Sheep milking - year three begins

trampledbygeese

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This is a great thread, thanks for sharing your experience.

One thought on the mucky milk bucket bottom - what my goat friend does is have two buckets, one for the actual milking and one to keep on a nearby, clean shelf in the barn. The milk from the milking bucket, goes into the shelf bucket and the shelf bucket (without muck on the bottom) is the one that goes into the kitchen. The mucky bucket gets cleaned and sanitized in the barn.
 

MsDeb

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As a new goat milker this was extremely interesting and educational. (I didn't even know people milked sheep.) Thanks for sharing your experience!
 

norseofcourse

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I thought I'd continue this thread instead of starting another one. Yesterday I started milking my sheep again. Last year was our learning and experimenting year, so this year we all know what we're doing, right? :lol:

Last year, when I finally tried separating the lambs at night and milking the ewes in the morning, it worked so well that I wanted to start this year off doing the same thing. I put together a pen in the run-in area for the lambs, and there's still plenty of room in the run-in for the ewes, so they can all be inside if the weather's bad.

On Friday night, after evening feeding, I closed the lambs in their new pen. I got lucky - they went right into the pen while their moms ate! I had put the old hay feeder in the pen, since I knew the lambs like to climb in it, and of course they had to go in and check it out. I set them up with water and hay. After some deliberation, I decided to pen Gracie's lambs, too. They're not quite a week old, but I knew the other ewes would be somewhat upset about their lambs being penned, and upset ewes tend to headbutt whatever's nearby, and I didn't want her little ones getting hurt.

The calling wasn't too bad, it was nearly dark and I hoped everyone would just rest most of the night. The night was alright - but oh my gosh, the noise in the morning! I was up at first light, and both lambs and ewes were hollering to each other and to me, to hurry up! I ended up only milking Rose, since Lukka's not fully trained yet, but Lukka did get on the stand and I brushed her and gave her some grain, and trimmed some wool from around her back end and udder. I got 12 ounces of milk from Rose, which, if you read this whole thread, is more than I ever got from anyone last year!!!!

This morning (Sunday) was day two. I started on a weekend, hoping we could get some sort of routine down before the workweek, when I'll be more pressed for time in the mornings. Once again, penning the lambs was easy, and the ewes didn't call quite as much, except for Lukka. She is a first-time mom and a bit more vocal.

I was up and out early again this morning, hoping the noise wouldn't be as bad. Yikes, it seemed worse! I cringed as I imagined the sheep waking up everyone in the nearby neighborhood :hide. The lambs weren't too bad, but the ewes were. I had taken some of the last of some really nice, soft grassy hay I have, and I gave some to Rose after I milked her. She immediately started eating it, and stopped calling. I think tomorrow I'll take more out and give it to the ewes to keep them busy while I milk, maybe that will stop most of the noise.

I don't remember that kind of noise happening last year, but by the time I tried penning the lambs and milking in the morning, they were several months older, and the ewes were probably glad to be away from them for awhile! lol

Anyway, this morning I milked Rose and got about 11 ounces. Then I got Lukka onto the stand, and this time I put the neckrope on her, and started cleaning off her udder to see how she would do. She did well! I was pretty 'hands off' with her last year, since I was trying not to get attached to any of the lambs, so she didn't have a lot of handling like Brosa did the year before. So I was very pleased at how well Lukka did :) She didn't do any of the foot-stomping or pooping on the stand that Brosa had done :rolleyes: She stood well enough that I even did a bit of milking. Her teats aren't as big as her mom's, which I expected since she's younger, but they're not too bad, and her orifices seemed a good size, and seemed to point down straighter than her mom's.

I didn't milk her very much, but I think she has real potential. She moved around a bit on the stand, so I stopped when she was standing nice and still, and rewarded her with some more grain.

Then I got Gracie in and on the stand. This was just practice for Gracie, too, since she only got milked a little bit at the beginning of last summer, due to having to be wormed. For being out of practice, she did pretty well. And even with twins, her udder capacity seems to be pretty good, enough that taking a bit in the morning should be fine. Her teats are smaller than Rose's, but her orifices seem a bit larger.

I combined Lukka and Gracie's milk, and measured it but didn't keep it, since some gunk got in it. It totaled 7 ounces, which isn't bad. I didn't milk either of them out anywhere close to fully, I'll work towards that as they both get more experience. More practice will do me some good as well! My aim isn't too bad - I almost always hit the bucket now - but I have a long way to go to get more consistent.

So, a decent start to milking for the year! Tomorrow will be more of a test: Can I keep the ewes quieter? Can I milk all three ewes, do chores, and still get to work on time? Will I someday remember to get pictures? Stay tuned and find out!
 
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norseofcourse

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Just over a week into milking, and it's going well.

The noise is still louder than I'd like. It's more the lambs, but the moms join in sometimes, too. Feeding the moms some of the really good grassy hay does help keep them occupied till everyone's milked, but I'm nearly out of it and the farm it came from doesn't have any more. I'm checking into getting some nice alfalfa mix hay, it's a good deal and I think the sheep could use the extra calories.

The ewes got the routine down quickly. Gracie insists on being first, then Lukka, and last Rose. For being a first-timer, Lukka is behaving very well. She's the only ewe who doesn't mind me milking while she's still eating her grain.

The milking results so far: 9 days, 168 ounces - that's nearly one and a third gallons! Some I only saved for soap, and I dumped the first day's milking from Lukka and Gracie (I should have saved it for soap too, I wasn't thinking), but still, that's way over last year! I have three quarts in the freezer being saved for cheesemaking. I've made fudge, hot cocoa, oatmeal, and tuna noodle casserole using sheep's milk. Everyone likes the fudge the best :)

Lessons so far:

1. Get to bed early. Daybreak comes early, and it keeps coming earlier.

2. Have everything you need ready for in the morning, and no dirty dishes in the sink from the night before. I am apparently still learning this....

3. If you're late the sheep are not happy, and don't let down their milk. It was only about ten minutes on a Sunday, but Gracie was especially ticked off. She gets milked/fed first, and I'm sure she was cussing me out...

I didn't mllk this morning, we had storms coming through the area so I just didn't pen the lambs last night. Starting again tomorow am.
 

norseofcourse

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It this keeps getting better, do you think you might get some dairy sheep?
Well, as babsbag said, 'never say never', but I like my little Icelandic sheep :) and I can't see myself getting into serious enough production to add another breed.
 

norseofcourse

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I tweaked a few things recently. I'd been combining Gracie and Lukka's milk and measuring it separately from Rose's. I found three tall measuring cups that fit in one small bucket, and I labeled one for each sheep. Now I can track each sheep's milk and carry it all more easily.

I also changed to a different container to milk into - I found one that's more oblong, so it fits in between their hind legs better (I'm milking from the rear). It's a smaller target for me to milk into, but my aim has gotten better so I haven't lost nearly as much milk as I was afraid I would!

Rose is still averaging between 10 and 12 ounces each morning. Lukka is giving about 4 ounces. And Gracie is giving nearly 8 ounces. Gracie has the smallest teats, so she's a bit harder to milk out, but she's behaving the best on the stand - the last two days she's stood completely still while I milked her! (watch now, I'll have jinxed it LOL) Lukka is behaving nearly as well. Rose still stomps/kicks some, but she is improving.

I got a few cheesemaking supplies and I've been re-reading recipes and techniques, hoping to find some time within the next few weeks and make my first batch :)
 
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