Raising sheep for dairy production is a small but growing
industry, centered in the upper Midwest and northeastern United
States and southeastern Canada, that serves an increased demand
for sheep milk cheese production.
Guide to Raising Dairy Sheep
While the United States has a long history of producing sheep
for meat and wool, the dairy sheep industry is relatively new to
this country. In Wisconsin, dairy sheep flocks weren't introduced
until the late 1980s.This industry remains a small but growing
segment of overall domestic sheep production: by 2009, the number
of farms in North America reached 150, with the majority located
in Wisconsin, the northeastern U.S., and southeastern Canada.
Consumers are showing a growing interest in sheep's milk
cheese. In 2007, the U.S. imported over 73 million pounds of sheep
milk cheese, such as Roquefort (France), Manchego (Spain), and
Pecorino Romano (Italy), which is almost twice the 37 million
pounds that was imported in 1985.
There is unmet demand for sheep milk in Wisconsin and
throughout the country. Domestically, the market for sheep milk is
growing as cheese makers explore the potential of producing unique
sheep milk and mixed milk cheeses. In 2009, over 1 million pounds
of milk was produced in Wisconsin, an increase of 40% from 2004.