We have been slowly developing our flock of dairy sheep since 2004. We initially bred two high quality Friesian ewes to a Friesian/Targhee cross ram that was a direct descendant of Blue 40 from New Zealand. To diversify the genetics of the flock, in 2011, we introduced a Friesian/Lacaune ram as well as 20 young ewes that are a hardy cross of Friesian/Polypay/Columbian and Lacaune. Currently we have fluctuating small flock size of about 70 head.
All of our sheep products are certified through A Greener World, and carry the Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) seal. This program audits and certifies family farms raising their animals humanely, outdoors on pasture or range. Farmers who earn the AWA seal benefit from having a third-party verification of their high-welfare practices and consumers benefit by knowing that the humane label means what it says.
We are also members of Fibershed; an organization developing regional fiber systems that build soil & protect the health of our biosphere. We are participating in their Carbon Beneficial Wool Program. Wool is ‘naturally manufactured’ through inputs including: sunlight, water, and grass; wool renews itself every twelve months as sheep regrow their fleece. Land managers that commit to building their soil carbon stocks (and thus their productivity) through integrating carbon farming into their farm and ranch management, can enhance the draw down of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into the soil. This enhanced draw down of atmospheric carbon into the soil where sheep graze, can be measured and appropriated to the footprint of the wool. This is Climate Beneficial Wool.
If you are enthusiastic about dairy sheep we encourage you to join DSANA, the Dairy Sheep Association of North America. DSANA has an annual Dairy Sheep Symposium offering workshops, seminars and an established internet community all of which have proven to be an invaluable source of information and inspiration for us.
Our Sheep dairy
Our dairy was constructed from the shell of a 32'x10' portable classroom trailer. There are two rooms in our dairy. One room is where the sheep are milked on a stanchion and the other room is where the milking equipment is cleaned and the milk is filtered and chilled. We still just use bucket milkers (run off a vacuum line) with enough inflations to milk six animals at once. A group of twelve sheep on the stanchion takes approximately 15 minutes to clean, strip, milk and dip.
Listen up beginner shepherds...Predatory losses can bring you to your knees emotionally and financially. The greatest predatory threat to sheep in our area are #1 domestic dogs and #2 coyotes. High quality fencing, diligent shepherding and guardian animals are how we keep our sheep safe from harm. Having moved several times since taking on the responsibility of sheep; we have found that every property has its own unique set of constraints and challenges to ensuring flock safety.
Having to clean up a crime scene before morning chores is something you do not forget.
Well maintained fencing that is chosen with the regional predatory threat in mind is the first step in protecting a flock.
Fencing should be designed with the intent of keeping predators out, as opposed to simply keeping sheep in.
Dogs and Coyotes can wiggle through the smallest of lifts or openings in a fence; therefore cattle fencing (just a few strands of barbed wire) will NOT do. You want fencing that is 4"x4" or the no-climb style and at least 4' in height. Higher the better particularly if you are in a region with mountain lions. We find that high quality perimeter pasture fencing, in addition to portable wire-net efencing for a more secure night-time enclosure is the best fencing combination. From dusk to dawn is when wild predation is the biggest problem. If you are near residential properties domestic dogs will be a 24 hour threat.
A diligent shepherd is always tending the flock, particularly at dusk. If out on larger pastures we move the animals into portable efence net paddocks for extra security.
We currently have two livestock guardian animals to assist us in protecting the flock. We have a Great Pyrenees dog that lives with our milking ewes and a guard llama that lives with our weaned lambs and retirees.
MORE FRIESIAN Breed info
The East Friesian dairy sheep originated in northern Germany and the province of Friesland in the Netherlands. Imported as purebreds into the U.S. from Canada in 1994, this breed has the highest milk production of the improved dairy sheep breeds. They are a docile, large size, open white faced, polled breed with a coarse grade staple length wool. Their most distinctive physical feature is a "rat-tail", thin and free of wool. A high percentage of ewes will lamb at 12 months of age and mature ewes are highly prolific. Litter size in the East Friesian is reported as averaging 2.25 lambs with a milk yield per ewe of 500-700 kg per lactation testing 6-7% milk fat, the highest average dairy milk yield recorded for any breed of sheep.
The East Friesian is considered to be the worlds highest producing dairy sheep. They are highly specialized animals and do poorly under extensive and large flock husbandry conditions. It is perhaps no mere coincidence that the region of Friesland is also the origin of the Friesian cattle breed, including the Holstein which has the highest milk yield of any breed of livestock. Friesian cattle and East Friesian sheep are alike in other important regards. Neither fares well in harsh hot environments but both have produced excellent crossbreeds with adapted local breeds.
Breed definition as defined by the American Diary Sheep Association
Additional information by Wesley Combs, Canada, Consultant in International Livestock Development