Paula hates me.
I’ve suspected it for quite a while, but it wasn’t until I tried to touch one of her ‘precious’ teats that I knew it was true. And you know what? I’m offended! There is seriously NO reason why she should hold such disdain for my existence. I feed her. I give her water. I have never even tried to eat her…and yet, she hates my stinkin’ guts. Okay, okay…so I DID eat her son, but I told her from the very beginning I was going to do it, so she can’t even be mad at me for that…
Paula is my sheep by the way. Not to be confused with my Aunt Paula. (who is totally cool btw)
So you can see how I was faced with a certain dilemma this spring. I reeeaaallly wanted to try sheep’s milk. And only 50 steps from my back porch…there happened to live a sheep. ‘Cept that sheep was Paula. And Paula was this close to hiring a hitman on me.
As I stared out my window contemplating my dilemma, I was reminded that Paula had tried to kill me before. Twice.
The first time she tried to kill me, she ran straight for me and took my legs out from under me landing me flat on my back. Can’t. Breath. Then there was that other time when I was merely placing more food in her trough, when she rammed me in the face, giving me a big fat bloody lip & nose.
No, she definitely wouldn’t let me milk her.
But, because I’m really brave (but mostly because I really wanted milk) I decided to go for it.
How to milk a mean ‘ol animal, and live to tell the tale
When I googled, “milking a sheep” (apparently there’s nothing helpful when googling “milking a murderous sheep named Paula”), I found out some interesting info about sheep. Sheep are instinctively animals of prey. They are ingrained with a fear of predators, and are easily frightened. Activate that flight-or-fight response in sheep, and they produce adrenaline. If they produce adrenaline, the adrenaline will counteract the hormone oxytocin, which is the hormone responsible for “letting down” the milk. Oxytocin is also referred to as “the love hormone”.
There were three things I knew to be true:
- Paula wished I’d never been born.
- Paula loved food.
- I had the food.
In the end, it wasn’t rocket science, but it did take time. And with the help of this book, I was able to train her. Think Pavlov’s dog. First, I had to convince Paula I was totally cool. I started by only feeding her in a small area where I stood (in a corner, praying for my safety). Next I got her to eat from a bucket I was holding. Then, I finally coaxed her to let me hold her collar while she ate. Freaking monumental occasion, that one. And last, but not least, I taught her to let me place her head into the stanchion to be milked.
Whew. Now, how to actually milk her?
After a lot of kicking & a couple swear words — I finally walked out to milk her. I knew that I couldn’t just give her more grain (a mixture of about 80% grass 20% grain). Sheep tend to carry a lot of fat in their bodies on grass alone, and grain would become unhealthy fast. And while we’re on the subject I must say that even if you are milking a cow or a goat who can tolerate higher amounts of grain, it’s STILL not a good idea to feed large amounts of the stuff.
Let me tell ya’ why. Grain is a treat. In the wild, and before grains were so readily available, animals thrived on mostly grass. Occasionally they’d come across some type of seed/grain, but mostly it was grass. Even farmers hundreds of years ago would only feed grain after the fall harvest when there was a surplus. There’s a reason for this. Excess grain can make your animal sick. Yes, goats & cows have a higher tolerance, but trust me they can get sick. A newbie mistake is ALWAYS to feed too much grain. Aside from the fact that you are throwing your animal’s diet out of balance, you are also TEACHING your animal to be a spoiled. (Ask me how I know.) So grain is fine in small amounts. But for the most part, stick with grass/hay.
Back to Paula.
This mean ‘ol sheep did NOT want to be milked. And I didn’t want to spoil her with more grain to distract her. So in the end, I had to train her that no matter how much she kicked, I was going to keep milking her. And keep milking her I did. And I have the bruises to prove it. But over time she kicked less. She learned that once she ate that bit of grain up, all she had left was grass. And sometimes Paula, “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” Over time, she learned the routine. All I needed to do was open the gate, she’d run in, place her head in the stall and wait for her food. Just like a good little sheep should.
And our relationship now? Well, we’re not BFF’s or anything but I think it’s safe to say we tolerate each other. I’m pretty sure she called off the manhunt for me as well. If you’re wondering what the milk tastes like, it totally rocks. Creamy & sweet, just like I like it. I was expecting some kind of off-putting taste, but instead it was very fresh and delicious! Compared with goat’s & cow’s milk, sheep’s milk is pretty superior!
Why I stopped milking Paula.
Paula is a Katahdin, a meat producing sheep. Although she was big in size, her body is not too stellar at milk production. But, now that I know I can indeed milk a sheep, and that sheep’s milk tastes fantastic, I’m on the lookout for a East Friesian or Lacaune dairy sheep. I went from weird goat girl to that poor sheep girl.
Anybody else milked a sheep? Anybody else annoyed that the singular for sheep is still sheep?