In 2018, After 6 years of making cheese on a large scale we decided to cut back. We sold our flock of 120 sheep and kept back 5 to milk on a smaller scale. All of our equipment was sold to another cheese maker.
The work load, the travelling and the fact we have twins that just graduated kindergarten all were major factors in this decision. It is one thing to make cheese – but to milk 120 sheep and care for their 300 babies and…and..and…
Now we make small amounts of cheese and sell it out of our honour system fridge. In the fridge you will find cheese, wool products and some meats. You can take the products leave cash and take change – or e-transfer 🙂
We milk East Friesian cross sheep which are the sheep equivalent to Holstein dairy cows. They are white, black or both colours. They often have twin or triplet births and occasionally quadruplets.
When We Milked 120 Sheep
Our sheep give birth to their lambs in April. The mothers feed their babies collostrum for the first day. At the end of the day we take the lambs to the lamb room where we continue to bottle feed collostrum for the first few days. We train them to drink from the bucket feeders while closely monitoring them. A major reason we separate the lambs so soon from the ewes is that these sheep do not mother up very well. We would have to build a number of pens to keep them together with their babies. If not, you often will find lambs scattered, maybe hidden in the straw and not cared for. We may not know who belong to whom and whether they have been feeding.
We milk the ewes out for 10 days and feed that milk to the lambs as it may still have colostrum in it.
The ewes are then put into the milk line and milked until the end of October when they start to dry off naturally.
It takes a first time milking sheep about two weeks to get used to the routine of milking.
Unlike a typical dairy, our sheep are free range summer and winter. They rotational graze on our alfalfa & hay pastures and hay and grain in the winter. As a treat the sheep do get grain in front of them while they are milking.
Dairy digestion and allergies
Our milk should be safe for those who have problems digesting dairy but it is important to check with your doctor and introduce our products slowly. Sheep are small animals and so are their protein and fat molecules making the milk more easily digestible for everyone! As well sheep do not produce the A1 type beta-casein protein (produced in Holstein milk) which some people are allergic to. They produce the A2 type beta-casein protein found in Jersey, Gurnsey, sheep, goats, camels etc.
Lactose is a sugar in milk and sheep milk does contain lactose. However many people incorrectly believe that they are lactose intolerant when they could in fact be reacting to the impact of A1 beta-casein protein.
Much of the lactose goes out with the whey in cheese making and any remaining transforms to lactic acid over time. The older the cheese, the drier it is meaning it has less whey/lactose.
Pasture Raised / Grass Fed Milk
Our farm was seeded down to pasture in 2003 and cross fenced to provide rotational grazing for our beef cattle. It is a great system to use for our sheep. We use electric fences and page wire.
Our sheep are pasture raised meaning there is grass based goodness in the milk! The fat of the milk there will contain higher vitamins A & E, higher CLA content and balanced omega fats.
Sheep milk has twice the nutritional value of cow’s milk. A one inch cube of our cheese has 20% of your daily calcium needs!
Hedge Haven Farm was created in 1967 when my husband’s grandfather moved out here from Ontario to start a cow dairy. He and his wife along with their 11 children worked the dairy and the fields.
In 1997 the dairy was sold and in 2003 after learning more about what the farmland was seeded down to grass and beef cattle were purchased. The psatures are rotationally grazed and manure is spread back on to them for fertilizer.
The farm is currently run by my mother and father in law as well as my husband. They run a large herd of beef, the sheep and sometimes pasture raised chickens!
The Cheesiry was built within the old dairy barn in 2009.
We are very thankful of the staff that joins us every year and the permanent staff that give their time year round. Being a seasonal dairy it works very well for us to use interns from March to November. We receive exchange students from agriculture exchange programs such as CAEP and IAEA and have a wonderful relationship with LaSalle Beauvais University in Beauvais, France. This University requires their second year students to spend 4 months on an English speaking farm.
Rhonda Zuk Headon
Cheese Maker Extraodinaire