Raising sheep for milk is not something new. It has been done for thousands of years. This practices was common in Europe near Mediterranean Sea but has now spread far. In the US, the industry is still new and mostly in the New England and Upper Midwest. Sheep milk is highly nutritious as compared to cow or goat milk. It is richer in calcium, vitamins A, B, and E , potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. The major health benefit that comes with the short- and medium-chain fatty acids from sheep milk is that it makes it easier for the human body to digest the milk.
Something I learned a few years ago was that the raw milk my sheep produce can be stored for weeks at a time. Making it much easier to make cheese in larger batches. Freezing the milk does not alter its ability to make cheese in any way. In fact, the world’s most famous cheese comes from sheep milk. The high solid content found in sheep milk, averaging around 7.5%, gives it the ability to produce more cheese per pound of milk when compared to cow or goat milk. More than a dozen sheep breeds exist worldwide for milk production. The specialized dairy breeds produce 400 to 1100 pounds of milk per lactation while the conventional breeds produce from 100 to 200 pounds of milk per lactation.
Though many breeds might be used for milk production only a few really stand out. The most common and most productive dairy sheep breed is the East Friesian. On Average they produce 990 to 1100 pounds per 220 to 240 day lactation. The other productive dairy breeds are Assaf and fat-tailed Awassi that have their origin from Israel. Why would you want to raise sheep for milk? Cos do produce a lot of milk but are really large animals, they also don’t do well on hills or rocky land. And as previously mentioned, their butterfat content is low in comparison. What has always made sheep a valuable small farm animal is its versatility. Certain breeds can produce milk, wool, meat, and even hides. Much of the world does not have large swaths of flatland that the US has, making goats and sheep a more preferred animal. Even in the US, because of the large amounts of land needed for cows sheep and goats can provide a great alternative. You can easily start raising dairy sheep on your farm and when you are not sure of the care you need to give them, doing research and asking always helps.