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The Chinese-owned Super Organic Dairy Company farm at Kuratau, on the southwestern side of Lake Taupo, hopes to milk up to 5000 sheep.
It is also investing in the genetic development of a new dairy sheep breed specifically for New Zealand conditions.
GEA won the contract to supply the equipment: a feeding system in the form of conveyor belts, a 64-bail internal rotary with a capacity for 5000 sheep, and DairyPlan S21 software for monitoring and recording all aspects of milk production.
GEA after market and service solutions manager Grant Coburn says the new platform takes sheep milking in NZ to a new level.
“GEA will play a central role in further reinforcing sheep dairying in this area, including supporting the genetic development of a dairy sheep breed specific to NZ conditions.
“This is the first time GEA has installed this combination of equipment on a sheep milking platform and it will be the first installation of its kind for GEA worldwide.”
The company won the contract by being best able to meet the customer’s equipment and genetic engineering needs, says Coburn.
“GEA ultimately won the project because we can meet the parameters most important to the customer: to increase sheep milk production on the dairy farm and facilitate a system for them to accurately gather data for the development of this new sheep breed.”
All equipment has been delivered and installed at the farm.
Coburn says the customer required machinery designed specifically for sheep milking -- cost-efficient to operate, maximising milk production and minimising labor.
Also, the customer’s intention to develop a new dairy sheep breed specifically for milking in NZ conditions caused it to favour GEA for its the ability to support this research. “So GEA will not only be an equipment supplier, but also will act as the customer’s partner in delivering the information necessary to aid the genetic development research.”
Coburn believes the demand for sheep milk is huge in Asia, where it is sold as a high-end health product due to its many health benefits such as very high levels of vitamins and minerals.
The Taupo plant combination will be a world-first for GEA, says Jason Quertier.
“We’re experiencing a global demand for this offering now, but we are holding off selling it to other customers because we haven’t actually tested it yet.
“We will do that on the [Taupo] dairy farm, making this an R&D site for GEA.
“The beauty of a sheep is that it produces a high value product that has a low environmental impact so it is a great option in some of our environmentally sensitive areas.”
Measure to improve
Asked how exactly GEA equipment will contribute to the customer’s genetic sheep development on site, a spokesman says measurement is the key.
The company’s DairyPlan S21 software is central to a herd management system that records milk yield, reproduction, feeding and health for every animal.
GEA national sales manager milking and farming, Jason Quertier, says the data provided by the herd management system will enable the customer to make more accurate choices in the genetic development.
“The reason is simple: you can’t improve what you can’t measure.”
But assembling the perfect combination of equipment was a challenge, he says.
After GEA won the contract Quertier attended a sheep milking conference in NZ – sponsored by GEA – and realised that to provide the customer with the optimal conditions for its genetic sheep development, something more would have to be added to the mix of equipment.
“I was listening to a genetics expert talking about genetic sheep breed development and it became clear that the customer would benefit from even more detailed data about its sheep milk production,” he says.
“To be able to do that we had to find... a milk composition meter.”
This device supplies extra data on the protein and lactose content of the milk, which is much more useful than data on milk volume alone.
“We managed to change the scope of the project – after having closed it – and add an additional feature to the mix of equipment that makes it even more customer-centric. This was made possible by a joint effort within the one GEA organisation.”