Customer Reviews

How to Milk a Sheep

There isn’t a lot of information on the internet about the techniques of how to milk a sheep specifically, so we hope this article will remedy that. Milking sheep is tricky, so beginners need a helping hand to get it right. Below, we will discuss how to milk a sheep with a list of essential steps:

Step-by-Step Guide to Milking a Sheep

The first thing worth mentioning is that sheep must be comfortable throughout the milking process. This is actually true of any animal. Comfortable sheep produce more milk. But the problem with sheep is that they are quite fussy so you have to distract them.

Step 1

We start by focusing on keeping the animal from getting fussy. There are a few options here. You can use a rope or a head gate to keep her from moving too much. But you should also provide her with food to keep her occupied during the milking process.

Step 2

Bring at least two milking pots to the area. One of them catches milk directly from the sheep while the other is placed to the side where you will regularly empty the milking pot. The milking pot must be high enough so the sheep can’t step on it or easily kick it over. Sometimes, sheep get restless during milking and will move a lot.

Here’s the tricky part though. You need to consistently empty the milking pot into the other one that’s placed to the side. Preferably, the second pot will have a filter. The reason is sheep move their feet a lot and will even poop in the milking pot so emptying it regularly keeps large quantities of milk from being contaminated.

Step 3

Clean the sheep’s udders to protect them from infection. Plus this keeps the milk free of contaminants. Use a soft rag and warm water to wipe the area before and after milking. This only takes a few seconds so there’s no reason not to do this.

Step 4

Find the best position for milking the sheep. This is personal preference so choose a method that’s comfortable for both yourself and the animal. Most people sit on a stool behind the sheep.

Step 5

The udder is pulled back so it’s between the sheep’s legs. This part takes practice since you are not just manipulating the teat. You have to grab a gentle hold of the udder above the teat so that it sticks out from your grip. It’s essential that you get upward pressure as you follow through the process since that’s how lambs drink.

Once you get the initial positioning correct, squeeze the udder so that the milk is forced into the bottom. Then gently pull down, releasing the milk. This takes practice, and you will almost certainly get it wrong the first time. It’s important that you don’t get frustrated and squeeze the sheep too hard. Remember, part of your job is to keep the animal comfortable.

If milk is just dribbling out, then you might have to use both hands to apply more pressure. Having two hands on the udder evens the pressure so you don’t pinch the sheep too hard.

The optimal flow looks a lot like a water gun squirting into the bucket.

Repeat this process until the milk stops flowing.  

Step 6

Empty the milking bucket into the filtered one when you have finished one udder. Then move onto the next and repeat the process.

Machine Milking Makes Your Life Easier

Milking sheep by hand gets quite tedious. So if you are getting frustrated or find that it takes too much effort, then it’s time to consider investing in a milking machine. Even a small pump will make your life considerably easier. They are also more comfortable for the animal due to their consistency.

Of course, milking machines don’t come without their own set of challenges. Quality models can be on the pricey side. Plus it’s slightly more difficult to choose the right one for sheep since they have smaller teats than cows and goats.

If you choose to go this route, then make sure you shop around and find a model with small enough cups to fit your sheep. Using the wrong size cups results in discomfort and causes the efficiency of the machine to suffer.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of whether you choose to hand-milk or use a machine, it takes time for the sheep to acclimate to the milking process. Be patient and take measures to comfort the animal. Eventually, the sheep will fall into the routine and will get less fussy.

If this is your first time milking sheep, then don’t let it frustrate you. They are one of the trickier animals to milk.

It's also important to note that not all sheep are suitable for milking, and some breeds, especially the East Friesian breed, are more commonly used for dairy purposes than others. Additionally, sheep's milk is going to be lower in volume compared to cow's milk, so it may not be as widely produced. If you plan to milk sheep regularly, it's a good idea to seek guidance from experienced sheep dairy farmers or consult with a veterinarian for proper care and management. widget logo