Sheep MilkingThe Way To Go: Producer By John Phair (adapted from the November 22, 2005issue of VOICE OF THE FARMER)
ZURICH -- Uwe Paschen says he has seen the future of the dairy industryand that is milking sheep. He also boldly predicts that within five-years theproduction of sheep's milk in Canada will threaten its cow industry.
The Zurich area farmer is one of about 40 sheep milk producers inOntario, a number he says is about to expand dramatically over the next fiveyears. His operation was the destination for the November meeting of theDistrict #3 Sheep Producers (Oxford, Perth, Huron and Waterloo Counties).
Paschen says that while North Americans tend to think milking sheep issomewhat unusual, about 70 per cent of the milk produced globally comes fromsheep and in most countries outside of North America sheep milk is the norm,rather than the exception. Paschen was born and raised in Niger, where hisfamily was involved in sheep raising and dairying business. Trained as achemical engineer, he came to Canada in 1989, and for a number of years, taughtschool in London, Ontario, before buying a farm just West of Zurich.
He began milking sheep full-time in 1998 and continued to expand until2003 when he decided to construct a new bank-style barn with a double-20 milkparlour. Above the milking operation he added a small store from which he sellslamb, cheese and other sheep milk products, as well as comfortable livingquarters, a practice he said is common in his native country. He said thiscombination gives him handy access to his 200-head milking flock, which isespecially convenient for keeping an eye on year- round lambing ewes.
Paschen said Canada's changing immigration patterns ensure the future ofthe sheep milk industry. "In 20 to 30 years the average Canadian will nolonger be of British or European descent... the average Canadian will be Asian,African or Latino," he said, pointing out that people from these countriesdon't tend to drink cow's milk; neither do these populations eat much pork orbeef, he said. "I got into milking sheep because I truly believe its thefuture of the Canadian dairy industry," he said.
Paschen's flock consists of mostly purebred dairy breeds, mainly EastFriesens and Dorset crosses. Other than selling some replacement ewes, he saidhe tries to market all his lambs (which he has custom processed and vacuumpacked) in his on-farm store as well as supplying a few to a local caterer.Using his own 8,000 litre milk truck he ships most of his milk production toSilani Sweet Cheese Company, an Italian cheese maker near Toronto. He said healso sells some milk to a local cheese maker and takes cheese back which hesells in his store. "The cheese is becoming very popular," he said.
Paschen said sheep have greater feed conversion efficiency than docattle so consequently, the cost of producing a litre of sheep's milk isconsiderably less than the cost of producing a litre of cow's milk. Paschensaid his milk production is currently averaging 1.8 litres per ewe per day. Hewould like to eventually see that increase that to 2.1 litres per day.
The demand for sheep's milk in Canada has grown by four per centannually for the past 17 years, says Paschen and he predicts that will continueat a higher rate in the future. "Demand is growing faster than we bansupply the product, we can no longer produce enough," he said. "Thereis probably room for another 1,000 producers in the Province of Ontario."