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Dairy Sheep

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  • 1. ATTRA Dairy Sheep A Publication of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service • 1-800-346-9140 • www.attra.ncat.orgBy Margo Hale and The sale of sheep milk or milk products is often more profitable than selling only lamb or wool. ThisLinda Coffey publication explores the dairy sheep business and helps producers decide whether it is a viable optionNCAT Agriculture for their farms. Regulations governing the industry are discussed. Also addressed are production issues,Specialists animal health, stock selection, and nutrition issues surrounding dairy sheep. References and resources©2006 NCAT follow the narrative.ContentsIntroduction ..................... 1Getting Help .................... 2Getting Started ............... 2 Labor .............................. 2 Marketing ..................... 3 Processing .................... 3 Regulations.................. 4 Budgeting .................... 5Production Notes ........... 6 Selecting Stock........... 6 Lacaune dairy sheep. Photo by Yves Berger, courtesy of University of Wisconsin Spooner Ag Research Center. Nutrition ....................... 7 Milking........................... 7 Introduction the time and effort to learn about product A Production Records .. 8 development and marketing. prospective dairy-sheep producer Health ............................ 8 faces many potential challenges. First Sheep exhibit a natural ability to efficientlyConclusion ...................... 10 of all, any dairy operation requires process forage into meat, milk, and wool.References ...................... 12 a high degree of management skill. Rais- To best take advantage of these traits, goodResources ........................ 12 ing dairy sheep involves two production grazing strategies must be developed— Contacts ...................... 12 systems—one for sheep and another for another area of special knowledge and Web Sites .................... 12 milk. People who haven’t done either will management skills. Associations .............. 13 need time to learn. Additionally, marketing Periodicals/ sheep-milk products is a challenge. While Finally, start-up costs can be high, and it Newsletters................ 13 the market for sheep-milk cheese is grow- may take several years to show a profit. Out- Books/ ing, it’s still very small in this country and side income or an extended line of credit Publications ............... 13 remains high-risk. may be required to subsidize the operation Suppliers ..................... 14 at first. Budgets ....................... 15 Production of sheep-milk cheese is a well- developed enterprise in parts of Europe. With all these concerns in mind, certain But sheep milk cheese production in the positives emerge in sheep dairying. A sheepATTRA — National SustainableAgriculture Information Service U.S. was unheard of until about 20 years dairy that delivers consistent products in ais managed by the National Cen- ago, and is still rare. Some areas of the developed market can be far more profit-ter for Appropriate Technology(NCAT) and is funded under a country lack markets for sheep milk. Still, able than an operation focused only on meatgrant from the United States some producers process the milk and mar- production. Sheep are also easier to handleDepartment of Agriculture’sRural Business-Cooperative Ser- ket it directly to consumers. and less expensive to maintain than cattle.vice. Visit the NCAT Web site( Most sheep milk is made into cheese, or into And sheep milk can be frozen and storedhtml) for more informa-tion on our sustainable products such as yogurt, ice cream, and for eventual sale as fluid milk or to makeagriculture projects. ���� soap. Prospective producers must invest into cheese.
  • 2. Getting Help At the end of each section are questions for As you plan a sheep dairy, explore several your consideration. sources of information. The University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension has pub- Getting Started lished an excellent resource, Principles of Before entering a commercial dairy sheep sheep dairying in North America. This is a business, carefully consider the following comprehensive and up-to-date publication, elements: covering topics such as sheep milk and its • availability of labor uses, choosing a breed, nutrition, milking parlors and equipment, and the econom- • marketing ics of raising dairy sheep. This publication • processing options can be downloaded from the Web at http:// • regulations Dairying.pdf or be purchased as a CD-ROM • budgeting for $20. To order, visit http://learning • overall economic viability ATTRA Another great resource is a publication Have you considered:Publications from the dairy supply company DeLaval,Sustainable Sheep entitled System Solutions for Dairy Sheep. • Am I a dairy person?Production This book covers breeds, handling, feeding, • Is my family interested in the health, and layouts of housing and milk- enterprise?Rotational Grazing ing parlors for dairy sheep. For a free copy,Meeting the contact Tess Wagner at 816-891-1573 or • Where can I find more information?Nutritional Needs of on Pasture The Great Lakes Dairy Sheep Symposium is LaborPastures: Sustainable held each year. The proceedings from these Labor is a major concern. Dairy sheep pro-Management meetings are available at http://www. ducers spend mornings and evenings—Integrated Parasite copy/ seven days a week, week after week—feed-Management for sheep/. The proceedings are anLivestock ing, milking, and cleaning up. Do you enjoy excellent resource and include articles from sheep enough to meet these demands? IsGrass-Based and researchers and producers on topics such asSeasonal Dairying your family supportive of this level of com- new research, new techniques, and practi- cal tips to help producers. mitment? Many dairy producers face frus- tration and burnout after unsuccessful Practical Sheep Dairying, by Olivia Mills, is attempts to hire competent help. A family another resource to explore. It is currently unwilling to help with the business may out of print from the U.S. publisher, but warrant a less demanding enterprise. may be obtained through interlibrary loan or used book services. See the Resources section for additional publications, Web Have you considered: sites, and contacts. In addition to exploring these written mate- • Who will do the milking? rials, a prospective producer needs to • Who will do the farming? investigate the market, visit with other pro- • Who will be in charge of flock health? ducers, and include family members in dis- cussions. The remainder of this publication • Who will help you? How, and how much will you pay them? provides a brief overview of the dairy sheep business to encourage you and your fam- • Who will do construction? ily to consider carefully whether or not the • Who will fix things that break? business suits your family and farm goals.Page 2 ATTRA Dairy Sheep
  • 3. Marketing The biggest demand for sheep cheese is on either coast. As with any other niche prod-If labor is available, the next concern is uct, it takes a lot of effort to develop themarketing. What product or products do you market. Some producers are uncomfortableplan to sell? Is there an unmet demand for with marketing, while others find it excit-that product in your area? If so, what price ing. You may want to read the ATTRA pub-can you realistically expect to receive? Can lications Evaluating an Agricultural Enter-you make a profit at that price? prise, Adding Value to Farm Products, andIn the case of fluid milk, a prospective pro- Direct Marketing for more information onducer must first locate a reliable buyer. Judy this essential part of the business.Kapture, long-time producer and columnistfor the Dairy Goat Journal, issues a strongwarning to the farmer planning to start a Have you considered:goat dairy, which also applies to those plan-ning to start a sheep dairy. • Where and how will you market the You are certainly wise to be cautious. I can milk? tell far too many stories about people who • What is the market? used all their money to set up their farm Related ATTRA as a goat dairy, and then never did sell any • Where is the market located? Publications milk. Or their milk market fizzled out within Predator Control a year… Get in touch with the (the buyer) to • How much will you charge for the products? What does the competition for Sustainable and find out if they actually are planning to buy Organic Livestock more milk. Learn the details—how much charge? Production milk do they want from a farm, what do they • What kind of advertising will you pay for milk, is winter production a necessity, need? Value-Added Dairy what do they charge for hauling, etc. Options • What will you use to package? How Then talk with some of the people who are will you label? What is your logo? Multi-Species Grazing shipping milk to them now. You want to find out if they feel the pay for the milk is good Dairy Farm enough to make the goatkeeping effort worth- Sustainability while. (Remember that feed and other costs Checksheet vary greatly and a “good milk price” in one Processing Small Ruminant area may be too low for another.) You may get some surprises when you ask this question… Some producers choose not to deal with a Sustainability milk buyer and work to increase farm profits Checksheet Be cautious about new startups. Sometimes they have a lot of enthusiasm but no idea by processing the milk themselves. Diverse Small Ruminant how difficult it will be to market their milk products can offer more income and finan- Resource List or cheese or other product in the quantities cial stability. These products might include they need… Are their patrons shipping milk fluid milk, cheese, yogurt, fudge, sheep- to the buyer now? Talk to them, all of them. Are they getting paid? Is the buyer taking all milk soap or lotions, sheepskins, or meat. the milk he promised he would?... How good Cheese is a good alternative to selling is the market for what they are planning to sell? (Kapture, 2001) milk, particularly if you like direct marketing. It is legal to use raw milk to make cheeseConsider the same sorts of questions if you if the product is aged at least 60 daysplan to process sheep milk into a product. before sale. (Dairy Practices Council,Do you have the labor and expertise to run 1994) Fresh cheese must be made withthe dairy and make an additional product? pasteurized milk.Is there a market for the product in your Cheese making classes are helpful. Butarea? Is the price you can charge for the experiment, practice, and sample regu-product enough to make a profit? larly before trying to market farmsteadMarketing may be one of your biggest cheese. You must abide by regulations (talkobstacles. Because this is an industry in its to your inspector about what is involved).infancy, there are few established markets. Cheese making resources are ATTRA Page 3
  • 4. in The Small Dairy Resource Book (see required, or will you hire someone to pro- Resources). Caprine Supply and Hoegger cess and market the products? Supply are companies (see Resources) that offer several books about cheese making. Have you considered: • The kinds of products you are To locate the inspector with jurisdiction over planning? your dairy and/or processing facility, go to the American Dairy Goat Association Web site, • Is the market saturated with this type, and scroll to of product? If it is, why would yours your state. The contact information for the be successful? agency in your state is provided. • How much will your products cost to produce? Edible products require a Grade A dairy, a commercial kitchen, and appropriate RegulationsC licensing (contact your state agency for The U.S. Food and Drug Administra- ontact your more details). Soap making does not. Soap tion (FDA) drafted the Pasteurized Milk state inspec- is non-perishable, easy to ship, and does Ordinance (PMO) that states only pasteur- tor early in not require much milk. These advantages ized milk can be sold as Grade A. Enforce-the process of set- make soap an appealing option for small ment of this ordinance is under the juris- farm enterprises. diction of state departments of health orting up a commer-cial sheep dairy. Processing beyond bulk fluid milk cre- agriculture (Zeng and Escobar, 1995). ates extra demands on sheep farmers. The Local requirements may vary. Contact your dairying must still be tended and somehow state inspector early in the process of set- also the processing, packaging, marketing, ting up a commercial sheep dairy. State delivery, and paperwork. While diversifying inspectors may offer helpful suggestions and products may add stability (not all the eggs can assist you to plan and procure FDA- in one basket), each new product requires approved equipment. Many producers com- more equipment, labor, storage space, pro- ment that state inspectors helped them avoid duction knowledge and skill, and outlets expensive mistakes. Locate the appropriate for marketing. Unless a large labor force is agency by finding your state on the list of available, too much diversification is unsus- contacts at tainable. “If you try to produce a whole line Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease that of products,” points out Tatiana Stanton of affects the central nervous system of sheep. Cornell University, “it can make really big It is of the class of diseases known as trans- marketing demands on you if you are not missible spongiform encephalopathies going to sell them to the same buyer.” (TSEs). Other examples of TSEs include For example, if you are a small producer and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) are going to sell fudge, soap, and cheese all or mad cow disease in cattle and Chronic to the same local food co-op or over the Web, Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer and elk. that is one thing. You are going to have to do a lot more marketing if your cheese is going There is no clear evidence that scrapie is to cheese shops or restaurants, and your transmissable to humans, but BSE has been fudge and soap to gift shops. You may find linked to a rare but incurable neurologi- in such a case that it is a terrible decision to cal disease in humans. Therefore concern expand your line. (Stanton, 2002) remains about scrapie’s potential to spread The extra constraints of processing and to humans. Negative public perception marketing mean less time to spend with and the loss of export opportunities have the animals. This is a trade-off to be con- encouraged efforts to eradicate scrapie from sidered. Will you provide the extra labor U.S. sheep.Page 4 ATTRA Dairy Sheep
  • 5. Producers are required to participate in my plan would have been far more accurate.the Scrapie Eradication Program. Contact (Tolman, 2002)your state veterinarian for details, or go As Tolman points out, talk to farmers whoto the National Scrapie Education Initia- are currently in the business to ensure thattive Web site, www.eradicatescrapie. your plan and your budget are First contact your state veterinarian Begin your calculations by taking theto request a premises identification num- following steps.ber. For additional information or for helpin obtaining a premises ID number, call • Research the market. Is there a mar-866-USDA-TAG (toll-free). You will receive ket? What is the current price forfree ear tags with your premises ID printed your product, whether fluid milk foron them. You must tag breeding animals processing, cheese, or soap? Is thereover the age of 18 months before they leave a strong demand for your product?your farm. In addition, an official Certifi- • Estimate production level. How manycate of Veterinary Inspection (health cer- ewes do you plan to milk? Howtificate) issued by an accredited veterinar- productive will they be, on aver- Dian must accompany breeding sheep that age? (Ask several commercialcross state lines (e.g., for show or for sale). etermine producers what their flock average(National Institute for Animal Agriculture, is, and be sure to select ewes that can produce enough milk to be prof- feasibil- itable.) Be realistic about production ity before starting a Have you considered: and marketing. commercial sheep • Investigate costs. What does feed dairy. • Do you know your inspector? Have cost in your area? How much feed you contacted your inspector? do you need to produce the planned • Can you comply with all regulations? quantity of milk? What about build- ings, equipment, fencing, hay? You need to project marketing and haul- ing costs, health costs, utilities, sup-Budgeting plies, breeding, and labor. Calcu-Determine economic feasibility before start- late initial cost of breeding stock,ing a commercial sheep dairy. Many sam- the cost to raise replacements, andple budgets are available, but each must build in an extra “cushion” forbe customized to fit an individual farm. unexpected expenses. Remember,Investigate local feed costs as well as the under-capitalization can doom evenselling price of milk. Other key consider- a good business plan.ations include cost of building or converting • Consider labor availability. Planbarns, fences, and watering systems. Initial for peak seasons such as lambinginvestment in livestock and in milking sys- and breeding, and for processingtems will be a large expense. and marketing.Bee Tolman, operator of the Tolman Sheep • Create a business plan. Your lenderDairy Farm, offered advice to prospective will tell the figures needed; yourdairy farmers at the 8th Great Lakes Dairy local Cooperative Extension agentSheep Symposium in 2002. may be helpful. See also the Do a complete business plan before you do Resources section for help with anything else. Include all financial state- business plans. ments in detail. Don’t miss the details—they will be your undoing. And be conservative. I The University of Wisconsin-Madison Cen- was advised by a goat dairy farmer (who has ter for Integrated Agriculture Systems since folded) to add 30 percent to all bud- has developed a budget for sheep dair- geted costs. I didn’t. I now know that if I had, ies. It is an Excel program that ATTRA Page 5
  • 6. you to enter specific numbers. The bud- may be to breed ewes to an outstanding get, along with detailed instructions for dairy ram, and hold back the best daugh- use, can be found at, www.cias.wisc. ters to build a dairy flock. edu/archives/2005/05/19/dairy_sheep_ enterprise_budget/index.php. East Friesian and Lacaune sheep are com- monly found in dairy flocks in the U.S. Many producers use various crosses of these Have you considered: breeds with domestic American breeds. For more specific information about dairy • A good return on your investment? Is sheep breeds, see Principles of sheep dairy- it guaranteed? ing in North America and System Solutions • Have you written a business plan? for Dairy Sheep (Resources). Yves Berger • Who will keep the records? also has an article, Breeds of Sheep for Com- mercial Milk Production, that can be found • Who will do the accounting? in the Proceedings of the 10th Great Lakes • What income will you live on the first Dairy Sheep Symposium, www.ansci. few years?T copy/sheep/ he East • Do you have a contingency plan for Publications_and_Proceedings/res.html. Friesian is when things go wrong? the most Regardless of the breed, buying stock from a reputable breeder is essential. These peo-common breed of ple have usually spent several years select-dairy sheep. Production Notes ing healthy ewes that milk well. Reputable breeders will produce breeding and health Selecting Stock records, and can help you decide which ani- Just as a cow dairy would typically start mals are best for your situation. with Holstein, Jersey, or another breed of dairy cattle, a sheep dairy should begin Have you considered: with a breed of dairy sheep. The East Frie- sian is the most common breed of dairy • What kind of ewes do you need? sheep. With the importation of half-Frie- • How many do you need? sian rams and frozen semen, there is now percentage breeding stock available in the • Where will you get your stock? United States. If you already own a flock, • Can you visit a reputable breeder and the most economical way to begin a dairy purchase stock? Lacaune sheep. From Friesian sheep. From sheep/friesianmilk.Page 6 ATTRA Dairy Sheep
  • 7. Nutrition supplementation. (Clement, 2002) The article, including the formula for the con-Feeding your flock is not simple. Nutri- centrate, is available by downloading thetional requirements vary depending on proceedings from the 8th Great Lakes Dairysize, age, and stage of sheep production. As Sheep Symposium, 2002, at, sheep health and productivity ces/animalscience/sheep/Publications_and_depends on proper function of their complex Proceedings/symposium%20PDF/Great%20lstomach systems. The rumen is “healthiest” akes2002%20symposium.pdf (see page 66).when sheep eat good quality forages, suchas vegetative pasture. To get the best milk The best feeding regimen for your animalsproduction from sheep, provide high qual- is found through experience and experimen-ity forages. This can be achieved by graz- tation with your flocking sheep on appropriate pastures or by and farm. Regard-feeding hay or silage. For more information less of what you feed Have you considered:about pastures and rotational grazing, see your ewes, access tothe ATTRA publications Sustainable Pas- clean water is always • Can you graze your animals necessary. Lactating year-round?ture Management, Rotational Grazing, Pad-dock Design, Fencing, and Water Systems for ewes require approx- • If not, where will you get hay?Controlled Grazing, and Matching Livestock imately three gallons • Will you feed a supplement?Needs and Forage Resources. Also check with of water per head peryour local Extension and NRCS agents for day. This is the high- • Can you formulate a ration? Do you est water requirement know someone who does?information about forage plants that do wellin your area. of any class of sheep. (Thomas, n.d.)Concentrates (grain) are often fed to milk-ing dairy ewes to supplement forages andbetter meet the ewes’ nutritional needs. MilkingCareful consideration is necessary when Sheep milk production is usually seasonal,feeding concentrates. To properly meet with lactation varying from three to eightthe nutritional needs of your animals, for- months, depending on the breed. (Thomas,ages should be tested and the amount n.d.) Milk production per lactation periodof supplement determined based on the also varies. It can be as little as 100 poundsquality of the forages available and the per lactation for domestic ewes, or as muchfeedstuffs used. as 1,100 pounds per lactation for dairy breeds. Crosses between domestic and spe-Feed a half a pound of supplement per eweper day for ewes on pasture, recommends cialized dairy breeds produce anywhereBruce Clement, of the University of New from 250 to 650 pounds of milk per lacta-Hampshire Cooperative Extension. (Clem- tion. (Thomas, n.d.)ent, 2002) His study examined levels of Ewes can be milked by hand or by machine.supplement for dairy ewes and dairy goats. Hand milking is only practical for smallThe study found no difference in milk yield, flocks. Bucket milking is a popular optionmilk composition, or animal condition score in the U.S. There is also the parlor systemamong ewes fed a half a pound of supple-ment per day and those fed 1.5 pounds of with a pipeline going into a bulk tank. Prin-supplement per day. ciples of sheep dairying in North America and System Solutions for Dairy Sheep dis-The study also found that milk yield cuss the many types of milking set-ups andand milk composition lowered when 2.5 the necessary equipment. There are alsopounds of supplement per day was fed. Thestudy concluded that dairy sheep on well- many articles about various parlors andmanaged pastures lactating in the three methods of milking in the Proceedings ofpounds per day range need no more than the Great Lakes Dairy Sheep Symposiuma half a pound per ewe per day concentrate (see Resources) ATTRA Page 7
  • 8. Sanitary practices are critical, whether When examining production records, keep hand milking or machine milking. A san- in mind that production is naturally much itary environment is vital to the health of lower during the first lactation. Examine the your ewes and the safety of the milk. San- records for overall production in pounds, itation requires time and money, but it is length of lactation, and butterfat and pro- time and money well spent. It is cheaper to tein percentages (if those are important to prevent disease and contamination than to your operation). Bear in mind that your treat it. own management will be a major factor in A good reference for producers consider- the ewe’s production on your farm; produc- ing a commercial dairy is Small Ruminant tion records only verify that a ewe has the Guidelines from the Dairy Practices Coun- genetic potential to produce that quantity cil. These Guidelines include a wealth of of milk. technical information about the details of It is also important to keep records of when setting up a milking parlor, producing qual- ewes are bred, when they are due to lamb, ity milk and farmstead cheese, proper han- the date and type of vaccinations, and the dling of wastewater, and much more. The occurrence and specifics of any health prob-K Guidelines are sold separately or as a set; lems. Records help you manage your flock eep produc- the set costs about $70.00, plus shipping and remain the best tool to identify unpro- tion, health, and handling, and is assembled in a binder ductive animals. Elimination of unproduc- and finan- for easy storage and reference. For more tive animals improves the sustainability ofcial records in order about this resource, see, or your maintain an effi- call 732-203-1194. For a commercial dairy operation, this is an invaluable tool.cient operation. Have you considered: Have you considered: • The types of records you will keep? • How many ewes are you going • How you will keep them—by hand, to milk? computer, type of software, etc.? • What type of system/set-up are you • How will you process the information going to use? the records provide? • How are you going to get the • Who will keep and review records? necessary equipment? • Do you know the requirements you must follow to meet regulations? Health Production Records Healthy animals are essential to a produc- tive operation. Acquiring healthy stock and Accurate records are essential to any good keeping records are ways to maintain a business, including a sheep dairy. Keep healthy and productive flock. Health prob- production, health, and financial records in lems will arise in any flock, however. In order to maintain an efficient operation. these instances, work with a veterinarian. Production records (i.e., how much milk a Find one who knows (or is willing to learn) ewe yields, length of lactation, etc.) help a about small ruminants and who seems com- producer identify the most productive ani- patible with you and with your management mals. Records also identify animals not style. You may locate a small ruminant vet- pulling their weight. As you consider a pur- erinarian by contacting the Association of chase, individual production records and Small Ruminant Practitioners at www.aasrp. those of its relatives offer the best assurance org. (See the Resources section for full that you have selected a productive animal. contact information for AASRP.)Page 8 ATTRA Dairy Sheep
  • 9. Reduce mastitis by observing the following rules • Detect infected animals early; follow up with either a treatment or culling. • Wash hands frequently during milking. Milkers should wear latex gloves to decrease the possibility of spreading bacteria from one udder to the other. • Shut off the vacuum line when removing the teat cups to avoid possible infected milk droplets reaching the teat opening of the next ewe. • Use correct vacuum level and pulsation. • Do not-over milk; it can cause trauma to the teat and increase susceptibility to infection. • Clean the milking machine thoroughly. • Clean air lines thoroughly. • Change teat cup liners and milk lines periodically. • Provide abundant fresh bedding for ewes in confinement. • Clean the water delivery system. • Conduct a post dipping program. (Berger et al., 2004) O vine pro-This publication provides discussion about a Other causes of mastitis may include injury, gressivefew health concerns of particular concern to malnutrition, or a contaminated or mal-dairy sheep producers. Additional pertinent functioning milking system. The first line pneumo-health topics are discussed in ATTRA’s Sus- of defense against mastitis is healthy teat nia, a chronic pro-tainable Sheep Production and Goats: Sus- skin. The cause of teat injury must be gressive pneumo-tainable Production Overview. (Goats and quickly identified and eliminated. Fluctua- nia, is one of thesheep share many of the same health prob- tions in the milking vacuum and improp- most economicallylems, including internal parasites.) erly designed or improperly functioning damaging diseases milking equipment must be investigated. affecting sheepMastitis Mastitis is also linked to diets deficient in vitamins A and E, selenium, and copper. in North America.Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary (Pugh, 2002) (Pugh, 2002)gland and may result in reduced produc-tion and profitability. It is usually causedby the bacterium staphylococcus or strepto- Ovine Progressive Pneumoniacoccus, but it can also be caused by other (OPP)bacteria or by improper milking machine Ovine progressive pneumonia, a chronicoperation. Symptoms include pain, heat, progressive pneumonia, is one of the mostredness, swelling, and a hard udder. Ewes economically damaging diseases affect-will not always show physical symptoms of ing sheep in North America. (Pugh, 2002)mastitis. A decrease in milk production and Pneumonia causes losses from sick ani-an increase in somatic cell counts are good mals, reduced production, and decreasedindicators of mastitis. Milk samples can be sales. Signs of OPP include listlessness,cultured to determine the organism caus- emaciation, and difficulty breathing. Nasaling mastitis. Streptococcus infections are discharge and coughing may also beresponsive to antibiotics and are fairly easy seen. (Pugh, 2002) A vaccine is not avail-to eradicate. Staphylococcus infections do able, so the only prevention is to keep ani-not respond well to antibiotic treatment. mals with OPP out of your flock. This ATTRA Page 9
  • 10. accomplished through a blood test (ELISA), Conclusion which can be conducted at a diagnostic lab prior to purchase. (Pugh, 2002) The decision to start a sheep dairy is not an easy one. You probably will not become Internal Parasites rich, but if you like sheep, have the markets and an understanding of them, and have The control of internal parasites is a major the time to build a business, this can be a concern for small ruminant producers, especially in humid regions. Control rewarding enterprise. of these parasites is becoming increas- There is much more to learn about dairy ingly difficult due to parasite resistance to sheep production, and the Resources sec- treatments. Not only are dewormers less tion will help you to find more information. effective, but in many cases milk cannot be Your best sources of information are other used during treatment due to drug residues. farmers; talk to as many as you can, and Therefore, learn to control parasites in your dairy business without relying on learn from their experiences. chemical dewormers. Have you considered the questions posed toI f you can Internal parasites are especially a problem you in this publication? If you can answer answer all or in warm, wet climates and in settings where all or most of the questions presented, then most of the animals are grazed. Control of internal par- you are well on your way to starting a suc- asites can be nearly impossible where ani- cessful sheep dairy.questions pre- mals graze close to the ground on denselysented, then you are stocked pastures. Therefore, good pasturewell on your way to management (to avoid overgrazing) is criti- Acknowledgmentsstarting a successful cal to the health and productivity of yoursheep dairy. flock. In addition, several new techniques Many of the “Have you considered?...” ques- are aimed at controlling internal parasites tions were taken from the following. without a complete dependence on commer- cial dewormers. These techniques include Berger, Y. 2000. As a producer, should I con- Smart Drenching and FAMACHA©. For sider sheep dairying? Sheep! Maga- zine. Vol. 21, No. 7, p. 4. more information on these and other tech- niques, visit the Southern Consortium for Kapture, J. 2001. Dairy operation requires Small Ruminant Parasite Control Web site ingenuity, perspiration, and at Be sure to consult with more…. Sheep! Magazine. Vol. 21, No. 1, p. 12-15. your veterinarian on this issue and on other health problems. Have you considered: • Do you have a veterinarian willing to work with you? • Does your veterinarian have experi- ence with sheep, or a willingness to learn about sheep? • Do you have the knowledge to handle minor health concerns?Page 10 ATTRA Dairy Sheep
  • 11. Northland Sheep Dairy, New York By Karl North Pros and Cons of Milking Sheep It should no longer need arguing that the most sustainable way to make milk is from grass. In some ways sheep are well suited to this sort of dairy farming. They both graze and spread manure more evenly than cows. Milking parlor and other handling machinery is economical because of their small size. All of ours is farm-built. A lactation of less than six months mirrors the grass season length in this [New York] climate, making seasonal dairying a natural. We time lambing for the beginning of grass in May; the lactation ends in early fall, and the flock finishes stockpiled pasture by the end of December. Sheep milk, mild and unpretentious as mammary products go, nonetheless possesses qualities that become obvious in the processing. The yoghurt is thicker and smoother than cow or goat varieties, without additives. Cheeses do not need the extra butter fat of double and triple creme to come out rich and smooth. Thick milk and fine fat globules are an advantage in fudge-making too. Cooking down, a mix of half maple syrup and half sheep milk becomes a velvety confection. Now for the disadvantages. Although sheep milk has about twice the solids of cow or goat milk (less useless water to trans- port all over the country), this hardly compensates for the low yield per milking ewe. Dairy sheep breeds can average three quarts a day or more over a five-month lactation, but like high production Holstein cattle, they force the farm into a high input mode in order to serve their special feed, shelter, and medical needs. We began with ordinary meat sheep—all that were available at the time. After 12 years of genetic selection both for a rustic, pasture-based life and for milk yield, the lat- ter has doubled, but still averages only 1.6 quarts per ewe per day, and that only at the peak of their lactation. The upside of this equation is our success in maintaining our goal for an extremely low input operation. We are currently experimenting with various degrees of cross-breeding with the East Friesian, a dairy sheep of long pedigree in Northern Europe. Our goal is to discover what percentage of Friesian will add to milk yield without upsetting our low input system. The second main disadvantage of sheep, whether for milk or meat, is the damage internal parasites can do to the health and growth of lambs. Here as elsewhere in farming there is a management solution to replace the chemical quick fix. But it takes a level of organization and development of the forage acreage of the farm that we have attained only in the last two years. First the main forage fields of the farm must be fenced, supplied with water, cleared of trees and rocks to permit haying, and all must produce a quality of forage suitable for either hay or pasture, and for empty, dry stock or lactating ewes and growing lambs. Then a three-year rotation can be devised that always puts the weaned lambs on parasite-free pasture, by grazing them on fields used only for hay the year before. The main forage fields are divided into three sections, and the rotation proceeds as a given field is used for hay, then weaned lambs, then ewes (with lambs until weaned). Plans for the future are to add enough animal units of another hardy pasture species, like a few Highland cattle, along with our team of Haflinger draft horses, to balance the dairy ewe and lamb flocks, and provide the annual alternation of stock that we need for sustainable pest control in the sheep. Lastly, although the sheep dairy industry in the United States has barely begun, there are already signs that wholesaling sheep milk may be dogged by the same profitability problems that have plagued cow dairies: forcing unwanted expansion, the use of high production (but also high maintenance) dairy breeds, debt, and a downward spiral of quality of life for the whole farm ecosystem (people, animals, plants, and soil). To avoid this we planned for on-farm artisanal quality cheese-making and direct marketing of most of our products in a local farmers market. It was an easy decision, for when we started farming in New York we had just come from years of home- steading in France, where just this sort of small, vertically integrated dairy farm, and weekly local farmers’ markets as well, are old traditions. Still, the sale of cheese, lamb, yarn, and tanned skins from a base flock of only 50 ewes barely provides a livable income, and then only because we enjoy considerable self-sufficiency in food (vegetables, meat, and dairy), energy (solar, wood heat, and draft horses), and of course fertilizer. A younger couple (we are pushing 60) could operate the farm with 100 ewes and bring in a net cash income of close to $20,000 without a great deal more capital investment. But the quality of life is excellent; we are free of much of the cost/ price squeeze and resultant debt that is destroying family-scale dairy farming, and we enjoy the diversity of work: milking, processing, marketing, haying and logging mostly with draft horses, sheep and horse husbandry, composting and spread- ing, sheep dog training, gardening, and building and repairing simple structures and equipment with simple tools. Work gives way to semi-vacation when the grass season ends. Visit or e-mail Karl North at for more information about his ATTRA Page 11
  • 12. References 1675 Observatory Drive University of WisconsinBerger, Y., P. Billon, F. Bocquier, G. Caja, A. Can- Madison, WI 53706 nas, B. McKusick, P. Marnet, and D. Thomas. 608-263-4306 2004. Principles of sheep dairying in North America. University of Wisconsin-Extension, Faculty member at the University of Wisconsin Madison, WI. 151 p. and a valuable contact who has a lot of knowl-Clement, B. 2002. Supplemental Feeding of Dairy edge about sheep dairying, dairy breeds, and the cooperative in Wisconsin. Sheep and Goats on Intensively Managed Pas- tures. In: Proceedings of the 8th Great Lakes Yves Berger, PhD Dairy Sheep Symposium. Cornell University, Spooner Agricultural Research Station Ithaca, NY. p. 66-77. W6646 Highway 70 Spooner, WI 54801-2335Dairy Practices Council. 1994. Guidelines for Pro- 715-635-3735 duction and Regulation of Quality Dairy Goat 715-635-6741 FAX Milk. Publication DPC 59. Dairy Practices Council. Keyport, NJ. 17 p. Faculty member at the University of WisconsinKapture, J. 2001. Ask Judy. Dairy Goat Journal. Vol. and a valuable contact who has a lot of knowl- 79, No. 1. p. 17. edge about sheep dairying, dairy breeds, and the cooperative in Wisconsin.Pugh, D.G. 2002. Sheep and Goat Medicine. W.B. Saunders Company. Philadelphia, PA. 468 p. Vicki Dunaway Hometown Creamery Revival ProjectStanton, T. Extension Associate, Department of Ani- P.O. Box 186 mal Science, Cornell University. 2002. Per- Willis, VA 24380 sonal communication. 540-789-7877Thomas, D. Dairy Sheep Basics for Beginners. In: Proceedings of the Great Lakes Dairy Sheep Symposium. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. p. Vicki Dunaway manages this project. It produces 70–77. CreamLine and Home Dairy News. Dunaway has also published The Small Dairy Resource Publications_and_Proceedings/Pdf/Dairy/ Book (see Books). Management/Dairy%20sheep%20basics%20for Carol Delaney %20beginners.pdf Small Ruminant Dairy ProjectTolman, B. 2002. Introduction to Dairy Sheep Farm- UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture ing—Getting Started. In: Proceedings of the 63 Carrigan Drive 8th Great Lakes Dairy Sheep Symposium. Cor- Burlington, VT 05405 nell, University, Ithaca, NY. p. 2. 802-656-0915Zeng, S., and E.N. Escobar. 1995. Grade A Dairy Goat Farm Requirements. Langston Univer- sity. 8 p. Carol Delaney is the Small Ruminant Dairy Specialist at the Vermont Small Ruminant Dairy htm. Project.Resources Web Sites University of Wisconsin-Extension SheepContacts DepartmentDave Thomas, PhD Science Building, Room 438 New%20copy/sheep/index.htmlPage 12 ATTRA Dairy Sheep
  • 13. Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative Home Dairy News P.O. Box 186-W Willis, VA 24380Small Ruminant Dairy Project 540-789-7877 Phone/FAX 24 hours a day html&SM=archivemenu.html Subscription is $20 per year.The Hometown Creamery Revival CreamLine P.O. Box 186-WSpooner Agricultural Research Station- Willis, VA 24380 Sheep Dairy 540-789-7877 Phone/FAX 24 hours a day Subscription is $25 per year.Southern Consortium for Small Ruminant Small Ruminant Dairy Newsletter Parasite Control Small Ruminant Dairy Project Carol DelaneyNational Scrapie Education Initiative UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture 63 Carrigan Drive Burlington, VT 05405Associations Sheep Industry Association ?Page=srdp.html&SM=archivemenu.htmll9785 Maroon Circle, Suite 360Centennial, CO 80112 Books/Publications303-771-3500 Principles of sheep dairying in North America303-771-8200 FAX Berger, Y., P. Billon, F. Bocquier, G. Caja, A. Cannas, B. McKusick, P. Marnet, and D.Dairy Sheep Association of North America Thomas. 2004. University of sion, Madison, WI. 151 p.American Cheese Society Cost is $20 for a CD version of the publication.304 West Liberty St., Suite 201Louisville, KY 40202 Order from:502-583-3783 Cooperative Extension Publishing502-589-3602 FAX 877-WIS-PUBS (947-7827) System Solutions for Dairy SheepAmerican Association of Small Ruminant Alfa-Laval. 1981. Alfa-Laval AB, Tumba,Practitioners (AASRP) Sweden. 141 p.1910 Lyda Avenue, Suite 200Bowling Green, KY 42104 No charge. Order Tess Wagner DeLavalPeriodicals/Newsletters 816-891-1573 tess.wagner@delaval.comsheep! Magazine145 Industrial Drive Proceedings of the Great Lakes Dairy SheepWithee, WI 54498 Symposium extension-new%20copy/sheep/ Subscription is $21 per year. Publications_and_Proceedings/ ATTRA Page 13
  • 14. Copies of the 1st through 3rd Proceedings can be The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing purchased from: Hamilton, N. 1999. Drake University, Des Moines, IA. 240 p. Wisconsin Sheep Breeders Cooperative 7811 Consolidated School Road $23.00, including shipping. Edgerton, WI 53534 Order from: 608-868-2505 Karla Westberg Agricultural Law Center Copies of the 4th through 7th Proceedings can be 2507 University Ave. purchased from: Des Moines, IA 50311 Yves Berger 515-271-2947 Spooner Agricultural Research Station W6646 Highway 70 For more information, visit http://wsare.usu. Spooner, WI 54801-2335 edu/pub/index.cfm?sub=mktdetails&id=30. 715-635-3735 715-635-6741 FAX Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses Carroll, R. 2002. Storey Books. Pownal, VT.Practical Sheep Dairying 288 p. Mills, O. 1989. Thorsens, Wellingborough, England. 224 p. Out of print. Cost $16.95. Order from:Small Ruminant Guidelines Storey Publishing, LLC 800-441-5700 (toll-free) Dairy Practices Council. Cost is $70 for complete set. Order from: Cheesemaking Made Easy Carroll, R., and R. Carroll. 1995. Storey Com- 732-203-1194 munication. Pownal, VT. 144 p. www.dairypc.orgThe Small Dairy Resource Book Suppliers Dunaway, V. 2002. Hometown Creamery Revival. 56 p. Out of print. Caprine Supply P.O. Box Y Can be viewed on-line at DeSoto, KS 66018 913-585-1191 htm. 800-646-7736 (toll-free)Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to 913-585-1140 FAX Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses Hoegger Supply Company DiGiacomo, G., R. King, and D. Nordquist. P.O. Box 331 2003. Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Fayetteville, GA 30214 Agriculture, Saint Paul, MN, and the Sustain- 770-461-6926 able Agriculture Network, Beltsville, MD. 800-221-4628 (toll-free) 280 p. 770-461-7334 FAX Available for $14.00 + $3.95 S/H by calling 800-909-6472 or e-mailing DeLaval, Inc. 11100 N. Congress Ave. For further ordering instructions or to view the Kansas City, MO 64153-1296 publication, visit 816-891-7700 bizplan.html. www.delaval.comPage 14 ATTRA Dairy Sheep
  • 15. Westfalia Surge1880 Country Farm DriveNaperville, IL 60563877-973-2479630-369-9875 FAXwww.westfaliasurge.comThe Schlueter Company3410 Bell StreetJanesville, WI 53545608-755-5444608-755-5440 FAXThe Coburn CompanyP.O. Box 147Whitewater, WI 53190800-776-7042 (toll-free)www.coburnco.comBudgetsUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison Center forIntegrated Agriculture Ruminant Dairy ProjectContact Carol Delaney at 802-656-0915.For additional resources, please refer to ATTRA’sSmall Ruminant Resource ATTRA Page 15
  • 16. Dairy Sheep By Margo Hale and Linda Coffey NCAT Agriculture Specialists ©2006 NCAT Paul Driscoll, Editor Cynthia Arnold, Production This publication is available on the Web at: and IP288 Slot 82 Version 051206Page 16 ATTRA