Why Sheep Milk?
Sheep milk- who would have thought it!
Sheep have been domesticated and milked for thousands of years to produce fresh milk and cheeses, enjoyed across the Mediterranean. In fact, sheep milking preceded cow milking in Europe and Asia. People who enjoy the taste of sheep milk products, value its nutritional profile or dislike cows or goats milk find it a wonderful source of nutrition. It is also a very versatile product. Traditionally sheep milk has been made into soft and hard cheeses but yoghurts, kefirs, protein drinks are becoming increasingly popular.
The demand for sheep milk products in New Zealand and internationally, has resulted in about 25, 000 sheep being milked commercially in New Zealand.
What’s so good about our sheep milk?
We have happy, well fed sheep farmed in low stress conditions. They are milked once a day and happily come into the milking parlour, producing 1.5 to 4 litres each per milking (depending on the stage of the milking season).They are 100 percent pasture fed with an additional snack of nuts when they are in the shed milking to give them a treat.
Milk is one of nature’s most complete foods and sheep milk offers significant benefits over other animal milks. Our ewes produce white, creamy, smooth textured milk as it has nearly double (and in some cases much more than double) the amount of solids found in either goat’s or cow’s milk. Although its profile changes across the season, it has a higher fat profile than cows or goats milk and is naturally homogenised. This makes it much creamier than other milks and therefore utterly divine as fresh milk, yoghurt or in coffee, milk shakes, ice cream and cheeses. It is simply white magic.
Natural homogenisation means smaller fat globules, making it more easily digestible. Sheep milk takes approximately 45 minutes to digest in comparison to cow milk that takes up to four hours. It also contains a higher proportion of short and natural medium chain fatty acids (MCT’s). These have recognised health benefits. For example MCT’s aid in the absorption of lactose making the milk easier to digest. It also helps to limit and/ or inhibit cholesterol deposits. This is due to the natural medium fatty acids not being stored in the body as fat.
Sheep milk is highly nutritious - richer in vitamins A, B and E, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium than cow’s milk. It contains about one third more energy than cow or goat milk (making it ideal for people recuperating from illness and high-performance athletes). Sheep milk contains critical nutritional substances like protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, thiamine, riboflavin, Vitamin B6 and B12, Vitamin D, the medium chain amino acids, linoleic acids and all ten of the essential amino acids. It also has high levels of carnitine, which helps the body to produce energy. It is important for heart and brain function, muscle movement and many body processes. It is lower in sodium than cow or goat milk.
Composition of different kinds of milk
Unlike many other commercially milked animals, our sheep are not milked when they are pregnant. Cows for example produce a calf a year. They have the same gestation period as humans – 9 months – and get two months off from milking during that time. In contrast, sheep have a five month gestation period. We only milk them after they have birthed their lambs, and so the milk does not contain any pregnancy hormones.