For about the last 2 weeks we have had the utmost pleasure of milking our two new sheep mommas! Sheep’s milk? Oh yeah.
Sheep have been raised for milk for thousands of years and were milked before cows. It’s highly nutritious, and is richer in vitamin A, B, E, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium than cow’s milk. Because sheep’s milk has a higher solids content than goat or cow milk, 1 liter of sheep’s milk can produce more cheese than 1 liter of cow’s milk. Some of the world’s most famous cheese’s are commonly made with sheep’s milk: feta, ricotta, and romano. Fancy that!
Once the baby lambs got big enough and weren’t as reliant on their mother’s milk (about 1 month), we were able to start milking. You have to keep momma and her babies separate at night, or else the babies will take all the milk. By the morning the udders are full and ready to be milked!
A few weeks ago Aaron was tasked with building a stanchion, a.k.a. a structure to contain the sheep and prevent them from moving too much while they are being milked. It looks a bit like a guillotine, but I assure you, no animals are hurt in using the stanchion! To reinforce this, we made sure to test it. Here’s the humiliating result.
We lure them into the stanchion with sheep “crack” (a mix of oats and other grains that they LOVE), then we get busy. We wash the udders, then put coconut or olive oil on our fingers so their nipples don’t get irritated by the repetitive milking action. It’s a two person job. One person does the milking while one keep’s the sheep distracted by feeding it some “crack”.
Admittedly, the action of milking is awkward. You get over touching their udders and being close to their butt pretty quickly, but your body gets tired from sitting/standing in such strained positions. So naturally, we got creative. Here’s Aaron in his distinctively milking position:
Every day we get about 2 cups of milk from each of the two mommas, Heidi and Freya. We strain the milk twice to remove any nasties, and put about 3/4 of it in the freezer so we can accumulate enough to make cheese, yogurt and kefir (freezing doesn’t affect the cheese-making quality of the milk). The other 1/4 is put in the fridge and used just like regular old milk! We’ve been using it a lot at breakfast, such as in the chia-seed parfaits or buckwheat porridge we love to make from the Oh She Glows cookbook (best cookbook in the WORLD). One time we pulled out the Chernobyl inspired ice-cream maker that Steve and Helen own and gave ‘er a whirl. Vanilla blackberry sheep’s milk ice cream is TASTY.
Our milkin’ fingers are getting stronger every day 🙂