It is officially over for another season; we had our last set up twins last evening. Stragglers. Our last two were born when our first 6 are ready for market! With lambing out of mind, we are now focused on milking. For those who don’t know, for several reasons, the construction of our milking parlor has been delayed… really delayed. In fact it is now almost a year and the clock is still ticking. Our problem solving skills were put to the test once again when trying to figure out what the heck we were suppose to do without a milking parlour with animals that are near impossible to dry off??
Question & Answer
Q: What does “drying off” mean and why is this so difficult?
A: These are dairy sheep. They have been bred to produce lots of milk for a long period of time. Being such great producers, means their babies grow really fast when nursing and get too big to nurse before the milk runs out. Much of the time the lambs will damage the mom’s teats because they get too big and aggressive. Beautiful thought eh ladies? If we are not able to milk them and the babies are no longer with their mom’s we have to “dry them off”- get them to stop producing milk! However because of the breed this is a problem; they won’t stop. This leads to mastitis problems and other ailments. We were advised by our vet and other sheep farmers to cut back their food and water for a short period of time and this should help them dry off. We tried this however we found that some will starve to death before they stop producing milk!
This is why it’s important to get them in a parlour and keep milking them. Thanks to the generosity of a friend farmer, Em Zember, who owns the The Great Canadian Soap Company we were able to bring some of our animals to her farm and use her milking parlour until ours is ready. Seriously… I cannot get over the generosity of some people… This happened right before Gab went to borrow a scale from another farmer and came home with the scale, feeders and a bulk tank!
Gab spent some time at the goat farm building a second parlour to accommodate our ewes. We started by bringing only 5 animals over to see how it was going to work and we now have 21 being milked on the parlour.
Now this traveling to another farm to milk is extremely labor intensive and time consuming. This is only a short term solution, however it really helps us out for the time being and more importantly helps us keep our animals healthy. The challenge now is training the ewes to climb up onto the milking parlor. They are not used to it yet however they are getting better after each milking. We figure they will just get used to their set up and what they are supposed to do when we will be moving them back home to be milked on our farm…Well this is our hope anyway!
This is just another simple example of how there is always a way. There is a solution to every problem you just may have to dig deep to find it. Some of the solutions may not be ideal, but they can be better then the alternative.