The milky way

WHEN Rena Hofmann could not find any sheep milk to buy in Tasmania she decided to do something about it.

She and her husband, Corey Bousen, will share their knowledge and experiences of owning a small dairy sheep herd at a workshop tomorrow.

The couple are running a dairy sheep workshop on their property near Sheffield from 10am to 3pm. The event, believed to be a first for the state, will share information with participants about all aspects of breeding and caring for dairy sheep including what to do with the milk.

Mrs Hofmann, who grew up in Austria, said in Europe sheep milk and products were readily available.

The couple moved from the Gold Coast in 2020, first living in Glen Huon before purchasing a property at Sheffield.

“We are basically city folks who have started to do homesteading and part of that is producing our own dairy.

“I still remember the first time we milked a cow and she cooperated,” she said.

The sale of a large dairy sheepflockinthestate’sNorth- East three years ago presented an opportunity for them.

“I had prepared a lot and I always wanted to have dairy sheep so I did a lot of homework and tried to prepare as much as I could,” she said.

“It’s still a steep learning curve because it’s something completely different.”

After starting with three ewes with lambs at foot, their flock has now grown to 12 ewes.

The sheep are a cross between Awassi and East Friesian sheep, both popular dairy breeds and combined to create the Assaf sheep breed.

Mrs Hofmann said both breeds had good and bad traits and she was using a selective breeding program for sheep better suited to their home environment, focusing on good feet, udder structure,

parasite resistance and quiet temperament.

“What we want is a sheep that can cope in the Tassie climate and is also suitable for homesteaders.

“We don’t want commercial type sheep that can barely walk because their udders are too big and we want them to be productive for a long time.”

They are using regular faecal egg counts and larval differentiation cultures to identify animals with superior parasite resistance.

“Over the last three years we’ve seen a big decrease in worms. We are at a stage where we only have one or two we have to occasionally treat with drenches.”

She only breeds from ewes with the most suitable traits and genetics.

“We’ve found that by selecting the right animals the sheep can cope in the wet weather and don’t get hoof problems.”

Dairy sheep can produce up to three litres of milk a day. The couple’s ewes average about two litres a day.

At the beginning of lactation, they share the milk with the lambs until they are weaned at about eight weeks old.

They use a controlled breeding program to ensure the ewes amb within a tight time frame.

The ewes normally produce milk for eight to nine months.

This year they are breeding lambs out of season for the first time for a year-round supply of milk.

Mrs Hofmann said many people were pleasantly surprised when tasting sheep milk, which had double the amount of cream of cow’s milk.

Mr Bousen said sheep’s milk had nutritional benefits and was ideal for products including butter, yoghurt and cheese.They try to use all of their animals, including tanning hides.

For more on tomorrow’s workshop go to the Harvest Hill Homestead Facebook page or send email to info@