there is someone on the forums who is breeding awassi with hair sheep, keeping the best qualities of both but trying to make the awassi wool shed. I honestly can't remember the name. Sorry to whoever that is but I do watch your thread with interest.
Other cons to include...they don't milk themselves, don't fix coffee, don't wash my clothes, occasionally eat my clothes, and have yet to allow me to put a saddle on them. (Don't worry, the day is coming.....one day....mhuauauaua.

So yeah. I'd recommend them. Another good choice is a Lacaune. It's the French version of Awassi. Resilient to parasites and disease etc. I believe that is what my expensive awassi's were mixed with. I'd LOVE to get my hands on more of those. Great milkers too. I would stay far far away from East Freisians simply because they are too temperamental for me. Too prone to...well, dying...and disease....and both.
 

Beekissed

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Wow! :th

Or you could just buy some Katahdins, easy care, no shearing, naturally hardy, easily had and cost anywhere from $125 per ewe lamb on upwards to a thousand if you want to go registered, top blood lines. Rams can go from $125-$300, but also go for much more if wanting top quality for the breed.

For just milking and eating, you don't need the show lines, so cheaply had. Good mothering, naturally parasite resistant but one needs to cull/breed for that to realize that in the breed, twinning, rams are usually docile if raised right, do well in all weathers and do best on a grass based system. They won't produce as much milk as the true dairy breeds but they won't cost and arm and a leg, die on you like flies nor have all the headaches mentioned above. Some have small teats, some have teats the same as goats....I've got one right now that has an udder and teats that are on par with a goat, producing milk for twin lambs.

This lady uses Kats for dairy: https://livingmydreamlifeonthefarm.com/2011/08/18/milking-sheep/
 

mystang89

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They won't produce as much milk as the true dairy breeds but they won't cost and arm and a leg, die on you like flies nor have all the headaches mentioned above
I did just want to clarify that the ones that died like flies were not my awassi lol. Also, the awassi I'm milking now was only $250 and she came with a lamb, she's just not "pure" bred.
And my main awassi line didn't cost an arm and a leg! It cost me an arm, a leg and a kidney! It's ok though because God gave me backup's! :p
 

Baymule

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@mystang89 thanks for giving your experience. You are the resident dairy Sheep expert here in BYH.
@Jmiller89 my advice for what it’s worth, READ and STUDY. You may want to start with a few Katahdins, learn and get real time experience. If you are happy there, stay the course. If you have that nagging feeling that something is missing, then maybe contact @mystang89 gor purchase of a couple of lambs.
 

Jmiller89

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Thank you to all. There is a lot to consider. Family is small now so a lesser milk producer wouldn’t be terrible for us at first and like you said, Baymule, we can always change our breed as we learn and family demand goes up. We only have 2 acres of land the sheep would be on ( 3 if we let them commingle with our birds) all grass. Would that be enough for 2 to 3 breeding/milking ewes and a ram? We already have 2 LGD and we will train at least one to be with the sheep. Also are sheep just as bad as goats about escaping?
 
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