Sheep Dairy: Wisconsin’s Other Dairy Industry

Wisconsin is the nation’s leader in dairy production, both when it comes to cows and goats.  One less common, but still important piece to Wisconsin’s dairy industry is dairy sheep.  Sheep milk products are gaining popularity with consumers.

Hygiene products made with sheep’s milk are also becoming increasingly popular, especially for people with sensitive skin. Tammy and Brian Michielson, owners of Maple Hill Farm of Ladysmith, Wisconsin have expanded their business into creating a wide variety of these products. They sell homemade soaps, lotions, bath products and many other things, made exclusively from their milking sheep flock. 

“There is somewhat of a difference in composition when comparing sheep and cow’s milk.,” explains Michielson. “Most notably, sheep milk is a bit more concentrated and higher in nutrient density, therefore giving it an advantage when it comes to processing. It takes less amount of milk to make the same amount of product.”

Cow’s milk contains more water, while sheep’s milk consists of about double the amount of fat and protein. He adds that the higher fat content in the milk helps to make the products more moisturizing and very popular with customers.

Maple Hill Farm milks about 100 sheep, with most of their milk going to cheese production. Michielson has continued to expand the business and also now has a greater online presence selling their products.

“We installed a commercial kitchen where my wife makes all of our products onsite,” says Michielson. “This year we added a new product and now offer a conditioner bar.”

With the current state of the wool market not being very good, the Michielsons found a unique way to use their wool and still make a profit. They use their wool to make raised garden beds and educate others on how to do so as well.

He says, “This year in particular it has been very dry all over Wisconsin. Yet our vegetables didn’t suffer. This is because the wool holds that water in and releases it as needed.”