Hi all, thanks for having us on the site.
We are on a block of land in the Far North and are in the process of developing it from a rather rough state into something more useful and usable.
We are in the process of putting some Damara sheep onto it in the first instance, but do have a question - does anyone know of Damara's being milked in NZ? We have read up on everything we can find, and there is no mention of it anywhere. Not sure whether we are missing something or not. Milking is not the first priority for having them, but curious to know if it is feasible or possible.
Damara sheep are cool - nice choice! As far as milking, I think technically you could milk any breed of sheep, just that the ones which have been bred specifically as milkers will give you a bigger quantity, but if milking isn't your main priority then why not give it a go?! I think one of the main things is to get them used to you touching their udders and being in a milking stand (or whatever you plan to use) so that it isn't weird for them when it comes to the day you want some milk.
I was planning to steal some milk from our Gotlands last year to make some cheese, but the most friendly sheep had triplets so needed all her milk for her lambs. We actually did milk some off at one point, because one udder had got so full it was hanging really low and the lambs were struggling to find the teat, but the lambs got the milk rather than us. It was an interesting new skill to learn for me! Maybe this year I'll get to making my cheese...
Many thanks Wren. We wondered if this was the case, and figured that getting them used to a milking stand and getting used to being handled was a first step. While we are breaking in the land, they will be used to help with "vegetation control", but we are also keen to see what else we can do with them. I'm very keen on the cheese and yoghurt idea as well, so I think we'll give it a try.
On poor quality pasture the ewe will make far less milk than the lambs need (with multiples). By milking them, if they have multiples, there is a very big risk that the ewes will not have good enough condition to get pregnant soon enough after the lambs have been weaned.
With sheep, always remember that short pasture is more nutritious for them, and spring pasture is the most nutritious.
I tasted some sheep milk and yoghurt at a food show - it's delicious. I thought it was nicer than goats milk and I like goats milk so well worth the effort if you can manage it!