Sheep have extremely versatile purposes, serving owners with wool, meat, and milk. Throughout century-old farm life, they were often a primary source of food and clothing production. Even throughout industrialization, sheep held their value for lots of farmers. Today, many farm owners take an interest in sheep-keeping—and you might be one of them.
Certain dairy breeds are better than others, depending on their intended purpose. If you were considering tending a flock for milk production, what are your best options? Below are five of the best sheep you can own if you want a little community of milk-producing ewes.
The 5 Best Sheep for Milk Production
1. East Friesian Sheep
The East Friesian sheep hails from Germany, earning the title as one of the most productive milk producers among its sheep cousins. Scattered over the world, the East Friesian sheep holds the title for the highest household milk producer.
These sheep are rather sensitive and are not known to be the most adaptable sheep breed. However, lots of breeders will cross them with different types of sheep to create hardier versions.
East Fresian sheep do not get as big as some others, only weighing a maximum of 200 pounds. They produce a whopping total of 1 gallon of milk per day during lactation.
East Friesian sheep are highly agreeable creatures, making them a breeze to care for.
2. Lacaune Sheep
As the name would imply, the Lacaune sheep comes from Lacaune, France. There was a lot of trial and error when they first tried to use this breed for milking. They were not initially known for their high yield. However, with selective breeding, milk production increased significantly over time.
These sheep are incredibly adaptable, working well on rough terrain and in harsh climates. These traits are desirable to farmers since they run into minimal environmental issues. They do very well with pasture grazing, too.
These sheep are medium-sized, weighing up to 220 as adults. They produce a total of 74 gallons per lactating season. Many people are working diligently to create various cheeses from Lacaune sheep milk.
If they are well-socialized, they can be friendly with people.
3. Awassi Sheep
The Awassi is an incredibly interesting looking sheep with males having long curled horns. It’s native to southwest Asia, mainly in Iraq. Throughout history, this breed served both mutton and milk-related purposes.
Awassi sheep are hardy and resistant to many illnesses and diseases. Mothers tend to be very doting and nurturing to their offspring. Their adaptability and breeding success are two attractive factors when you own this flock.
Awassi sheep can weigh up to 200 pounds, especially if they are rams. But most ewes stay in the range of 110 pounds. They produce nearly 175 pounds of milk every lactating cycle.
Awassi sheep do well while grazing and are adaptable to many terrain types and climates.
4. Icelandic Sheep
The Icelandic sheep is a domesticated breed from Iceland. While they are widely used for their luscious wool production, they are still used primarily as a meat source in Iceland today.
There are reports that over 80% of the profit made on Icelandic sheep in Iceland is for their meat. The other 20% came from milk production. Their milk was actually known as Iceland’s poor man’s milk for nearly 1,000 years.
The Icelandic sheep is a medium-sized sheep that can weigh up to 220 pounds. They produce up to 2 pounds of milk per day. Even though they are not used for commercial milk today, they are still used on many homesteads in the farms for milk production.
Icelandic sheep do not have calm temperaments—they are very quick on their feet and independent. But they make charming additions to many pastures.
5. Assaf Sheep
Assaf sheep are a type of domesticated sheep from Israel. They were created by combining the East Friesian and Awassi sheep. This outcome was especially desirable due to their super milk yield.
While Assaf sheep produce milk beautifully, they are a dual-purpose breed. Many areas raise flocks of Assaf sheep for meat, too.
At most, the Assaf sheep weighs up to 240 pounds. That means they are a larger breed but equally desirable—especially for meat purposes. These ewes are resilient and also valuable for their many positive traits.
Since Assaf sheep can often have multiple lambs at once, they have a higher milk yield than other breeds. The demand for this breed is still growing in Israel today.
- Related Read: What Do Sheep Eat In the Wild and as Pets?
So, if you’re still mulling over getting a flock of dairy sheep for milking, you have several options. Sheep keeping definitely comes with its rewards. Although these sheep have high milk supplies, you might also want to get a dual-purpose flock to meet all of your needs.
No matter which breed you choose, rest assured there will be milk on the table.
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay