Farmers between Auckland and Taupo can now take the plunge into sheep milk, says Maui Milk general manager Peter Gatley.
Be Well Food Group, Shanghai, is a major stakeholder in the 770ha Waikino Station now known as Maui Sheep Milk Company; the Waituhu Kuratau Trust, which started milking sheep in 2007, is also a partner.
Be Well president Chen Liang visited the farm last week for the launch of the new Southern Cross sheep breed.
He told Rural News that Be Well plans to set up plants to process sheep milk into milk powder, yoghurt and fresh milk. “I hope the manufacturing side can set up as soon as possible now that we have achieved genetic improvement,” Liang says.
Maui Milk has developed a new crossbred sheep suitable for NZ’s pasture-based industry. Thought to be a world-first in sheep genetics, the Southern Cross breed is a mix of East Friesian, Awassi and Lacaune -- all prominent northern hemisphere sheep milking breeds -- on a Coopworth base.
Maui Milk is into its first year of milking; milk is sent to the Waikato Innovation Park and made into milk powder for wealthy Chinese consumers. Liang, whose company has poured “tens and tens of millions of dollars into Maui Milk”, says he is confident of the sheep milk industry.
He says the positive response from Chinese consumers to Maui Milk powder has given him confidence.
“There hasn’t been any negative response from consumers; all they talk about is sheep milk’s goodness for health.
“That’s why my company is working with NZ partners to develop this industry and promote global marketing of NZ sheep milk.”
The Maui Milk farm is milking 2000 ewes; the property was developed with new pasture -- plantain and lucerne.
A 64-bail internal rotary milking platfor imported from France has in-line electronic milk meters, automatic cup removers, Reporoa backing gates and an adjustable height platform in the pit for the comfort and ergonomic efficiency of milkers.
Two barns, each able to house 1000 ewes, come complete with feed conveyors.