Sheep milking - year three begins

mysunwolf

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Got to speak up for the sheep... dairy sheep can give 1/2 a gallon or more at each milking! But you have to practice proper weaning, rations, and general care like you would for a dairy goat. The other awesome thing about dairy sheep is that they have big loose bags, large orifices, and long teats for very easy hand milking :) @norseofcourse I know that you know these things. Have you ever considered crossing some of the dairy breeds in with your girls for milkier offspring?

While I don't agree with the human breast pump (have heard sheep dairy people say it's just a baaaddd idea), I do think something like an EZ Milker or even a really fancy one would increase your production. My biggest problem milking non-dairy ewes is that you just can't get the milk out of the tiny teats and/or orifices. Especially not before they finish their treat on the stand and get grumpy!

I also prefer hand milking, it's just a special experience for me.
 

norseofcourse

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@Mini Horses - thanks for the info - this morning's milking went much better. With a 9-hour 'fill' time, both Lukka's and Brosa's udders were full, but not so engorged to the point where they were too hard to milk. And my hands are getting used to it again, it wasn't till the third sheep that I needed to rest them a bit.

For your soft cheese, do you use white or apple cider vinegar? And what amounts of vinegar to milk?
 

TAH

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What breed of sheep do you have? We had a Katahdin Dorper cross ewe, I only milked her twice but she gave 2 cups form both milking's. Is that a good amount for a sheep?
 

norseofcourse

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Got to speak up for the sheep... dairy sheep can give 1/2 a gallon or more at each milking! But you have to practice proper weaning, rations, and general care like you would for a dairy goat. The other awesome thing about dairy sheep is that they have big loose bags, large orifices, and long teats for very easy hand milking :) @norseofcourse I know that you know these things. Have you ever considered crossing some of the dairy breeds in with your girls for milkier offspring?
I love the milking, but it's not my primary purpose. Even though my sheep aren't registered, I'd rather keep them purebred. One of the reasons I have Icelandics is that I'm in the SCA, a group that studies and re-creates history in the Middle Ages. Icelandics are one of the few breeds that's been around since that time frame. Historically, they were milked, but I don't know if there's any actual data on production, or if they cared about teat size or considered anything like that when making culling decisions. They may have just felt like I do - you get what you get.
My biggest problem milking non-dairy ewes is that you just can't get the milk out of the tiny teats and/or orifices. Especially not before they finish their treat on the stand and get grumpy!
Luckily I've figured mine out, and funny enough, it's the opposite! They don't want me milking them while they're eating - and they are the same way with their lambs - when mom is eating pellets/hay, the kids don't get to nurse! So I put some pellets in to get them on the stand, and by the time I've brushed them and cleaned the udder, they're done eating and behave better while I milk. Then after I've milked, I give them more food. The only one I can milk while she's still eating is Lukka, and she's also the only one I've seen allow a lamb a sip of milk while she's eating at the main feeder, too.

Rose's teats are great (see previous pics), Gracie's aren't bad, and Lukka and Brosa were somewhat easier when their udders weren't tightly full. Maybe their twins will help stretch those teats :)
 
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norseofcourse

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What breed of sheep do you have? We had a Katahdin Dorper cross ewe, I only milked her twice but she gave 2 cups form both milking's. Is that a good amount for a sheep?
I have Icelandics, they are a smaller breed than yours. If you're happy with 2 cups then it's good :) The first year I milked, I was happy to get a few ounces!
 
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Cotton*wood

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This has been a very fun thread to read--thanks for keeping it up over three years. I am a new sheep owner with Katahdins, and though our first and second reasons for having sheep are pasture management and meat, I'm very interested in milking them. I've been making cheese with grocery store milk, and would LOVE to use sheep milk instead. But I wasn't ready to start any of that with this year's lambing (we bought our ewes pregnant and they lambed a month and a half earlier than we thought they would), and I'm trying to wrap my head around the logistics. They are on pasture 24/7 with a new paddock each day, and I have no clue how I could possibly separate the lambs from the ewes. I'd probably have to bring them ALL into the barn every night, which wouldn't be too bad when they're in fields that are relatively close to the barn, but they spend about a month and a half way way away. I'd have to plan my pasture rotation so they would be nearer during the time of year when I'd be milking.

Also, we're not living at our farm yet, and I'm still teaching full time during the school year, so that makes it a little trickier. But in the summer is when I'd do the milking and that could probably work.

But your descriptions of getting them up on the stand and used to all of everything are very helpful. I've been handling my four original ewes (and the two lambs who are actually friendly) daily, and they don't mind me handling their udders at all, which I have been doing deliberately, when I go sit with them in the pasture, for future milking. I have tried milking them just sitting with them, and it's really tricky getting any milk to come out. Way harder than cows and goats, based on the two or three times I've gotten to try my hand at that. But I think I'd be able to learn!

Lots of inspiration here! Thanks, norseofcourse!
 

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