Dairy Sheep

While sheep have mainly been reared for their wool and meat, the milk these animals produce has its utility. Sheep’s milk tends to be rich in fat, making it great for making cheese and yogurt. All sheep breeds produce milk to some extent. However, only a handful of sheep breeds are capable of producing milk on a commercial scale.

Dairy Sheep

List of Sheep Reared for Dairy

Here is a list of dairy sheep arranged in order of their highest average milk yields per lactation. 

Sheep BreedAverage Milk Production per Lactation (in gallons)Characteristics of the BreedCharacteristics of the Milk ProducedDairy Products
British Milksheep170-240High milk production rateRich in protein and fatMilk
Awassi79-200Can adapt to harsh temperaturesRich in fatBaladi cheese
East Friesian79-160Needs a high-quality diet to produce milkRich in protein and vitaminsMilk
Assaf118Good in different conditionsRich in protein and fatCheese, yogurt
Chios31-71They generally have two lactation periods annuallyRich in fatDifferent types of cheese like Batzos, Feta, Manouri, etc.
Bovec57.5Can produce milk on poor pasturesRich in fatCheese
Lacaune46-48Hardier than most dairy sheep breedsFlavorful, rich in butterfat and proteinRoquefort cheese
Sarda32-35Considered the best Italian dairy sheep breedN/APecorino sardo cheese
Karayaka10-12Good in different conditionsN/AMilk
Clun Forest27-36Good in different conditionsHigh butterfatCheese

Sheep Milk v. Goat Milk

Sheep MilkGoat Milk
Has a creamy sweet tasteHas a muttony taste
Contains vitamins like B6, B12, and DContains fatty acids

Tips for Raising Dairy Sheep

Sheep have much shorter lactation periods than cattle, so maximizing the time when the ewes are lactating is essential. Here are some things to keep in mind while rearing dairy cattle.

  • Wean the Lambs – As the amount of milk produced is lower than that of cows, it is important to wean lambs off their mother’s milk as quickly as possible.
  • Nutritious Diet – This is pretty obvious. Dairy sheep require about 1500 pounds of corn and 300 pounds of alfalfa hay if putting them out to pasture is impossible.
  • Proper Pastures for Grazing – If the sheep can graze, it’s best to have them forage over mixed grass-legume pastures, as the ewes need a lot of fiber and protein.
  • Medical Care – Not only do the lambs need vaccines for overeating disease and tetanus, but the mothers require vaccinations against caseous lymphadenitis – a disease that affects milking sheep.

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