Last Friday, a Friesian ewe named Yola came to live at our farm. Friesian sheep come from the region of Friesland (where Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium come together). Friesan sheep (like the Holstein or Friesian cow) are dairy sheep. We purchased her in partnership with one of our interns, Courtney.
Yola gives about 7/8 of a gallon of milk each day. While we weren't sure we needed one more daily chore, so far the milking hasn't been too bad (mostly because Courtney has been doing it!). All joking aside, we're excited to be taking on a new project.
The milk is incredible. We're raising several bottle lambs, so we've used her milk instead of buying milk replacer. Even more exciting, Courtney has started making cheese. We sampled her first batch of sheep's milk ricotta cheese yesterday - it was unbelievably good. We have plans to make ice cream, other types of cheese, and yogurt. We're also anxious to use the milk in it's fluid form - it's amazingly sweet. Sheep's milk is naturally homogenized, meaning the cream and the milk are mixed together (and stay that way). No more need to buy half-and-half for our coffee!
We're learning that a dairy animal is very different from the meat and wool producing sheep we're used to. For one thing, a dairy sheep must be kept on a high plane of nutrition while she's lactating. We do feed her some grain at milking to help satisfy her protein and energy needs. Once she's settled in here, we'll put her on grass with the other sheep we keep at home.