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How to Milk a Sheep with a Syringe

Have you ever tried to milk a sheep?

Fun, ain't it? Your usually calm, favorite ewe is snubbed up to a loose fence rail, snorting through her bad-fitting, frayed twine halter while dancing all over you and giving you the stink eye as you try with cold hands (it has to be a minimum of -15'C when you do this....with a 20 mile/hour ice wind) and the little rotter of a lamb that you're trying to save is staggering around like a drunk sailor trying to get milk from the ewe's tail, your boot, and the dog laughing in the corner.

Yep. Fun times.

An old horseman watched me do this once and after almost busting a hernia laughing, he asked, "What are you doing?"

"What does it look like I'm doing," I grumbled while crouched upside down with my hair frozen to my face and a lamb sucking on my nose. "I'm out of cream for my coffee."

"There's a simpler way of doing that, you know," he said, still smirking.

"Drive to the store?" A migraine was starting to push against my eye.

That's when he let me in on a secret. There really was an easier way and everything was in my tack room.


So here it is. The secret to milking a sheep (or a horse)

Equipment List

60 ml Syringe Sharp knife or Fine tooth handsaw

60-80grit Sandpaper

Cooking spray Plastic baby bottle or jar

Place the syringe on a hard surface and cut off the catheter/needle tip end. Any fine tooth saw or sharp knife that can cut the plastic syringe will do. Usually there is one in your hubby's shop. The trick is to make sure he doesn't catch you going into the shop to use his tools.

Scrape and wipe away any residual crumbles of plastic. I like to give it a quick sand with 60 or 80 grit sandpaper (or whatever I happen to find before hubby notices the lights are on the shop). Since the cut edge will not touch the ewe/mare, absolute smoothness is not necessary.

Spray the rubber plunger cap with cooking spray so it slides easily, then put the plunger into the syringe body backwards. Slide it in and out a couple of times to lubricate. Sneak out of the shop and head back to the barn.

If you're caught by hubby, just play dumb farmer like I do. A blank stare and a stunned teenage "Nothing," still stumps him after 23 years together. As he's trying to figure out what tools I've used and didn't put back in exactly the perfect position, I wander back to the barn.

So now for the fun part. Grab a sterile baby bottle, shove the syringe and bottle into a clean pocket, and find your sheep!

This should go without saying, but I have made this mistake on more than one occasion. CATCH & TIE UP THE RIGHT SHEEP!!

Place the syringe flange over a teat, press gently but firmly against the udder to create a seal, then pull the plunger back slowly. The milk will flow easily into the syringe. If the ewe's milk is not down yet, you may only get a few milliliters at time, but every drop counts!

As the milk comes down, you will be able to fill the syringe, often several times. Have a clean baby bottle in hand to pour the milk into. Be sure to milk each teat equally. Neglecting one side could provoke mastitis.

There you go. An easy way to milk your sheep. I milk a couple ewes right at the beginning of lambing season and freeze the colostrum in ice cube trays for emergency use.

If you have a lamb who has lost it's mother and you're lucky enough to have an ewe that has an udder like a dairy cow, you can milk them daily like this to feed your new best friend.

Just an FYI, don't put colostrum in your coffee. It's a taste only a lamb can love. Just go to the grocery store.


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