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Sheep and Goat Dairy Gains a Foothold in Locke

A dairy farm in Central New York is breaking the mold with Sheep and Goat milk.

By Stephen Armstrong LOCKE, N.Y. (NCC News)  There are more than half a million dairy cows in New York State.

They were the biggest contributors to the nearly $15 billion of milk produced in the state last year.

The 13,700 dairy goats in New York State are a small fraction of that equation, compared to the 620,000 milking cows.

At Shepherd’s Way farm in Locke, Farm Manager, Lewis Fox is trying to beat that trend by milking goats, and sheep as well.

Fox got his start with dairy cows, but he’s taken those skills across into goat and sheep dairy.

“Goat and sheep dairying,” Fox said, “Is something that’s new and different enough that it’s a challenge.”

Fox has been working to improve production, through techniques like year-round breeding, which means ewes produce milk for more weeks in each year.

Milk from the farm is then converted into cheese and yogurt at their creamery.

Greenstar COOP in Ithaca stocks some of those products.

Lucienne Tompkins is the Perishable Grocery Buyer for the store, and she said she’s seen an increase in demand for sheep and goat milk products.

“They’re more digestible for a lot of people,” Tompkins said,  “Because the fat molecules are smaller, so actually they’re easier to process for your body.”

Tompkins said she expects demand will increase, and she’d like to see a wider range of goat and sheep milk products.

” I would love to see,” Tompkins said, “Some sort of sheep’s milk frozen yogurt, I think that would be amazing.”

As for Fox, he said subsidized sheep milk from Europe has been a challenge for U.S. farmers, but economies of scale could keep U.S. farmers competitive.

Fox also said he thinks goat and sheep milk is going to be a growing trend.

“A larger supply of sheep’s milk,” Fox said, “Is going to be the key to bringing it to a greater audience.”