Sheep milk

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Lacaune dairy sheep in rotary parlour, Aveyron, France. Sheepparlour.jpg
Lacaune dairy sheep in rotary parlour, Aveyron, France.

Sheep's milk (or ewes' milk) is the milk of domestic sheep. It is commonly used to make cultured dairy products such as cheese. Some of the most popular sheep cheeses include feta (Greece), ricotta (Italy), and Roquefort (France).


Sheep breeds

Specialized dairy breeds of sheep yield more milk than other breeds. Common dairy breeds include:

In the U.S., the most common dairy breeds are the East Friesian and the Lacaune. [1] Meat or wool breeds do not produce as much milk as dairy breeds, but may produce enough for small amounts of cheese and other products.

Milk production period

Female sheep (ewes) do not produce milk constantly. Rather, they produce milk during the 80–100 days after lambing. [2] Sheep naturally breed in the fall, which means that a majority of lambs are born in the winter or early spring. Milk production decreases and eventually stops when lambs are weaned or when the days become shorter. [1] This means that milk cannot be produced year round. [3] Through the use of controlled internal drug release (CIDR), ewes can be bred out of season. CIDR drugs contain progesterone, which is slowly released into the bloodstream, bringing the animal into estrus. [4] In this way, ewes can be bred at different times throughout the year, providing farms with a year-round supply of milk.

Meat and wool breeds of sheep lactate for 90–150 days, while dairy breeds can lactate for 120–240 days. Dairy sheep are able to produce higher yields of milk per ewe per year. Dairy sheep can produce 400–1,100 lb (180–500 kg) of milk per year while other sheep produce 100–200 lb (45–91 kg) of milk per year. Crossbred ewes produce 300-650 lbs of milk per year. [1]

Products made from sheep milk

Sheep milk cheeses include the feta of Greece, Roquefort of France, Manchego of Spain; Serra da Estrela from Portugal; pecorino Romano (the Italian word for sheep is pecora), pecorino Sardo, and ricotta of Italy; Pag cheese of Croatia; Ġbejna of Malta; and Gomolya of Hungary; and Bryndza (Slovenská bryndza from Slovakia, brânza de burduf from Romania and Bryndza Podhalańska from Poland).

In Greece, yogurt is often made from sheep's milk.

Nutrition by comparison

Milk composition analysis, per 100 grams: [5]

Mechanical sheep milker, South Island, NZ Sheep milker.JPG
Mechanical sheep milker, South Island, NZ
Constituentsunit Cow Goat Water buffalo Sheep
Sugars (Lactose)g4.
Fatty Acids:

Sheep milk is extremely high in fat and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and has a high level of solids, as compared to other milks. This makes it very suitable for cheese-making. In particular, sheep's milk produces much more cheese than the same amount of cow's milk. [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

Roquefort French cheese

Roquefort is a sheep milk cheese from Southern France, and is one of the world's best known blue cheeses. Though similar cheeses are produced elsewhere, EU law dictates that only those cheeses aged in the natural Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon may bear the name Roquefort, as it is a recognised geographical indication, or has a protected designation of origin.

Feta Brined curd white cheese from Greece

Feta is a Greek brined curd white cheese made from sheep's milk or from a mixture of sheep and goat's milk. It is a soft, brined white cheese with small or no holes, a compact touch, few cuts, and no skin. It is formed into large blocks, and aged in brine. Its flavor is tangy and salty, ranging from mild to sharp. It is crumbly and has a slightly grainy texture. Feta is used as a table cheese, in salads such as Greek salad, and in pastries, notably the phyllo-based Greek dishes spanakopita and tyropita. It is often served with olive oil or olives, and sprinkled with aromatic herbs such as oregano. It can also be served cooked, as part of a sandwich, in omelettes, and many other dishes.

Icelandic sheep Breed of sheep

The Icelandic sheep is a breed of domestic sheep. The Icelandic breed is one of the Northern European short-tailed sheep, which exhibit a fluke-shaped, naturally short tail. The Icelandic is a mid-sized breed, generally short-legged and stocky, with face and legs free of wool. The fleece of the Icelandic sheep is dual-coated and occurs in white and a variety of other colors, including a range of browns, grays, and blacks. They exist in both horned and polled strains. Generally left unshorn for the winter, the breed is very cold-hardy. Multiple births are very common in Icelandic ewes, with a lambing percentage of 175–220%. A gene also exists in the breed called the Þoka gene, and ewes carrying it have been known to give birth to triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets, and even sextuplets on occasion.

White cheese may refer to:

East Friesian sheep Sheep breed from East Frisia in northern Germany

The East Friesian is a breed of dairy sheep originating from East Frisia in northern Germany. It is one of the best sheep breeds in terms of milk yield per ewe.

Clun Forest sheep Breed of sheep

The Clun Forest is a breed of domestic sheep originating from the area surrounding the Clun Forest in Shropshire, England. Similar to many of the British breeds of upland sheep, Clun Forest are hardy, adaptable, good foragers, and are long–lived. With sleek heads and wide pelvic structures, Clun Forest ewes lamb easily. The breed has a short to medium–length wool and dark brown faces. They are a multi–purpose animal, kept for meat, wool, and milk. Like other dark faced sheep, Clun produce quality lamb and mutton. However, in contrast to more common meat breeds such as Suffolks, their wool is free of undesirable black fibres and kemp, and is suitable for handspinning. The breed's alert and stylish appearance, together with its reputation for hardiness and fecundity have made it popular with hobby farmers and large commercial flock owners alike. The Official Clun Sheep Breeders Society Show & Sale for males and females is held annually in early September at Ludlow livestock market by McCartneys.

Types of cheese

Types of cheese are grouped or classified according to criteria such as length of fermentation, texture, methods of production, fat content, animal milk, and country or region of origin. The method most commonly and traditionally used is based on moisture content, which is then further narrowed down by fat content and curing or ripening methods. The criteria may either be used singly or in combination, with no single method being universally used.

Sheep Domesticated ruminant bred for meat, wool and milk

Sheep are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. Although the name sheep applies to many species in the genus Ovis, in everyday usage it almost always refers to Ovis aries. Numbering a little over one billion, domestic sheep are also the most numerous species of sheep. An adult female is referred to as a ewe, an intact male as a ram, occasionally a tup, a castrated male as a wether, and a young sheep as a lamb.

Lacaune sheep Breed of sheep

The Lacaune is a breed of domestic sheep originating near Lacaune in southern France. The native region of these sheep is the Tarn and Aveyron departments and surrounding areas. This region is collectively known as the "Roquefort Sector" which references the milk collection area. The Lacaune is the most widely used dairying sheep breed in France, with a population of about 800,000 ewes. Notably, it is the predominant breed used in the production of Roquefort cheese in France.

The British Milksheep is a robust, dual-purpose sheep commonly known for its milking characteristics.

Chios sheep Breed of sheep

The Chios is a breed of domestic sheep with specific unknown origins. It is classified as a semi-fat tailed breed. The Chios are bred mainly for their milk production. Although there is speculation that this breed may have been crossed with Kivircik and Dagliç, it is commonly accepted that it originated on the Greek island of Chios.

Latxa Breed of sheep

The Latxa is a breed of domestic sheep native to the Basque Country of Spain. Mostly contained within the provinces of Biscay, Gipuzkoa and Navarre, Latxa are dairy sheep whose unpasteurized milk is used to produce Idiazábal and Roncal cheeses. There are two sub-types of the breed, a dark-faced and a blonde.

The Gentile di Puglia is a breed of domestic sheep indigenous to southern Italy. It originates from the Tavoliere di Foggia, a large plain in the northern part of Puglia, and is raised mainly in that region; a few are found in neighbouring regions. The Gentile di Puglia is sometimes known as the Merinos d'Italia, or Italian merino.

The Delle Langhe, also called Pecora delle Langhe or Langarola, is a breed of domestic sheep indigenous to Piedmont, in north-western Italy. It is a rough-woolled breed of southern Mediterranean type, and originates from the mountainous area of the Alta Langa, where the Apennines meet the Alps, in the province of Cuneo. It is raised mainly in the Langhe, but is found in several other regions of Italy including Abruzzo, Basilicata, Emilia–Romagna, Liguria and Tuscany.

Sheep milk cheese

Sheep milk cheese is a cheese prepared from sheep milk. Well-known cheeses made from sheep milk include the Feta of Greece, Roquefort of France, Manchego from Spain, the Pecorino Romano and Ricotta of Italy. Yogurts, especially some forms of strained yogurt, may also be made from sheep milk.

The Noticiana is a breed of domestic sheep indigenous to the inland parts of the province of Syracuse, in south-eastern Sicily, Italy. Its name derives from that of the town and comune of Noto. It is raised in the province of Syracuse and in neighbouring parts of that of Ragusa. It is a southern Mediterranean breed, and derives from the Comisana.

The traditional cuisine of Abruzzo is eclectic, drawing on pastoral, mountain, and coastal cuisine. Staples of Abruzzo cuisine include bread, pasta, meat, cheese, and wine. The isolation which has characterized the region for decades has ensured the independence of its culinary tradition from those of nearby regions. Local cuisine was widely appreciated in a 2013 survey among foreign tourists.

Serrai sheep Breed of sheep

Serrai is a breed of domesticated sheep from Serres, Greece. It is bred primarily for meat and milk.

Istrian milk Breed of sheep

The Istrian Milk is a breed of domestic sheep native to the regions of Istria and Karst in Croatia. The Istrian Milk is mainly used for its milk, which is primarily used in cheese making. Today, the breed is endangered.


  1. 1 2 3 Berger, Yves (2010). "Guide to Raising Dairy Sheep" (PDF).
  2. Milk production period
  3. "Using Sheep CIDRs - Premier1Supplies Sheep Guide". Premier1Supplies Sheep Guide. 2012-10-15. Retrieved 2016-11-25.
  4. "CIDR".
  5. McCane, Widdowson, Scherz, Kloos
  6. Sinanoglou, Vassilia (2015). "Assessment of lactation stage and breed effect on sheep milk fatty acid profile and lipid quality indices". Journal of Dairy Science and Technology. 95: 509–531.