Sustainable year-round sheep milking management

August 5, 2020
Cornell University' dairy sheep unit. Photo courtesy of Nikola Kochendoerfer.

The U.S. sheep dairy industry is currently a seasonal business as traditional dairy sheep breeds tend to follow an annual 180-day lactation.

With her Northeast SARE Graduate Student grant, Nikola “Niko” Kochendoerfer of Cornell University, explored the possibility of year-round sheep milking management using meat breed ewes (Finn and Dorset crossbreeds). These breeds are capable of reproducing and lactating year round.

Niko investigated three different meat sheep diets (with varying levels of potentially fermentable fiber, pfNDF) for their ability to affect milk production while also maintaining health and body condition, important for meat production.

Her research results showed that milking meat breed ewes year-round in an accelerated lambing system can succeed, enabling farmers to consider meat breeds as dual-purpose animals for milk and meat. Niko also verified feeding strategies that farmers may use to optimize ewe performance regardless of their interest in dual-purpose sheep production.

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Topics: Animal Production, Dairy, Sheep
Related Locations: New York, Northeast