Author Topic: Why sheep and not cows  (Read 2506 times)

Offline elkato

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Why sheep and not cows
« on: November 07, 2011, 01:59:12 PM »
I have recently invested in a herd of sheep 40 registered purebred friesian, I also bought a used low line 12 sheep/6 units milking machine, I just took over some family land where I am planting grass, alfalfa, oats ,and corn.
My  plan is to make a small artisan creamery and produce aged hard/semi hard cheeses.
For 2012 only half the herd will be lambing because the others where too young this breeding season, so the  amount of milk will be small
 
 I have began the great learning experience of making and ageing artisan cheeses (Manchego, Gouda, Tomme) with great attention to detail.
For some of the makes I have used organic cow milk from my neighbor's Holsteins and after two months of age I am sampling some of the cheeses, to my surprise the high percentage cow milk are just as good as the sheep milk, so this brings me to my question:
What makes us choose to milk sheep instead of cows? With the same investment I could have bought 10 jersey cows and produce 40,000 liters a year instead of 10,000 Lt (4000 Lt per cow vs. 250 Lt per ewe for 40animals)  as much as I like my sheep these numbers,( which I believe are conservative in both cases) don't add up so good in favor of the sheep. of course what I will provably do is just to buy cow milk and be able to make more cheese. but I was wondering if any one has had this question roaming in their head


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Offline Gürkan Yeniçeri

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Re: Why sheep and not cows
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2011, 03:48:44 PM »
I am guessing that the quality of the sheep milk is (dry content, aroma, existing lipase, fat levels etc) different than the cow's. Yes it is a harder business to be in but the cheeses no doubt will be unique artisanal cheeses, as sheep's milk products not widely available as cow's milk ones in the market.
The points to consider are:
There are particular cheeses that can only be made with sheep's milk.
An aged sheep's milk cheese will be much different than the cow's milk cheese of the same type.
Sheeps give less milk than a cow but higher quality. The yield is easily 15% and with your feeding scheme, it would even be higher.
It is not just quantity but also the quality. You can charge higher prices for your artisanal sheep's milk products.
If you start with sheep's milk, your recipes will evolve with your milk and if you change the milk in the middle to cow's, recipes won't work and need alteration.
You should factor the higher yield and higher prices of the sheep's milk products to your calculations. Not just 40K versus 10K Litres.

The most important thing is how much satisfaction you will get when you are making cheeses with your own sheep's milk or bought cow's milk?

Offline linuxboy

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Re: Why sheep and not cows
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2011, 03:58:19 PM »
How are you getting 250 liters per lactation? You should be doing about 300 liters ave/ewe across the herd. Feeding the lambs or is that total? Are they younger?

For me, it is about loving the animals. I just don't like hanging around cows.
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Offline Megan

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Re: Why sheep and not cows
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2011, 05:10:17 PM »
Sheep milk cheeses have a very unique niche in the market.  I love the earthy flavor of sheep milk, my cattle's milk here tended toward the bitter side, I liked it actually, but my family preferred milk high in lactose and solids.  ;)  Sheep are smart, my leader ewe will crack the pond for a drink, dig through snow to eat, love the feed conversion rate.   If I loose a sheep it's less of a loss than a cow.  I also found the hard way >:(, sheep are more resistant to cr@ppy help.  My family has a lot of lactose intolerance, sheep's milk is easily digestable.  Equipment is less of an investment.  Much easier on the fence lines!  A ram is easier to deal with than a bull, or an AI tank.  I am biased though. ;D

Offline eric1

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Re: Why sheep and not cows
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2011, 08:50:06 PM »
I think you have to factor in that you probably paid "specialty prices" for dairy sheep.  I don't think "normal" prices would give you a cow for the price of just 4 sheep.  I'd put a normal trade-off more like 7 sheep to one cow, which would about cut your difference in half.

And then sheep multiply a lot faster than cattle.  It's possible to average more than double as many offspring per mature female with sheep as cattle, and the time from ewe lamb to lambing (age to breeding + length of pregnancy) is much less than then time from heifer calf to calving.  So your initial investment in your ewes has the potential to catch up to your would-have-been investment in cows pretty quickly.

And as Megan said, feed conversion is important to consider.  Over the long term your maintenance costs per gallon are going to completely overshadow your investment costs per gallon.  I kept sheep (although not dairy type) for a couple years on winter pastures that would have starved a comparable dry cow to death, yet I didn't even see reduced returns with the sheep.  Some breeds of sheep are incredibly efficient at pasture utilization.  Even my dairy goats are worlds easier to feed through the poorer pasture seasons than my Jerseys.

Finally, if you're thinking of making cheese, I can't say from experience but I've read that the yield of cheese per gallon of milk is much higher with sheep even than with high component dairy breeds of cattle.  Isn't that true?  If it is (and depending on the extent), half as many gallons of milk could theoretically still mean just as many pounds of cheese.


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Offline elkato

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Re: Why sheep and not cows
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2011, 11:20:34 AM »
Thank you for your replies (Eric,Megan,LB Gurkan)
I think that I am very happy with my sheep even if they were expensive  registered speciality breed, my buyers remorse maybe resulted from adding production numbers witch as you have pointed out were not very accurate. I posted the same question in the dairysheep group at yahoo and it styred quite a discussion, the consensus being that cows are more productive, but also more work and most of the people in the dairysheep group liked sheep better, I grew up in a farm where we kept some cows so I also like being around them, maybe in the future I might buy a few cows, but I don't know if the added work of keeping two species will outweight the benefit,(Consider Bartwell farms has goats and jersey cows for example)

Offline andrewpetersen

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Re: Why sheep and not cows
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2012, 12:06:40 AM »
I agree with you I also have 4 sheep's at my place and I am also very happy to have them though it is little costly to keep but more then that it has great advantage.

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Re: Why sheep and not cows
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2012, 09:08:46 AM »
Your fat content is more than double with sheep.  Cows milk renders into cheese at 10%, as compared with sheep which can go up to 30%. 
So 10,000 liters will produce 1,000kg of cow milk and 3,000kg sheep cheese.  My two cents.

Offline mightyjesse

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Re: Why sheep and not cows
« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2012, 10:12:22 AM »
You can make a lot more cheese by volume of milk with sheep milk than cow milk... Here's a break-down of the milks:

http://www.sheepmilk.biz/sheepmilk.html

I DREAM of owning a couple of dairy sheep.

Offline SouthernCheese

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Re: Why sheep and not cows
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2013, 07:10:54 AM »
I realize this is an old post, but it's a worthy topic. We milk Jerseys and make farmstead cheese, though I do purchase sheep's milk and make a couple of artisanal varieties with it. Like a number of cheese lovers, I love sheep's milk cheese. However, even though MightyJesse is right that there are more solids in sheep's milk, that overlooks the fact that sheep's milk is FAR more costly to produce and/or buy. When I wholesale sheep's milk cheese the price is 50% higher than our farmstead cow's milk cheese.

Another interesting point is taste preference. We make one Alpine style cheese called Fortsonia (http://naturesharmonyfarm.com/product/fortsonia/) and I make a sheep's milk cheese using the same process but replacing cow's milk with sheep's milk. While I love that cheese called Shepherd's Peak (http://naturesharmonyfarm.com/product/shepherds-peak-sheeps-cheese/), the truth is that customers prefer the cow's milk cheese in a blind taste test. Ironic, isn't it, since the cow's milk cheese is far lower in price.

I'm glad there are great sheep's milk cheeses out there, but as an operator, I'll make them in small volumes and continue focusing on cow's milk.

Best of luck to you.


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Offline Tomer1

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Re: Why sheep and not cows
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2013, 04:14:00 PM »
If you want higher yeild\production You should looking into designing cheeses which are blends of Cow+Sheep.
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Offline elkato

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Re: Why sheep and not cows
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2013, 07:59:20 PM »
Since the time that I posted the original question my artisan factory has grown a little and I indeed went and got some cows, 6 brown Swiss 5 Holstein and 3 jersey all  pasture based feeding in irrigated pastures along with over 60 milking sheep.
we make a  good selling mixed milk tomme, but in blind test our costumers also prefere cow milk cheese to sheep milk of the same type of cheese, and it is way cheaper and easier to produce the cow milk, go figure!
thank you all for your comments!

Offline Juan Fries Widdat

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Re: Why sheep and not cows
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2014, 06:12:28 AM »
Since the time that I posted the original question my artisan factory has grown a little and I indeed went and got some cows, 6 brown Swiss 5 Holstein and 3 jersey all  pasture based feeding in irrigated pastures along with over 60 milking sheep.
we make a  good selling mixed milk tomme, but in blind test our costumers also prefere cow milk cheese to sheep milk of the same type of cheese, and it is way cheaper and easier to produce the cow milk, go figure!
thank you all for your comments!
I'm curious as to how your cow breed choices are working out. I think of Holsteins as having low solids and low fat milk - and not doing well on just grass. How are they working for you?
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I'm gonna look it up tomorrow.

Offline elkato

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Re: Why sheep and not cows
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2014, 08:51:14 AM »
When i first began looking at cow breeds, I didn't want Holsteins maybe because that is what everyone has and I wanted something exotic just to be different, but I have come to like my black and whites as much as my brown Swiss, the medium framed cows do perfect on pasture and just have a willing to milk, the calves are super hardy and the milk might not have as much fat, but the cheese yield is good. I am using semen from very high cheese yield sires who are also pasture based (you don't find as many choices and info on sires of other breeds)
 
 just an update: I opened a wheel of half cow half sheep milk 8month old tome  and is the most wonderful cheese I have ever made, so I will keep a small flock of milk sheep in the farm!