SHEEP BREEDS for MILK

There are a few dairy sheep breeds that you could add to your farm. Two of the commonest dairy sheep breeds used in Ireland are the East Fresian and the Lacaune. Their milk is usually described as pure and wholesome with high butterfat and protein content and excellent milk flavor. It is well suited to making a wide array of cheeses. In Ireland sheeps milk is being used by producers for milk, cheese, icecream and yoghurt !

East Fresian

The East Friesian sheep is a dairy sheep breed and raised mainly for milk production. It is a breed of domestic dairy sheep from Germany, which originated from the Friesland area in northern Germany and Holland and is known as Ostfriesisches Milchschaf or East Freisland.

Characteristics
The East Friesian sheep are large sized animals and are large-framed. They are usually white in colour, although a dark variation exists of these animals. They have pink nose and a thin tail. Their heads and legs are generally clear of wool and have pale hooves. The East Friesian sheep are strong animals, and they are well suited to almost all climates. They are relatively docile in terms of temperament which is a desirable trait in any dairy livestock. The ewes tend to lamb by the time they are a year old. Mature ewes are more productive. The lambs are taken away from their mothers after a few days and raised on a bottle like most other dairy animals. The ewes are ideal for cross breeding with other sheep breeds, which are already well adapted to local climates. The East Friesian ewes are excellent milk producers. They produce roughly 300-360 litres of milk over a lactation period of 200-300 days. Review the full breed profile of the East Friesian sheep in the following chart.

East Friesian Sheep | Breed Profile

Breed Name East Friesian

Other Name Ostfriesisches Milchschaf

Breed Purpose Mainly milk

Special Notes Strong animals, well suited to almost all climates, relatively docile in terms of temperament, the ewes are ideal for cross breeding with other sheep breeds, excellent milk producers

Breed Size Medium to large

Horns No

Climate Tolerance Almost all climates

Color Mainly white with some brown/ black

Rarity Common

Country/Place of Origin Holland / Germany

Lacaune

Lacaunes are considered one of the best-performing breeds of dairy sheep, second only to the East Friesian. Their milk is usually described as pure and wholesome with high butterfat and protein content and excellent milk flavor. It is well suited to making a wide array of cheeses. The Lacaune sheep is a breed of domestic sheep from an area of Lacaune in southern France, its place of origin. It is mainly a dairy sheep breed, and the most widely used as dairying sheep breed in France. It is the predominant breed of sheep used for Roquefort cheese production in France. Currently there are about 800000 ewes available in France.  Average milk production of these animals was only about 70 litres per ewe per annum (during the human milking period and excluding the lamb suckling period). Remarkably, the milk production had quadrupled to 280 litres per annum by the 1990s. Today the Lacaune sheep is one of the world’s high milk producing sheep breeds. This is the result of a large-scale, rigorous selection program organized by a French government agency. The program included artificial insemination of several million ewes over the years as well as a vast array of government support for recording the performance of the progeny on many farms with respect to the milk yield and other outcomes, improved knowledge about animal management and nutrition for sheep milk production, and the willingness of many farmers to participate in the program and take advantage of what was being learned. 

Characteristics
The Lacaune sheep are medium sized animal with white body coloration. They have short, fine double coat of white fleece, the undercoat sheds out in summer months. The ewes generally have good udder health and disease resistance. These animals are very docile in terms of temperament, and it is easy to care for them. They have relatively small hooves, which help them navigating the stony ground. They have elongated head and an arched profile. Both rams and ewes are usually polled, that means they have no horns. As a medium sized animal, average live body weight of the mature Lacaune ewes is around 70 kg. And the mature rams on average weight around 100 kg. The Lacaune sheep are very strong and hardy animals, as compared to other sheep breeds. They are well adapted to the harsh conditions of their native area. They are also well suited to the rocky terrain. They can tolerate extreme seasonal variations in temperature, which is most common to their native area. They are excellent grazer and can adapt themselves easily to a variety of range conditions.

Review full breed profile of the Lacaune sheep in the following chart.

Lacaune Sheep | Breed Profile

Breed Name Lacaune

Other Name None

Breed Purpose Mainly milk

Special Notes Very hardy and strong animals, well adapted to the harsh conditions of their native area, well adapted to the rocky terrain, able to tolerate extreme seasonal variations in temperature, excellent grazer, can adapt themselves to a variety of range conditions, ideally suited to the modern dairy operations, ewes usually have good udder health and disease resistance, very docile, easy to care

Breed Size Medium

Weight Between 70 and 100 kg

Horns No

Climate Tolerance Native climates

Colour White

Rarity Common

Country/Place of Origin France

Some Sheep Milk producers in Ireland links

CAIS NA TIRE https://www.fwi.co.uk/livestock/how-irish-dairy-farmers-established-a-sheep-milk-business

VELVET CLOUD (Rockfield) https://www.agriland.ie/farming-news/success-written-in-michelin-stars-for-unique-mayo-sheeps-milk-yogurt/

CROZIER BLUE https://www.agriland.ie/farming-news/see-how-one-tipp-dairy-farmer-is-getting-well-over-e1l-for-milk/

CRATLOE HILLS https://www.irishtimes.com/business/agribusiness-and-food/dairy-farmer-turned-pioneering-cheesemaker-1.2064430

CORLEGGY http://thetaste.ie/wp/the-cream-of-the-cropp-corleggy-cheese/

https://www.thatsfarming.com/videos/milking-sheep-video

https://ecofarm.ie/food/milking-sheep

https://www.independent.ie/life/food-drink/table-talk/rich-and-delicious-have-you-tried-sheeps-milk-icecream-yet-37380815.html