- Animals: sheep
- Animal Production: general animal production
With the current difficulties facing small cow dairies in the Northeast U.S., many farmers are contemplating changes in their operations to become more economically viable. Our goal is to convert a mixed grass-based and conventional cow dairy to a seasonal grass-based sheep dairy and cheese-making operation for 200 ewes. For farmers making this type of conversion on an existing dairy farm, they will likely have to keep the cow dairy operation running while the conversion is taking place, thus some new facilities may need to be built. In contrast, farmers starting a sheep dairy operation on a derelict farm may be able to use existing buildings for all operations. Regardless, many major change in a farming operation requires a certain amount of capital investment. We are requesting funding to demonstrate an economical way for dairy farmers to convert from cows to sheet (or goat) by minimizing the building of new facilities and taking advantage of existing facilities. For this grant, we will focus on the establishment of the sheep milking parlor by: 1) converting former "heifer housing" to a sheep containment area used prior to milking. This area will also provide a sheltered area for lambing in the spring. 2) building a low-cost greenhouse parlor with an attached milk room. For the greenhouse parlor, we will conduct several long-term tests of the ventilation system to deal with potential problems that may arise during the winter and summer months. We will provide a detailed budget analysis of the conversion and buildings of these facilities and compare the results to the costs of building a parlor using more conventional designs.