Dairy Sheep on the Homestead: Guest Rachel Hester

On Today’s Podcast Episode, Harold Has A Conversation With Rachel Hester About Dairy Sheep On The Homestead and Her New Book, The Guide To Homestead Dairy Sheep. Rachel Talks About Why Dairy Sheep Are A Great Livestock For The Homestead, The Advantages and Challenges, and More.

The Modern Homesteading Podcast, Episode 222 – October 4, 2023

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Rachel craved wholesome, traditional foods like the kind she experienced in Eastern Europe on the Mission Field, and her husband Kyle had a childhood dream of having a small farm like his grandfather. After a honeybee swarm flew into the backyard of the rental property they were living on at the time, they realized they wanted a homestead that was operated in such a way as to be honeybee-friendly and health-savvy.

After an alarming health crisis after Kyle donated bone marrow in 2013, they began learning about alternative health methods. Modern Medicine had created a huge mess and failed to help clean it up for them. So they began learning ways to reverse the damage themselves, and part of that included a crash course in various methods of food production. They quickly realized that the way the food is farmed has a direct impact on their personal health. Soon, they began visiting farmer’s markets, listening to crunchy podcasts, and networking amongst farmers who refused to use trendy certifications to sell their products.

In the process of sourcing foods that helped reverse Kyle’s health issues, they realized that joining the sustainable food movement was something they both felt not just inspired by but called to. Raw Milk and especially Sheep Milk are two things that are non-negotiables necessary for their home and health. Soy and even corn are two products that are usually fed to most dairy animals, resulting in compromised Rumen health and, therefore, an inferior product. Since most farmers are understandably not very open to their customers criticizing what they feed to their own animals, they quickly realized to have the food they desired and needed, they’d have to raise it themselves.

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Welcome to the Modern Homesteading Podcast! Today we’re joined by Rachel Hester to explore a topic we haven’t touched on before: dairy sheep. Rachel shares her journey into homesteading, starting with her experiences at her grandfather’s farm in Alabama, working with cows, to her own foray into homesteading in South Dakota, which initially didn’t go as planned.

Rachel’s path into homesteading was shaped by her husband Kyle’s health challenges, leading her to study nutritional therapy. This study opened her eyes to the issues with our food supply and the importance of how our food is raised. Influenced by Joel Salatin and his book “The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer,” Rachel and Kyle started their homesteading journey, initially with chickens and ducks, then expanding to guard dogs, beehives, and eventually sheep.

The decision to delve into dairy sheep came during the lockdowns of 2020. Rachel’s practical approach to sourcing red meat and other products like milk and wool led her to purchase two sheep, sparking a growing interest in this area. She soon discovered the different breeds of dairy sheep and learned about their milk production qualities, lactation periods, and disposition.

Rachel’s exploration into dairy sheep led her to write a book on the topic, providing a much-needed resource in an area with limited existing literature. She delves into the nutritional benefits of sheep milk, its higher mineral content, fat, protein, and vitamin B compared to cow and goat milk, making it a healthier option for many.

For those considering dairy sheep, Rachel advises that they require more hands-on care compared to other livestock like cows or goats. Sheep are more sensitive to their environment and need more attention, especially during lambing season. They’re not just a set-and-forget type of livestock. However, the rewards of raising dairy sheep are plentiful, from the milk and wool they provide to the personal satisfaction of caring for these animals.

Rachel’s book, “The Guide to Homestead Dairy Sheep,” is a comprehensive resource for anyone interested in exploring this aspect of homesteading. It covers everything from the basics of dairy sheep care to the more intricate details of breeding and milking.

In conclusion, dairy sheep can be a valuable addition to a homestead, especially for those with small acreages. They offer multiple benefits, including milk, wool, and meat, and can be a sustainable option for homesteaders looking to diversify their livestock. Rachel’s journey and expertise provide an excellent guide for anyone interested in this unique and rewarding aspect of homesteading.