This study investigated factors affecting milk production and lactation curves from complete lactations of Lacaune dairy sheep. Animals were part of a single flock under intensive management and were milked twice daily starting at lambing. The results of the analyses of 7788 complete lactations showed an average total milk yield of 434±183 l from lactations 234±63 d long, with an average lambing interval of 302±65 d. A Pollott additive mathematical model was used to estimate complete lactation curves. Clustering analysis identified four lactation types among Lacaune dairy sheep differing mainly in productivity i.e. milk yield per lactation (MY) and length of lactation (DIM). The so-called SL type involved short, less productive lactations (n=2137; 27·4%; MY=222±75·5 l and DIM=182±52·9 d). The SN type involved short lactations of normal productivity (n=2039; 26·2%; MY=396±73·7 l and DIM=205±33·1 d). The LP type involved long and productive lactations (n=2169; 27·9%; MY=487±70·5 l and DIM=265±40·7 d), while the LVP type included long and extremely productive lactations (n=1443; 18·5%; MY=694±114·0 l and DIM=295±54·7 d). Sheep showing the best lactation curves were usually younger than other sheep, and they had higher yield during the previous lactation, a shorter previous dry period (55±50·4 for LP and 61±55·0 d for LVP types) and longer lambing intervals. In addition, they tended to be born in September and to lamb in March, October and December. Sheep were remarkably stable in their lactation curve behaviour: the curve type observed for the first lactation was highly likely to persist in subsequent lactations (P<0·0001). These results suggest that farmers can use the shape of the first lactation curve to guide their selection of ewes for breeding and retention on the farm, thereby improving flock productivity.