Low-Cost Conversion of Cow Dairy to Sheep Dairy

Final Report for FNE98-228

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 1998: $4,625.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1998
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $14,500.00
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Neil Urie
Bonnieview Farm
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Project Information


Neil is a dairy farmer. He had been milking cows for many years, but had become discouraged at the prospects, because of the low and variable prices for cow’s milk. He decided to get out of cows, but not out of dairying. He applied for a SARE grant to help switch to milking sheep.

Neil built what he calls a “greenhouse” parlor in which to milk the sheep. He calls it that because the design would serve as well for a greenhouse—it is high, airy, and, as the metal frame is covered with plastic sheeting, admits ample light. The sheep enter this area twelve at a time from a holding area, formerly used to house heifers, but now modified for sheep. The sheep feed from a grain trough while they are machine-milked.

The milk is pumped overhead to another newly constructed building, and into a stainless steel tank, mounted on wheels. The tank is hitched to a tractor, and pulled to yet another new building, where it is drained into a basin, and here conversion of the milk into cheese begins. Neil belongs to the Vermont Shepherd Cooperative, and consequently does not complete the process on his farm. After a preliminary curing the cheese is shipped to the Majors’ cave in Putney, where the process is finished.

Another conversion that Neil made was to pull the stalls out of his cow barn, so that it could serve as winter quarters for his sheep.

Neil has about 300 sheep now, of which almost 200 are milkers. He no longer has any cows. He does rotational grazing with the sheep, and puts away much of his own winter feed.


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  • Anne Hanson


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.