Health Benefits of Sheep Milk

So you can milk sheep?
Believe me we get asked this question every day. In fact the vast majority of the sheep milk in the world is made into cheese. It is considered ideal for this purpose because it has a higher percentage of solid content, and it’s also used in other dairy products like yoghurt and ice cream for the same reason. People who are lactose-intolerant sometimes use sheep milk as a substitute for cow’s milk, but goat’s milk is used more frequently for this purpose. Some individuals use sheep milk for making soap, and there is a movement to market it for certain nutritional benefits.

A few of the more popular cheeses that come from sheep milk include Roquefort, Pecorino, feta and Romano. The high solid content allows more cheese to be made per litre, which makes sheep cheese much more economical.

Better for Ewe
Sheep’s milk is as close to a perfect food as is possible in nature. It is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids without the heavy fat content and catarrh (mucus) producing materials of cow’s milk.

Sheep’s milk and Digestibility
Sheep’s milk offers superior digestibility to cow’s milk, due to the following factors:

1. Size of fat globules: The fat globules of Sheep’s milk are finer than those of cow’s milk, allowing for a greater surface to volume ratio for enzymatic attack. This enables the fat of Sheep’s milk to be broken down and digested more easily.
2. Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT): Sheep’s milk has more MCT’s than cow’s milk. Lipases attack the ester linkages of the shorter-chain fatty acids more readily, enabling more rapid digestion. MCT’s are metabolically unique in that they can be absorbed by a simpler mechanism than other fatty acids. MCT’s, which are higher in Sheep’s milk than cow’s milk, have a unique ability to provide energy to the human metabolism, as well as an ability to lower, inhibit and dissolve cholesterol deposits.
3. Curd strength. Sheep’s milk casein forms a less tough and more friable curd than the casein of cow’s milk. This means the digestive enzymes can break it down more rapidly. Alpha-S1 casein is the main casein in cow’s milk and this contributes to the firmer curd; Sheep’s milk contains low levels of alpha-S1 casein.

Sheep’s milk and Lactose Intolerance
The lactase enzyme provides for the digestion of lactose, or milk sugar. People who do not possess this enzyme are lactose intolerant. Sheep’s milk contains less lactose than cow’s milk, and people can generally tolerate Sheep’s milk better than cow’s milk. Sheep’s milk and Allergies Whether Sheep’s milk can be tolerated better than cow’s milk will depend on the specific protein involved in the allergy. Most people with a cow’s milk protein allergy are allergic to b-lactoglobulin. This protein is also present in Sheep’s milk and does not offer these people an alternative. It is worth, however, trying Sheep’s milk as an alternative to cow’s milk, in consultation with your doctor.

Composition
The composition of Sheep’s milk does not differ greatly from that of cow’s milk. Both kinds contain about 13% dry solids. Milk sugar, also known as lactose, is the main constituent of Sheep’s milk. The other main ingredients of Sheep’s milk are milk fat, protein, and minerals. One hundred ml of Sheep or cow’s milk has a calorific value of about 280kJ (67 kcal). The composition of the milk depends largely on the breed of Sheep and the season. In the summer the milk yield is high, and the fat and protein contents are low. Conversely, in the winter the milk yield is low, and the fat and protein contents are higher.

Lactose
Lactose is the most important carbohydrate present in milk. The lactose content of Sheep’s milk is about 10% lower than that of cow’s milk.

Milk Protein
Milk protein is comprised of about 80% caseins and 20% whey proteins. This is applicable to both cow’s milk and Sheep’s milk. The caseins are present in the form of micelles: these are large aggregates of protein and calcium phosphate. The number of small micelles is much greater in Sheep’s milk than cow’s milk.

Milk Fat
The fatty-acid composition of Sheep’s milk exhibits substantial differences from that of cow’s milk. Sheep’s milk fat contains more short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids. The seasonal variation in the fatty-acid composition is lower than that of cow’s milk. This is due to the relatively consistent diet fed to Sheep.

Cholesterol
Sheep’s milk has a cholesterol content of between 10 and 15 mg/100 g milk (depending on the fat content), comparable to the levels in cow’s milk.

Vitamins
Sheep’s milk contains more vitamin A and D than cow’s milk, along with higher concentrations of frolic acid and vitamin B12 than cow’s milk.

Minerals
The composition of minerals in Sheep’s milk and cow’s milk are different in a few ways. The potassium, copper and manganese content of Sheep’s milk are a little higher than those in cow’s milk. Sheep’s milk also contains a little less zinc than cow’s milk.

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