dairy sheep vs milk goat

dannic_az(z8)November 9, 2005

I am wanting a dairy animal to produce my own milk at home. We don't want a cow, and had basically decided to get a goat when I read in a magazine about dairy sheep. It sounded interesting so I followed up on it. But most of the info I found online is about producing sheep milk for commercial purposes. I have read a lot of info on goats and we had a nubian(Bonnie Goat) growing up. I am wondering if anyone has ever milked a sheep for their own family's use or if that is impractical. I would also like to hear the pros and cons of both animals from those who have raised them. Thanks so much for your help...

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I hear of sheep cheese, but I don't know anything about dairy sheep, I would think it would be much like goats though, surely for a commercial sheep dairy there would be breeds that tend to give much more milk than the regulars.

I would think that it would still be much harder than milking a cow. Little teats really make your hands hurt. I have a milk cow that just had her baby and we are milking for our first time, and actually her first time, she has been a pasture cow albeit a Jersey/Guernsey cross. She is doing wonderful and we still are only getting 1 1/2 gallons of milk per day. Am looking forward to getting more like 3 gallons... If you make cheese, it takes A LOT of milk to make a little bit of cheese... Most goats only give around 1/2 gallon and sometimes 3/4 gallons per day. I don't know how much cream you would get to make butter... I don't know about sheep, but if their udders are not large enough to milk with ease, you may desire moving up to something you can hold on too. My cow's back tits are larger than a goats and are hard to milk compared to the large front ones.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 12:37AM
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sharon_sd(SW ON)

Dairy sheep have tremendously big udders and long fat teats compared to regular sheep. You milk dairy sheep on a milking stand, the same as goats.

Sheep milk is about 18% fat. The cream does not separate like the cream in cow's milk. It is great for cheese, but not for drinking.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 8:34AM
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Why not for drinking? Is the tast off? I have had some stinky goats milk, that was hard to tolerate, but I have had some that to me tasted like cows milk. I have also noticed that if I don't like the taste of the milk, that I don't much like the taste of the cheese, since it is concentrated.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 2:39PM
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sharon_sd(SW ON)

It isn't good for drinking because it contains 18% butterfat. That means, in cow terms, you are drinking cream. It is not as rich as whipping cream, but contains almost twice the fat of cereal cream.

The flavour isn't my favourite, it's just different, it is an aquired taste. It's okay in coffee and baking.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 9:02AM
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Well, I did read that it has twice the milk solids too, so that is why it is supposed to be good for cheese. I love my cow (jersey/guernsey cross) extra rich milk and I like it that way. I think we are getting spoiled by having all this milk and it will be hard to go to milking a goat, which I have also, but she is not quite a year old an has not been bred yet. She is a lover in her own right, her name is Darlin', but I don't know how she will do as a milker, we have not brought her up in a stanchion. Been too busy messing with the cow.

Why don't you want a cow? Because of size? lack of room? There are mini milk cows too.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 10:29PM
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huisjen(z5 ME)

Goat poop comes out in nice little solid pellets. Cow poop spatters all over when it comes out.

I can take a goat in a fair fight. If a goat steps on my foot, I say "Excuse Me!". If a cow stepped on my foot I'd say "AAAAAAAAGggggggghhhhhhhhh!", and then need pain killers.

I can take a goat to be bred in the back of the Tacoma, or even the front if I put down some upholstery protection. I can't do that with a cow.

All that said, I take my first goat, still a kid, to be bred in maybe a month. I've never milked a cow, and only have done a couple squirts out of a goat. This was supposed to have been my wife's thing, but I suspect I'm going to get stuck with it.

I also have a Jacob ewe lamb who will get bred around then too. I'll have to see if she's milkable.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 3:18PM
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Sorry, I was out of town for a few days and just got around to checking back...Let's see...Lesli, I have a few reasons for not wanting a cow. I understand that both goat and sheep milk are more easily digestible. Also, many people have allergies to cow's milk. My husband and I cannot tolerate most cow's milk products. I have dealt with this most of my life, while my husband's is more recent. Because of this, we chose not to allow our son to have any (cows) dairy products until after he was two and then only very sparingly. We will do the same with our daughter. We recently moved and would be able to have more animals (we already have a dog and chickens). We had decided to get a goat, but when I was researching which type of milk goat we would want, I came across an article on dairy sheep and their milk and thought that I would get a few opinions as well as search around a little more before making any final decisions.
We also don't really need ALOT of milk, so a smaller animal would be best there, as well. Thanks so much for giving me your feedback....Dannic

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 3:44PM
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This is very interesting, I've been planning to research whether to get milk sheep or goats too.
I drink very little milk, I'll be leaving the young with mom and just taking what I need.
I do want to try making butter, cheese, and getting actual cream.
Do either animal allow for this? Thanks.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 11:00PM
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sharon_sd(SW ON)

Sheep milk is unsuitable for making butter because the milk fat globules are so small that the milk is naturally homogenized. The cream does not naturally separate from the milk as does cows milk. You need special equipment to separate it and this is not economically viable for a small producer.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2005 at 7:01AM
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Isn't the milk from nubian goats also naturally homogenized? I've heard that their milk is some of the best. Sharon, you seem to know alot about sheep...have you raised them before? And you're right, it looks as if keeping a sheep for family milk is impractical. Thanks for your input.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2005 at 10:28AM
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Yes- thanks!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2005 at 2:03AM
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sharon_sd(SW ON)

My husband and I have been raising sheep for 25 years. I was also the main programmer for an internationally regarded sheep record keeping system, EweByte, which includes the capacity to record and analyse milk production data, as well as health and productivity information.

We sell purebred Rideau Arcott breeding stock. The Rideaus are a relatively new breed of very prolific sheep with an excellent milking capacity. The breed was created from Dorset, Finn and East Friesian.

We weaned 2.5 lambs per ewe, including yearling ewes, last year. 1/4 of the lambs were born quad. Only 2 ewes had singles.

We also have a donkey and 2 llamas.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2005 at 9:05AM
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Sharon, I wish you lived closer as I'd very very interested in trying the Rideau's. Looks like there may be some 3/4 dairy sheep locally, but would be nice to try something actually bred for milk rather than these pets!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 12:30AM
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I fully understand what you mean about having trouble digesting the cows milk. I had a problem with it till we got our cow, and my husband really had a problem with it everytime he ate icecream/drank milk with anything to the point of just never consuming dairy because it made him sick. He also had IBS, and has not had any trouble with that since the onset of raw milk being available. Pastuerizing kills the good gut bacteria that help in digestion, and most of the enzymes too, but raw milk has been much easier to tolerate. When we got our cow, from the first time we drank raw milk, it has been completely different, actually I can drink milk or eat homemade yogurt and cure my stomach of any other kind of virus or what ever. As long as I drink our milk regularly I don't tend to be bothered with stomache ailments at all.

I know that there are still people out their that are very allergic to cow's milk and I whole-heartedly agree that they should avoid it all cost. I am glad that any of these may be able to consume goats milk, good substitution. Goat milk is very tolerable to the digestive track (usually more so than cows)and is almost as nutritious as cow milk according to my goat book. I just have a hard time getting it past my nose. And goat cheese-I guess because it is concentrated, is just very hard for me to take. Just too goaty. There are some that are better than others as far as flavor, and keeping the billy away completely also helps for the goaty-ness. My little doe doesn't smell at all like a goat but we don't keep a billy.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 1:38PM
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We love milk! We also got into dairy goats (Nubian) in the last year and started milking in January of this year. Can't say anything about milking sheep, as I only just learned that they exist through this thread. But I can say that goat's milk is generally mild and doesn't stink if you keep the does separate from the buck and maintain good hygiene, processing and cooling your milk quickly after milking.

We're by no means experts. We're new. But we did join a dairy goat club, locally, and have been GREATLY benefited by all the expert advise and encouragement.

We have two does milking now. One is producing about a gallon a day and the other only 1/2 gallon. The one who produces less will go to the freezer by next winter. We're saving a doeling, from this year's kids, to replace her.

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   March 16, 2007 at 10:38AM
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I have bred and raised Oberhasli dairy goats for 10 years and have been a cheesemaker for 10 years as well. I read about people who say the goat milk is "stinky" and they can't stand the taste. People often tell me stories about horrible goat milk and wonder why my cheese and milk tastes so good. I am a firm believer in telling people if your milk tastes bad, your cheese will taste bad as well. There is no magic potion that will turn bad tasting milk into good tasting cheese. But, I firmly believe everything starts with what goes into your goat for feed, will make a huge difference on how your milk will taste. My milkers get the best grain I can afford as well as good alfalfa. Also, I feel it is EXTREMELY important to take great care of your milk while you are milking and after you are done. I filter my milk and yes, I do pasteurize my milk as well. It lasts at least a week longer that way. I always cool off my milk in a bucket of ice cubes and cold water to help it retain that fresh taste. You can't plunk a gallon of warm milk into the fridge and expect it to cool off fast enough and not get an off taste. I also always store my milk in glass jars, not plastic, it will stay fresher that way as well. One of the reasons I do pasteurize my milk is I found when making cheese from raw milk, there is always the possibility that some bacteria from the milk will compete with the added cultures I put in to make the cheese. I have had some batches from raw milk look like a science experiment gone bad. I can't afford to waste my milk or time with poor outcomes.

It is hard for me to bite my tongue when people tell me how bad goat milk tastes. But, when they are standing there eating my cheese as fast as they can, I tell them that if the milk was bad, the cheese would be as well. They never seem to get the connection. I do have people tell me that goat milk tastes "too thick". But, I remind them that they are drinking whole milk, not skim or 2%, and it is a richer taste than they are probably used to. My milk tastes just like cow's milk, only better, because I know where it came from.;-)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 2:45PM
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Thanks for the input. I can glean some tips from it for our own practices. But, as you mention, goat's milk tastes like whole cow's milk. We're looking forward to learning and enjoying more. We have Nubians; and, yes, we too pasteurize and use glass jars.


Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 2:35PM
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Wow, funny to see this almost two years later...threads really never die, eh=).
Update: We now have 3 mini nubian dairy goats. (one buck and two doelings) The girls just turned a year, and so have not been bred yet. They are so sweet. I definately agree that the taste has to do with the care of the goat, the feed, and the immediate proper ccare of the milk. One plus of having minis is that they can be bred year round, so we will stagger our girls so as to have fresh milk longer.
What types of cheese do you make? Dannic

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 9:20PM
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"One plus of having minis is that they can be bred year round, so we will stagger our girls so as to have fresh milk longer. "
That is indeed an advantage!

I like you look forward to reading what kind of cheese oberhasli1 makes. We're only just thinking about cheese making ourselves.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 11:52AM
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Ooooh Cheese - my favorite topic! I have made lots of different cheeses over the years, but concentrate mostly during the summer time on soft cheeses, such as chevre (a french style cream cheese), feta, crottins, and camemberts. When I first got into cheesemaking, I stuck with soft cheeses, figuring it would be too much trouble to make the hard textured cheeses, but, I changed my mind after a couple of years. I milk my goats "through", meaning I don't breed them every year because they are big milkers (l gallon or more a day), and I milk them right through their breeding season and have milk year round. I milked one of my Oberhasli's continuously for 4 years. Milking them through is a nice contiunous supply of milk for me especially in the winter. That is when I make hard texture cheeses, such as parmesan and romano. It takes 4 gallons of milk to make one wheel of the italian cheeses. It also takes 4-6 months for them to age properly. So, I make these cheeses in the winter and age them in my basement, and then they are available in the summer. It is very satisfying to have shelves of your own cheese aging in the basement or wherever. The best source of cheesemaking information is The Cheesemaker's Manual by Margaret P. Morris. She is from Canada, and I also buy all of my cheesemaking cultures from her as well. She is a VERY nice person, Very knowledgeable, and a great resource for reasonably priced cheesemaking supplies. She has a website at: glengarrycheesemaking.on.ca. I own just about every cheesemaking manual published and hers is definitely the best.

I teach cheesemaking workshops occasionally, and I tell any new cheesemakers to pick one cheese you want to make and perfect that technique before you move on to another one. It is easy to jump in and want to make all kinds of cheeses at once, but it can get complicated. I tell new people that cheesemaking isn't really hard, it is somewhat time consuming in that you have to pay attention to temperatures and cultures and try to keep ahead of mold growth if you are aging cheeses.

I have also been selling my cheeses at the local farmer's market in the summer for the past 8 years. It has been a nice source of revenue for me as it helps pay the grain bill. I have also educated the northern portion of our city on the finer aspects of good goat cheese. Most people turn up their noses and tell me some horrible story about goat cheese they had that was awful. I usually tell them that most imported goat cheeses are fairly strong in taste and smell - but - fresh cheese is absolutely wonderful. I always have samples out for people to try and they love it (most of them anyway).

I started out making cheese using goat's milk and vinegar to curdle the milk. It is an easy recipe, but after a while I couldn't stand the flavor. Making chevre is SOOOOOo easy and it is sooooo good and versatile that I was sold.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 2:35PM
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im looking at buying a pasturizer, our friend went out of town, and we fed and milked his goats, and now i am very interested in milking for our own use.....we raise meat goats (boer) and also have a 6 month old nubian, of course we cant use her for a long time, so i am looking at a few older dairy goats, we also raise bottle baby calves, and want to get a jersey for them and us too..... anyhow, i am interested in what type of pasturizer that any of ya'll might be using, and what makes ya like it.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 11:31AM
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I raise meat/wool sheep. That said i do have one extreamly good milker. She feeds triplets + and had teats that rival the size of a cow's. I know that this is not normal for sheep but there are some out there that are good for milking. I do milk her if i have a bummer lamb that needs feeding so she gets milked a lot and I have never felt like she was ever hard to milk. My Aunt's pure bred milk goat bought and used for a milk goat had smaller teats and udder than my ewe.

I wouldn't discount buying sheep for milk just because most of the sheep out there are not dairy animals. I my area it is easier to sell lambs than it is to sell kids.

Also I had some sheep's milk in the fridge overnight that did seperate out (it was fresh milked and chilled right away). I didn't relize that their milk didn't seperate.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2010 at 7:06PM
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Wow! old thread! We are still milking our cow, Daisy, but I have found out she is full jersey, not jersey X Guernsey. The milk is still fabulous.

As per goat vs cow milk. There are very good milk goats with milk that does taste very much like cows milk. Many folks prefer the taste of goats milk over cows milk. My aunt is a goat milker. She thinks it is far more nutritious than cows milk so she prefers to drink the goats milk. But she has told me that she loved the taste of my cow's milk and wishes she could get more separation of her goat milk/cream so she could make butter. But even she says that the milk tastes more like cows milk when it is hours old, but if it is much over 2 days old it gets 'goatier' smelling/tasting. She said she gives it to her grand kids at about a week old, but she will only drink it very fresh.

Personally in my opinion folks would not have such a negative response to goat milk if there was not a lot of bad goat milk out there. NOT all goat milk is good, not all is BAD! Besides that it is JUST DIFFERENT than cow milk, you can not change that fact. If you like goats milk drink it and milk a goat. If you prefer cows' milk- milk and drink a cow's milk. When folks get hungry and go without long enough they will take either one. I just don't see the point of arguing about that point, its a matter of personal taste. It is like arguing over what is the best color out there.

As far as pasteurization--If you are going to do that, you may as well just buy it at the grocery store. It is far too much trouble to care for and milk a cow then process the milk, to ruin it by pasteurizing it. I know it is controversial. All I can say is folks drank it raw for thousands of years before pasteurization. And a healthy cow does not give unhealthy milk. There are tests you can have done on the animal you are milking to make sure the milk is good/safe. If you are the least bit sanitary there is nothing to worry about. I NEVER pasteurize because it would make me sick, I would be lactose intolerant if I did not drink it raw. Besides it tastes sooooo much better fresh.


    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 9:25PM
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Does sheep's milk have the same tendency as goat's milk to develop a "goaty" (sheepy?) flavor/smell as it ages?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 5:00AM
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Boy, this IS an old thread! Never had dairy sheep, although we used to have a small flock and milked the ewes when we had a weak lamb--no particular problem and we milked in the pasture, not in a barn on a stand. No one has mentioned that the taste of goat milk can also vary by breed. Most people prefer the taste of goat milk that tastes like cow milk--Nubian, Alpine,Oberhasli, LaMancha, etc.. People like the milk from Saanen and Toggenberg less, as it seems to taste different and is not as rich. The latter two breeds are very good for cheese production, however, probably because they have less fat. If you have tasted goat milk you didn't like, it could be how the milk was handled after milking (including the age of the milk and whether it was pasteurized), or it could just be the breed of goat from which it came (or what it was fed).

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 4:39PM
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Hi, I have just found this thread whilst googling something else and felt compelled to speak up for sheeps milk, we have been milking sheep both semi-commercially and for home use for over 25 years.
Sheep milk tastes like a very rich channel island milk and does not carry a taint unless the sheep have been fed unconventionally, just the same as cattle, ( I have had some terrible cows milk which had been fed experimentally on waste vegetables through winter - cabbage euch!)
The main taint in goats milk comes from what they eat, goats are foragers and eat all sorts of stuff that could taint the milk, sheep are grazers like cattle and their main diet is grass.
Although no good for lactose intolerence, both sheep and goats milk products are suitable for those who cannot handle cow dairy stuff. Sheeps milk also carries useful trace elements and vitamins and our main raw milk customers use it as an alternative to cows milk, as well as the added bonus of certain medicinal properties, particularly as a treatment for eczyma (a local skin specialist used to prescribe it).
Sheeps milk also makes excellent cheese, yoghurt, ricotta and soap, although as has already been mentioned, special equipment is needed for butter.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 5:41AM
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Not sure where the "Milk doesn't last long" came from, but when I milk my does (I have 2 goats) I strain it thru cotton cloth and straight into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. And Yes, it is WARM when it goes into the jar, and into the fridge... The trick is to top the jar off as high as you can, leaving nearly NO oxygen inside it. My milk stays good for up to 2 weeks with no off-taste.
I agree that Not all goat milk is good, but that is not the goats fault. The taste of the milk can be impacted by the environment (like the presence of a buck for example) as well as dirty living conditions... They can also be affected by the lack of vitamins/minerals (like copper, magnesium, etc), or by the food that the goats are fed (can't expect good milk for example if they are fed onions! LOL)... There can be MANY reasons why milk would taste bad.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2013 at 9:44PM
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Just a thought to consider- what are your confinement plans? It's usually easier to outsmart a sheep with a fence than a goat. However in my experience sheep are sometimes unhappy alone. Do you plan on more than one animal?
I have a couple of sheep (a Jacobs and some Wensleydales) and have a real desire to have a dairy sheep also.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 9:58AM
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i am trying to decide between dairy goats or sheep as well. one thing i read, which is interesting that it is not mentioned here, is that, although you can use a mechanical separator to get to the milk solids faster, to make butter from either goat or sheep's milk you need to let it sit for 12 hours, well chilled. goat's butter is naturally white, and i would gather the same for sheep. also, you can apparently freeze sheep's milk without effecting it's capacity to make cheese. i wonder if this is the same for goat's milk?

Here is a link that might be useful: making butter from goat milk

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 6:41PM
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