Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Great Lakes Dairy Sheep Symposium Report - Volume 1

Late last week, the 17th annual Great Lakes Dairy Sheep Symposium was held in Petaluma, California.  Two of our former interns - Courtney McDonald and Callie Murphy - attended the entire conference (including a great tour of several sheep dairies on Saturday).  My friend Roger Ingram and I drove down for Friday.  More than 140 folks attended the symposium, including dairy shepherds from Canada and Mexico.

Upon her return to Placer County, Courtney shared the following information with us:

"Recent research at Spooner Station (at the University of Wisconsin) shows that dairy ewes pastured on clover and orchard grass (or any 50% legume) and fed 2-3 pounds high energy grain ration (whole corn) on the milk stand had better milk production and fat/solids composition than traditionally managed ewes fed alfalfa and high-protein grain ration on stand.  This study is included in the proceedeings booklet.  Having just seeded my pasture with clover and ryegrass, I find this encouraging as I am pasturing my ewes and feeding whole corn and barley on the stand!
"Hand milking is legal for both grade A and grade B dairies!
"Both Bellwether and Haverton Hill dairy wean their lambs at 2 days and then feed Jersey cow milk mixed with 1 raw egg/3 lambs.  They had both previously just used the cow milk or milk replacer and lost many lambs...the egg was a tip from an Italian dairy that has worked extremely well.  Weirach Farm will leave lambs on for 30 days before weaning.  Barinaga Ranch leaves lambs on for 30 days as well.
"Spooner research showed that ewes who kept their lambs on for 30 days but were separated at night and milked in the morning had almost no fat measured in their milk.  After much research they found that since the ewes knew they would be reunited with their lambs after milking they "saved" the fat from their milk for the lambs.  Bellwether used this method of weaning when they started and had the same problem - they couldn't make cheese from this milk and a local "old timer" explained why.
"Spooner research also shows that crossbreeding dairy ewes with other non-dairy ewes is ideal to promote hardier ewes but keep good milk production.  This holds promise for our Blueface Leicester x East Friesian ewes.
"Everyone I talked to who is making cheese right now in California spent time in Europe learning the craft."

Courtney will share more notes and photos soon!  Callie is starting a new intensive internship at a goat dairy in Marin County this week, but I'm hoping she'll find time to report on the conference on her blog at www.agandculture.blogspot.com.  I'm excited about the prospects for a sheep dairy right here in Placer County!

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