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Deciding on a milk source - Sheep or Goat?

 
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Hi!

No animals yet but we'd like to get one milk producer. We live at altitude, with lots of snow, and I know goats don't like "wet", plus their escape artist tendency are funny to watch on YouTube, but I'm not so certain I'm up for that adventure.

I've met sheep who I like...

Lactose intolerance issues with cows milk, plus they are too big...although at 8,000ft maybe a yak???
 
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I've heard that sheep have shorter lactation cycles than goats, so if you wanted milk for 10+ months of the year, dairy goats are probably the better choice, but maybe some breeds of sheep are good for this too.

If you just wanted milk over the spring and summer, then either would be a good choice.

Goats can be good to keep in a barn and strawyard, with feed brought to them, so the wet shouldn't be an issue if you keep them this way. I have dairy goats browsing on land that gets wet in winter and spring, but not much snow, and they are well here - I just make sure they get plenty of minerals to make them more resilient to parasites, and to make sure they have plenty to eat at a high enough level (it's not good for them to graze too close to the ground).
 
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There is some great discussion about this on the FB page Homestead Dairy Sheep.

I’m planning to get milking animals next year and I’ve been considering this exact question.

From what I’ve gathered sheep make tastier thicker milk that creates more cheese pound per pound from the milk than goat milk. East Freesian sheep produce the most milk and generally produce more per milking than a NG goat, but not more than a lamamcha. Dairy sheep are difficult to source in some locations and need to be bred every year in order to produce. They only produce for about 200
Days after lambing. Goats can often be milked through and are more forgiving with keeping up their milk production.
Lamb sells better as a meat product, goat kids sell well as pets, especially from good dairy lines.

It’s easier to find information about milking goats and it’s easier to source dairy goats locally.

Goats are generally harder to contain, but I’ve found several great sources that say this kind of fence keeps them in great and allows for rotating pasture regularly https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/starkline-premium-electric-sheep-netting-sn35164

Honestly I’m still a bit torn, but my thought is that I want to make enough cheese to last the year to provide protein and fats to the family, so it makes sense for us to have a sheep and make tons of cheese while she’s in milk, and probably a ram because dairy sheep are not common in my area to hire a stud, but I still need to look into ai.
I think we would like a consistent source of milk though, so I’m actually thinking I might also try and find one doe who will milk through so we have  milk through the winter months. I do know many homesteaders have a mixed herd.
I would consider a much larger herd size but I’m on about half an acre and I want to feed from the land so I have to keep my livestock numbers reasonable.

Again this is coming from my research, I don’t currently have either one.
 
Anna Marie Spackman
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Also know that you cannot get just one sheep or goat, you will need at least two. They are social creatures and will cry constantly and be very unwell without constant companionship.

Also know that with goats in milk, you cannot keep the does with the bucks, because it will make the milk taste bad and there is also the issue of the doe becoming pregnant at the wrong time- you have to pen them separately.
then you also have to consider that they cannot be alone. So your options are to either only keep milking does and hire out a buck stud or do ai when you need them bred, or keep at least 4 animals- a minimum of two does and two bucks (or a buck and a wether is common) so they all stay happy.

 
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I always had my billy separate and alone,  he just chilled with the horses till the weather turned bad then he kicked the dogs out of their kennels.
Or he'd hang with the sheep.
Goats respect electricity.
They'll stay behind a 3 wire electric fence no problem.
 
pollinator
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You are getting good advice. The only thing I would add is you can freeze sheep milk and make cheese later which can help with time management if that is a concern.
Also wool has endless possibilities or is an inconvenience.
 
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Sheep's milk is described as "like drinking ice cream". That pretty much sold me on them. I plan to get some as soon as my house and barn are far enough along. I even managed to score a copy of "Practical Sheep Dairying" for under $20. (Excellent book, but no longer in print. And used copies are going for $1500!!!)

With goat's milk, there's always a list of things you have to do in order to prevent off-flavors, like keeping the buck at least X distance from the does at all times. I know people raise them, and most like the milk. But it seems finicky to me.
 
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Ellendra Nauriel wrote:With goat's milk, there's always a list of things you have to do in order to prevent off-flavors, like keeping the buck at least X distance from the does at all times.



Oh I love the stinky goat milk! Maybe I'd keep the buck close, haha. I also love the smelly cheeses.
But drinking ice cream sounds good too...
 
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I have heard from someone I trust that dairy goats have nutritional requirements that are impossible to meet during lactation- unless they get grain. I’m not into grain. Are sheep a little more forgiving? They seem to be lactating through the winter here with lambs...
 
Andy John
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Thanks Tj - something to consider.

Not into having to heavily supplement the animals diets, especially since winters will be an issue at altitude
 
Andy John
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Thanks Everyone!

We are really going to have to research this, being at altitude, off the grid, long winters with no driving access. It's got me thinking about alternatives to us actually owning goats and sheep, might be having a stake in a flock or something like that, that lives in a more temperat climate, which is only an hour or so away, and in the town we'd be doing shopping anyway.

So much good stuff Permies...this forum is making our dream life plans- possible with inspiration, support, information and community- Thank you Thank you Thank you!
 
Andy John
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Anna Marie Spackman wrote:There is some great discussion about this on the FB page Homestead Dairy Sheep.

I’m planning to get milking animals next year and I’ve been considering this exact question.

Thanks, Anna, reading through your thought process is helpful. Especially the idea of a mixed herd.  This may be the way we go with eggs too. We both prefer ducks, for their demeanor/personality, yet having a few chickens for their other egg-laying qualities is a consideration.

 
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I grew up with milk goats, when I was younger I even had my own registered herd name and a herd of registered Dairy goats. Not your average bush goats, my goats produced around a gallon a day each. I've raised Nubian, Lamancha, Alpine, and Oberhasli dairy goats, and some Kiko, and Boer meat goats as well. There are a few things that are misconceptions in this thread.  

Goats are no more prone to problems with wet environments than sheep, both will get hoof rot from standing in mud and manure. As for altitude, Its never been an issue for me; I've had goats near sea level in Florida, in the high Texas desert, in the humid hills of Alabama and Georgia, and in the mountains of east Tennessee. I've pastured goats in forest, swamps, desert, and just your regular old fields. The did worst in grassy fields, goats need browse not grass.

Any strong flavored herb will come out in any animals milk. Even human.  Farmers have for years eradicated green onions and garlic from their fields for this reason.  Likewise if you leave the buck in the pen with the milking does you will have a bucky flavor to the milk. He only needs to be in there when breeding. In nature the bucks hang out with each other in the off season.

You don't necessarily need to feed grain to get good production, you just need high quality browse. Or good hay, Alfalfa is extremely high protein and will keep production up as will any legume that is high in protein.

I've had dairy goats individually and in herds in the teens and twenties.


In the end the choice is yours, if you have any questions I can answer let me know.

God Bless.

Ben

 
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I had to make do with buying it from a vending machine. It was neither goat's nor ewe's milk, but at least it was “grown”, sold, and bought at Cowton.
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