The Life of a Sheep’s Milk Producer

The Life of a Sheep’s Milk Producer

Feb | 2017 | merepark

The Life of a Sheep’s Milk Producer

Ever wondered what it might be like to be sheep’s milk producer? (You’re on our website, so I’m going to presume you have.) Lots of people dream of giving up the hustle and bustle of urban life and adopting a simpler way of living; living off the land, using nature’s resources and being more self-sufficient. It all sounds idyllic when you put it like that, and, when the sun is shining and it’s just me and “our girls” outside in the meadows – it is. But when the wind is howling and the rain pelting down, it isn’t quite so tranquil, and when you add in the admin and organisation that’s needed to be a successful sheep’s milk producer in the UK of today, it becomes a lot more than just fluffy East Frieslands and delicious cheese (the cheese does make it worthwhile though…)

So what does a sheep’s milk producer do?

Contrary to what you might think, sheep don’t produce milk year-round. Sheep’s milk producers will typically milk a dairy ewe for about 6 months of a year. Here at Mere Park Creamery we have four flocks; as a result we can produce sheep’s milk all year by rotating the flocks – this means that our ewes aren’t overworked or tired from a constant milking schedule.

On our farm, we have a twice daily milking routine (the first of which is at 6am) for our lactating ewes in our state-of-the-art De Laval P300SG milking parlour. We’ve got a large flock, of over 800 ewes, so this parallel milking parlour was the best solution for us to ensure the safety and comfort of our ewes. As sheep’s milk producers know, sheep can be skittish and nervous, so our priority is making their lives as stress-free as we can. We can’t go back to the days of milking them individually, so, now that we rely on technology, only the best is good enough for “our girls”!

Life outdoors

This use of technology doesn’t mean that a sheep’s milk producer spends all their time indoors. Quite the contrary. Our girls have free reign of all 540 acres of our lush grassland in the Blackmore Vale, so we spend a considerable amount of time making sure they’re happy outdoors. When it gets too cold for them to stay outside in the winter, they can retreat to the comfort of our purpose-built, open-sided shed which gives them shelter from the elements.

More than just milk

Although a sheep’s milk producer obviously produces milk, the milk can also be used to produce cheese. Sheep’s milk is rich in fat, solids, and minerals, and this makes it a great milk for making cheese. Our cheese is made from milk which comes straight from the parlour and into our onsite cheesemaker’s cheese-making vats. Depending on the type of cheese, the resulting cheese can mature for up to 10 months (that’s for our crumbliest, hard cheese.) Our award winning Mere Park Blue, a creamy, dreamy, mature cheese spends 12 weeks ripening to its full deliciousness.

Say cheese…and thank you

Now that I’ve spent time painting you a picture of a sheep’s milk producer’s life, I’ve got to admit that it does sound rather idyllic after all, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to thank our girls…and maybe have a sneaky cheese sandwich too.

If you’d like to try our award-winning products, you can find local stockists on our Where to Buy page