Hugh and Pippa Stables run Wandering Ewe Dairy in North Somerset. They produce a hard, unpasteurised, ewes’ milk cheese from their own flock of sheep. 2021 was their third year of commercial cheese production. This is the tenth of 12 monthly blogs, which are intended to give a flavour of the year.
It is high summer at Wandering Ewe Dairy. We are now over two months into milking and cheesemaking – with probably a month to go.
Sheep produce fantastic milk. But they don’t give very much, compared to a cow or goat, and what they do give tends to decline steadily as the season goes on. Keeping the yield up requires constant attention. Is the pasture good enough? Have they found the water trough?
So far the milk production is holding up well. We have just weaned another 20 ewes and added them in to the mix. So this is helping keep the cheese vat topped up. Unfortunately the new arrivals are mainly younger sheep, so there is a bit more stamping and complaining in the parlour – after many weeks of calm.
The dry weather has made open air dairying very pleasant. Rain and mud can sap morale, after a while. But like many livestock farmers we are starting to worry about the lack of rain. After a dry spring and early summer, the deluge that usually greets the school holidays has failed to materialise this year. Our rented ground is either quite shallow soil, or clay. It is now very dry and there is very little grass growth. It looks like we will be grazing every patch of grass we can find this year. We are also doing what we can to reduce consumption – by selling sheep that would normally have been moved on in the autumn, and selling lambs. In a normal year we don’t use much hay – so we tend to buy in what we need. If the worst happens we will be buying in hay in a few weeks.
We had a recent visitor from New Orleans who asked what we would do when we eventually retire. Our answer was that we would sit by the mediterranean eating other people’s cheese. We are enjoying this idea of a golden future – likely some 20 years away. Our 15-year old daughter is not. Her friends are posting from Greece and Croatia now, not messing about with sheep.
Hugh and Pippa Stables
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