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Sheep milking - year three begins

Discussion in 'Milking' started by norseofcourse, Jun 11, 2014.

  1. Jun 11, 2014
    norseofcourse

    norseofcourse Herd Master

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    I have two ewes I'm trying to milk. I built a milk stand and started training sessions this past Saturday evening (twice a day on weekends, evening only on weekdays due to time). With pellets/corn I got them onto the milkstand (finally), and now they are jumping onto it well. However, when I handle their udders, they kick. And kick. And kick. I got Gracie as a yearling last year, and she's somewhat handlable. The younger ewe, Brosa, is one I've handled from birth, and I was able to touch her all over, including her udder (and I still can, unless I'm trying to milk her). I expected some kicking from Gracie, but not from Brosa. I am currently just putting my fingers around a teat and waiting for them to stop kicking, which tonight (Thursday), they each did - briefly. As soon as I moved, the kicking started right back up. :barnie

    I have the milk stand in a small pen, in a corner so the front and one side are against walls. Right now I'm just putting the feed pan on the stand, but I'll be making a crossbar soon so I can hang a feed pan on the front. They're not halterbroke, and I don't have a headlock - I didn't want to get them scared or feel trapped - or worse yet, get out of the headlock since I'm not sure how to build one, and sheep necks are different than goats. And I've read on this forum about hobbling their hind legs, but I don't want to do that when they're not tied to the stand, lest they try and jump off and get hurt because their legs are tied...

    I am not separating the lambs before milking (it wouldn't work well here), but I know when they usually nurse, so I can time a milking session for when the sheep should have milk.

    It sounds like I'm making a lot of excuses, and maybe I am but I wanted to lay out what I'm working with. I'm trying to figure out my best course of action.

    Am I just too impatient? Do I just keep doing what I'm doing, and hope they finally get used to what I'm doing and stop kicking?

    I may be able to put a siderail or section of fencing against the other side of the milk stand - will that keep them in there well enough to try the hobbles safely? I may even be able to put something along the back so they can't back out either, although that'll be tricky to do and still give me room to get enough access to milk them. Right now I'm milking them from the rear - that seems to give me the best access.

    Has anyone ever tried something like the Udderly EZ milker that PBS has? It's a handheld vacuum system. I've been hesitant about something mechanical, because of all the stories I hear of them irritating the teats too much and causing bits of pink in the milk. It's also nearly 200 dollars, and there's no guarantee I'd be able to use it with them kicking...

    Any answers are appreciated, or any other tips or advice. I'm only milking for my personal use, so I'm not wanting a lot, but I'd like to experiment with some cheese and other stuff. If it matters, they are Icelandic. Thanks!
     
  2. Jun 11, 2014
    frustratedearthmother

    frustratedearthmother Herd Master

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    I've never milked a sheep, but...

    I find that with goats they tend to appreciate milking when their udders are full....so can you separate them for awhile? I think a head gate is imperative. Some of my more experienced does can be milked without being locked in, but I think it's easier on everyone with a head gate. After a few test tugs they know they can't get out - so they don't fight as hard.

    When training a new milker I generally feed them on the stand for awhile...then start using the head gate... then let their udder get full... then convince them that milking is a good thing.

    I wish you good luck because when it goes well - milking is a wonderful experience.
     
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  3. Jun 26, 2014
    norseofcourse

    norseofcourse Herd Master

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    @frustratedearthmother - thanks! I still don't have a head gate, but I'm using a neckrope, and it's definitely helped a lot. I've been writing about my experiences in my BYH journal. I am now working with all 3 of my ewes, and it's been quite a learning experience!

    Separating the lambs would be difficult for several reasons - one of which is that the lambs will go right through the electric fence to get back to mom! I also have enough neighbors that I don't want to cause too much more noise than the sheep already make. I haven't had any complaints, but I'd rather keep it that way.

    I have one ewe that may give me some decent milk even with her one lamb - I started her training later than the others, and tonight's session was promising!
     
  4. Jun 28, 2014
    norseofcourse

    norseofcourse Herd Master

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    OK, here's how we stand now:

    Brosa - first freshener, with a single lamb. She's friendly and handleable otherwise, but she does NOT want me milking her! Kick, kick, stomp, kick. From some reading on Fias Co's website, I've learned that they don't milk their first fresheners, since they don't make as much milk yet, and their teats are smaller - they wait till year two, when their teats have gotten bigger and they're making more milk. Brosa does have a good amount of milk, but yes, her teats are small. So I may continue 'milking' her for at least a bit, more for the training than to get any actual milk out of her, and then plan on more serious milking for her next year.

    Gracie - second freshener, with twins. Her behavior is improving, and she seems to have nice sized teats, but not much milk. I'm sure this is because she has twins, and I'm not separating them. So also for her, I'm concentrating more on manners. If I end up selling one or both her lambs before she stops producing milk, I may see if I can get more milk from her, if she's still in good condition and I'm not tired of milking yet!

    Rose - second freshener, with a single. I had not initially planned on milking Rose, since she's not as friendly as the others. But with Brosa kicking so much, and Gracie not having much milk, I gave it a try - and have been pleasantly surprised! She's got more milk than either of the others, and nice large teats - and while goat people might smile at the amount I'm getting, I'm quite happy with it, especially for both of us being really new at this :).
     
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  5. Jun 28, 2014
    frustratedearthmother

    frustratedearthmother Herd Master

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    I applaud your perseverance! If you do sell any of the lambs and continue to milk - the girls will probably appreciate you a LOT more because you will be relieving a full udder. It's funny how their attitude can change at that point. Works with my does, for sure!
     
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  6. Jun 28, 2014
    Sheepshape

    Sheepshape Herd Master

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    I have milked a lot of sheep over the years,and most milk easily,but if you are taking milk,twin lambs on a ewe may go short. I would only milk when the lambs are of an age to be weaned, unless there is obvious overproduction.

    It is easy if two people do the milking or the sheep is very tame. One person restrains the ewe and the other gets on their knees and gently pulls,twists and collects into a jug.
     
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  7. Jul 1, 2014
    norseofcourse

    norseofcourse Herd Master

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    @frustratedearthmother - thanks! I like 'perseverence' - usually my family just called me stubborn! :lol:

    @Sheepshape - I agree, Gracie's twins need it more than I do. All I'm doing now is getting her up on the milkstand and going through the motions - taking a couple easy pulls on each teat at most, once a day, for training. It also gives me a chance to give her a bit of extra pellets for the calories.
     
  8. Jul 4, 2014
    norseofcourse

    norseofcourse Herd Master

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    OK, things are going fairly well - I'm not getting much milk, but I'm getting lots of experience. Can anyone help with some questions?

    BUGS!! :barnie Little gnats and something else that's even smaller. How do you keep them out of the milk? Is the milk ok to use if I strain them out as soon as possible?

    How to keep stuff clean... the sheep gets on the milkstand, their feet bring along traces of whatever they've been standing in. I put the milking bucket on the stand behind the sheep, so the bottom of the bucket now has traces of whatever's on the stand. After milking, I take the bucket into the kitchen to pour it into containers and strain it - but I can't set the bucket down anywhere or else the stuff on the bottom of the bucket gets on the counter - yuck! And I have to be very careful washing the bucket so I don't cross-contaminate anything. Is there a better way? Or am I being overly picky?

    I am freezing the milk in one-cup portions in plastic bags, flat in the freezer. The frozen milk turns really yellow - is that normal and ok?

    Thanks!
     
  9. Jul 4, 2014
    Baymule

    Baymule Herd Master

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    :caf I don't have sheep, but this sure is interesting. I applaud your efforts! :clap
     
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  10. Jul 4, 2014
    frustratedearthmother

    frustratedearthmother Herd Master

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    I milk through a fine meshed nylon strainer that fits the top of the bucket very securely. Wally World has a multi-pack that has different sizes in it. I have two sizes of milking buckets and the multi pack has a size that fits each bucket.

    I understand what you mean about setting a dirty bucket on your counter top. After milking, I set my bucket in the sink while I'm getting other stuff ready. While the bucket of milk is sitting in the sink I get a Mason jar ready for the milk. I take a coffee filter and arrange it over the top of the jar and then pour the milk into it. The milk bucket itself never touches my counter top and its easy to wash out the sink.

    Hope that helps!
     
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