Sheep Health Matters: Can You Milk a Sheep with Mastitis?

By Dairy Farming Hut


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Mastitis is a dairy farmer's nightmare and a condition that most must deal with at some stage. It is a common disease in dairy sheep, occurring in five to ten percent of a herd. Dairy farmers must know how to deal with mastitis, including how to milk a sheep with mastitis.

Sheep with mastitis cannot be milked with a milking machine due to the risk of contamination. They should be milked by hand with careful attention to hygiene and disinfection. Painkillers and warm compresses applied before milking can help relieve the ewe's pain.

Mastitis is a painful condition, and farmers may be unsure how to go about milking a ewe suffering from it. If you're facing this challenge on your farm, our comprehensive article provides essential insights to ensure you approach the situation with care and confidence.

Can A Sheep With Mastitis Be Milked With A Milking Machine?

Sheep Health Matters: Can You Milk a Sheep with Mastitis?

Sheep with mastitis should not be milked with a milking machine. There is a great risk of contaminating the machine and spreading the bacteria to the other sheep.

Pasturella, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Coliform pathogens, such as Ecoli, are all bacteria that may cause mastitis. They are powerful and easily contagious, and it is not worth infecting the milking machine. Sanitizing and sterilizing the milking machine is difficult and time-consuming.

It is painful for the sheep to use a milking machine to milk her when she has mastitis. The udder and teats become massively swollen and inflamed. The teats will not fit easily into the milking machine and may be further damaged.

Milking machines can overmilk an udder which is harmful to a healthy udder and can cause significant damage to an udder with mastitis.

Milking A Sheep With Mastitis By Hand

It is best to milk a sheep with mastitis by hand. Care can be taken to minimize pain for the sheep, and it is easier to control the transmission of the bacteria.

The milker sits behind the sheep on a stool, or the sheep stands on a stanchion (platform), and the milker stands behind them. Some people prefer to stand on the side, but the traditional position for milking a sheep is from behind.

The sheep's udder should be washed with warm water with an organic disinfectant. The milker must ensure they milk correctly without damaging the teats or udder.

Many people mistakenly think hand milking involves pulling on the teats to withdraw the milk. This method can cause mastitis, is painful for the sheep, and does not stimulate milk flow.

Hand milkers have various personal techniques, but the basic premise is that the teat is gently squeezed and released to stimulate milk flow. The aim is to imitate the sucking of the lamb.

Some people prefer to use the pad of the thumb and the forefinger to massage or lightly pressurize the teat. Others use only the tips of the thumb and forefinger, while others cup the teat against the four fingers and use a gentle stroking action with the thumb. Yet another method is to cup the teats against the palm and squeeze with the fingers.

It is critical to hold the teat high up so that you include part of the udder. Stimulating the udder this way mimics the lamb butting the udder to cause milk let-down.

Milking techniques vary according to the size of the milker's hands, their dexterity, and personal preference. The most important factor is that the teat, udder, and sheep are not hurt or damaged.

The milk may be more difficult to extract if the sheep has mastitis as the consistency of the milk changes and the udder is not functioning optimally. Inflammation can cause partial blockages. Care and patience must be exercised.

If the sheep tries to kick the milker, she can be hobbled. This involves tying the back legs together with cloth, soft rope, or specially-made hobbles.

Hobbles should never hurt the sheep or tie her legs so close together that she cannot stand. Incorrectly applied hobbles can make a sheep lose her balance and fall.

Weaver Leather Adjustable Goat Hobble Black

Adjustable Sheep and Goat Hobble

Should All The Teats Be Milked When A Sheep Has Mastitis?

It is essential to milk all the teats if the sheep has mastitis. If there is an unaffected teat, this one should be milked first before the mastitic teat.

The unaffected teat must be cleaned, milked, and disinfected first. Once this teat is completed, the teat with mastitis is cleaned, milked, and disinfected. This procedure prevents infecting the healthy teat.

The milk must be stripped out of the udder. After this is done, intramammary antibiotics are inserted into the teats.

Hygiene And Disinfection In A Sheep With Mastitis

Good hygiene is vital when milking a sheep with mastitis. The milker must disinfect their hands and wash the udder and teat thoroughly before starting to milk.

A biologically safe disinfectant should be used. Do not use a surface disinfectant as this is too strong for the skin and can cause blistering or cracking of the teat and udder skin.

The milk from the sheep with mastitis must be collected in a container that can be easily disinfected or disposed of. It must not be collected in the usual milk container.

The milk from the sheep is regarded as contaminated and must be disposed of safely. It should not be poured out on the ground in the milking yard or given to other farm animals. Bleach can be added to the milk, and it can be poured down a drain. 

The milker must thoroughly disinfect their hands after milking a sheep with mastitis.

Is Milking Painful For A Sheep With Mastitis?t

Mastitis is painful, and milking a sheep with mastitis causes more pain. To ease the pain, you can give sheep anti-inflammatories forty to sixty minutes before milking. The medication will also help reduce inflammation in the udder.

Warm compresses can be applied to the udder before milking to make it easier and reduce the pain. After milking, the udder can be hosed down with cold water to minimize inflammation.

Although milking is painful for a sheep with mastitis, removing all the milk containing pus and pathogens is critical. Removing the milk allows the intramammary antibiotic to penetrate deep into the udder.


Milking a sheep with mastitis is an essential part of treatment. It should be done by hand, kindly and compassionately minimizing pain for the sheep.

This is not a Veterinarian Advice

The Ideas and Strategies presented on this website and the information are based on our research and experience. These strategies are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information and/or documents contained on this website do not constitute veterinarian or medical advice. You should not disregard, or delay in obtaining, medical advice for any medical condition your livestock or pets may have.

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