Although milk is an important product of sheep systems using the Awassi breed in the Near East, typically giving 25% of the gross income, there is little information on the yields of Awassi ewes at defined levels of nutrition. The Awassi is the dominant breed of sheep in the Near East. It is the only breed in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, which have a total sheep population of 16.9 million. In Iraq about 50% of the 7.8 million sheep are Awassis. There are also approximately 1 million Awassi sheep in Turkey, mainly in the south along the border with Syria. Turkish Awassi ewes have been selected for milk yield for many years at the Ceylanpinar State Farm.
In 1991, ICARDA purchased 40 ewes, aged 2 years, from the Ceylanpinar flock. In 1992, these ewes and 40 ewes selected at random from 2 year old ewes in the flock at ICARDA's Tel Hadya station at Aleppo, in northern Syria, were compared, using two levels of nutrition in lactation. The ewes in the ICARDA flock are typical of well managed flocks in northern Syria.