It's been a bit difficult recently to post and I might have lost the line of thought I was trying to follow.
I'm trying to get back on track with this post and focus on the issue we left unresolved: sheep.
I explained in a previous post how we ended up to choose dairy sheep as our main project on the farm. An important extra reason is also the fact that I'm already familiar with sheep and small ruminants in general.
We are plenty of dairy sheep in Italy and cheese-making from sheep milk has a long tradition that goes back in time to pre-Roman times.
The two main cheeses made with milk from sheep are the Pecorino in its various forms and the Ricotta (either fresh or aged). It is a typical and abundant production all along the appennini area from north to south but mainly in central Italy and Sardinia.
People producing Pecorino are also usually producing Ricotta which is obtained from boiling the whey after having made pecorino.
Italian breeds are definitely numerous but probably not that well adapted to the lush Irish pastures and the wet conditions.
There are very few dairy breeds in northern Europe and the two that could be more easily sourced would be the ever surprising East friesian and the British milksheep (which is anyway a friesian cross).
These babies are reported to produce up to 600Kg (East friesian) or 900 for the British milksheep during a lactation of up to 300 days. These figures are probably a bit optimistic because they probably refer to sheep housed in excellent conditions and fed shitloads of protein and feed-stuff while we would rely almost solely on the grazing and hay. Also we'll probably go for east friesian crosses and not pure-breed.
If you're trying to understand how much money we can make from cheese I'll tell you right now we won't get rich but P. and me should be able to live a decent life nevertheless.
Even considering a 200 Kg yearly milk production and a yield in cheese around 17% for a price of 20 Euro/Kg, each sheep should produce a minimum of 600 Euro/year. It is an estimate taking into account expenses such as vaccinations and treatments, electricity and such. It is also quite pessimistic, because in fact milk production, cheese yield and selling price should be quite higher. I've seen industrial sheep cheese in supermarkets in the area sold at 35 Euro/Kg!
Then there is the little extra from lambs and wool, although there is little money in there.
It's late, I should go to bed. More soon :) Enjoy the video