Our dairy ewes (‘the girls’) consist of 130 East Friesian and East Friesian cross ewes, with plans to build up to 180 milkers.
The East Friesian is a milking breed which originates from the Netherlands. They can produce up to 2L per milking and produce milk which is high in milk fat solids, perfect for cheese making.
We milk once a day, early in the morning. The girls are then joined up with their lambs and spend the day grazing in the paddock. Each evening we draft the lambs off and they spend the night in ‘lamb day care’ - a shed filled with feeders, hay, heat lamps and play toys. The girls go back to the paddock to fill their udders for milking the next morning.
We keep all of our lambs, boys and girls. It is very important to us that the lambs get to grow up with their mums. At four months of age, or when they get as big as their mum, the lambs get weaned off and move to another paddock. As we run a registered East Friesian stud a lot of our ram lambs grow out to enjoy a career as a stud ram and the girls are kept for a future dairy role.
The milking unit holds 12 sheep at a time and is an automated system. It takes us 2.5 hours to milk 100 ewes, provided everyone is in a good mood. We also have ‘BJ’, the pet wether, who joins the milking crew. He isn’t much use in the dairy but according to him, milking just wouldn’t be the same without his presence.
A lot of people are surprised when they first try sheep milk – they expect it to taste ‘sheepie’ or like a shearing shed. Instead they find it’s a very creamy milk with a hint of sweetness to it, and no ‘sheepie’ flavours at all! It has long been regarded as one of the best milks for cheese making and has been used throughout Europe for centuries to make some of their finest cheeses.
Click here to read 'Why sheep milk' – a fact sheet that compares sheep milk to other milks and covers the lactose free science of the milk