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Sheep Farming in Israel Produces the Highest Milk Yields

Sheep Farming in Israel the history

Sheep farming in Israel is some of the most productive in the world, with carefully developed breeds of Asaf sheep that produce high quantities of milk. This success is perhaps no surprise when you consider the history of sheep farming in Israel. In the Old Testament, Abel, the second son of Adam and Eve, became a shepherd. Many other important Biblical figures, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel, and King David, kept flocks of goats and sheep.

For early Jews, sheep provided wool, meat, and milk. Because flocks of sheep were transportable, shepherding was an ideal occupation for Jews as they travelled in search of a permanent homeland.

Sheep Farming in Israel

Two primary breeds of sheep: the Awassi and the Assaf

Today, Israelis have built upon this legacy of shepherding by improving their sheep breeds. Israel has two primary breeds of sheep: the Awassi and the Assaf.

The Awassi bread:

The Awassi is Israel’s native sheep bread. Israeli sheep farmers have been improving the Awassi breed over the last 85 years. In 1930, Awassi sheep produced an average of about 40 liters of milk per year. Through careful husbandry and feeding techniques in addition to genetic selection, Israeli farmers have drastically increased that number. The new, improved Awassi sheep now produce an average of 550 liters of milk per year. The one downside to the Awassi sheep is their rate of reproduction. Awassi ewes typically lamb just once a year and usually give birth to just one lamb.

Sheep Farming in Israel

Israeli sheep farmers undertook to tackle this problem by crossbreeding a new kind of sheep.

The Assaf sheep bread:

Beginning in 1955, farmers crossbred the improved Israeli Awassi with the German East Friesian breed. The German East Friesian is known for high milk production and high fertility but was not well-suited to conditions in Israel. Israeli farmers found that a combination of 3/8 East Friesian and 5/8 Awassi was ideal for optimized vitality, milk production, and birth rate.

The new crossbred sheep is called the Assaf sheep, and it combines the positive qualities of the Awassi and German East Friesian breeds. The Assaf sheep produce an average of 450 liters of milk annually, and they have an average prolificacy of 1.3 lambings each year with 1.6 lambs per lambing.

The Assaf sheep emerges as a standout crossbreed, ingeniously blending the qualities of the Awassi and German East Friesian breeds. Renowned for enhancing dairy sheep productivity, this breed has captivated most of Israel’s dairy sheep breeders. Remarkably adaptable to various farming systems, it delivers a well-rounded performance in milk and mutton production. Although its milk yield, at an average of 450 liters annually, slightly trails behind the Awassi, the Assaf compensates with its reproductive efficiency. It boasts an impressive average of 1.3 yearly lambings, each producing 1.6 lambs. Consequently, this translates to nearly three lambings every two years under the unique Israeli conditions. Therefore, the Assaf sheep distinguishes itself as a superior dairy breed and a prolific mutton producer, offering breeders a dual-purpose solution to maximize milk and lamb outputs.

Although their milk production is slightly lower than the Awassi sheep’s, Assaf sheep prolificacy is much higher.

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