The British Milk Sheep is a medium-large, polled sheep with a whiteface and legs. It has added a new dimension to the sheep industry by producing large crops of lambs and rearing them on one ewe. High performance per ewe is the major factor affecting profitability. The combination of high prolificacy and high milk yield, in both the British Milk Sheep and it’s cross bred daughters enables high levels of production to be achieved without the problems of high capital investment in large numbers of ewes, and without the need to rear triplets artificially. The breed was developed in England in the 1970s by Lawrence Alderson. He achieved this outstanding breed by crossing exceptional animals from both prolific and milky breeds including Dorsets Blue faced Leicester, Lleyn and East Friesland.
The BMS is a prolific breed; the average crop from purebred ewes is 307% for mature ewes, 263% for two year olds and 221% for ewe lambs. The lambs tend to be of good weights: eight to ten pounds. Most ewes feed their lambs successfully. Another attribute of the BMS is their handleability. They are docile and friendly, so handling is easy. As dairy sheep, BMS milk well, producing 300-400 liters/lactation as mature ewes in 180 -210 days. The breeding season for BMS is also prolonged, resulting in of out of season breeding. The wool is semi-lustrous, and according to the British Wool Marketing Board it has “excellent wool properties, recommended."
With regard to lamb, the BMS is well muscled and lean. Lambs will grow to over 100lbs without putting on fat. These qualities make it an ideal animal for today's demand for larger animals. During the three years that we sold lambs through the OSMA Forward Contract, we were awarded the highest points in our class for carcase quality.
As we take good care of our animals we have gained an excellent reputation for the tenderness and fine flavour of our lamb (www.lambrecipes.ca).
Our flock of pure British Milk sheep were developed from embryos imported in 1995. We started with six females and 16 males in 1999. It took seven years before we had 150 pure-bred adult females. To avoid inbreeding we imported semen from England from three rams. Our sheet live up to the breed averages, adult females giving birth to good sized triplets, younger females producing two lambs at two years old or one and one half as a yearling. We find that half of our income per ewe is derived from meat lambs, the other half from milk. In our milking parlour we installed measuring jars, which enabled us to follow individual ewe’s performance twice daily. We calculated that fourth lactations ewes were giving us 300 litres per lactation, younger ones less. We did wean at 50 days, which is rather late; no doubt, we could have achieved higher yields with earlier weaning.
We started milking in the year 2000 and were founder members of the Ewenity Dairy Co-operative which processed the milk into yogourt and cheeses. All the members of the co-operative were initially directly involved in the processing and marketing of the milk products. However, by 2007 most of the original members of the Co-op had left, and the new members (Amish families) were not able to participate in the milk processing. Therefore the decision was made to rename the enterprise ‘Best Baa Farm’.
By 2009, we found it difficult to do justice to both our cheese and yogourt making enterprise as well as caring from our flock of milking ewes. Furthermore, many farmers were interested in milking sheep yet no-one else was interested or able to process the milk. Therefore, we decided with a heavy heart to shift our main emphasis into the processing of sheep milk and sold the bulk of our flock to James and Selima Martin on Mount Forest.
Although we no longer milk, we have retained a small flock of British Milk Sheep which we intent to keep as a nucleus for the breed. We are also using AL and collecting semen so as to maintain as much diversity as possible to the breed. We have semen stored from three different rams, all genetically as diverse as possible from each other as well as from our own stock. We will be creating different strains of British Milk Sheet and our flock will act as a gene pool for the breed.
We do have pedigree rams and ewe lambs for sale
and welcome enquiries. If you are interested in the processing side
of the business, please check out Ewenity.com for further