Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:09

NZ sheep milking could storm the world

Written by 
Lucy Griffiths Lucy Griffiths

New Zealand could lead the world in sheep milk production, says Nuffield scholar Lucy Griffiths. She told the recent Ewe Milk Products and Sheep Dairying Conference at Massey University the industry is well set up to lead internationally.

 Griffiths recently completed her Nuffield scholarship project on the sheep milk industry, travelling three months in the UK, France, Israel, Italy, Switzerland and the USA to compile her report.

She chose this industry because of its potential to help double New Zealand’s exports and because of her marketing work with a sheepmilk cheese maker in Wairarapa. 

“We have one of the biggest sheep dairies in the world here – Blue River, with 20,000 ewes. We are leaders in bovine dairy, we are the leaders in sheep farming so why can’t we be the leaders in dairy sheep?’ she told Rural News.

“However, we are competing with traditional sheep milk countries like Spain, Italy and France, producers of sheep milk and cheese for centuries. For example, Roquefort in France, with 1700 suppliers, has produced cheese since 79CE. Today they produce some of the most expensive cheeses in the world.  

“So we have competitors in cheese, but there is a lot of opportunity for us in the gourmet food market (butter, yoghurt, milk, fresh milk and ice-cream) and in functional foods, sports nutrition, UHT and infant formula.”

Griffiths notes that worldwide at least 10 million tonnes of sheep milk are produced annually, the largest producers being China and Turkey.  And though New Zealand could not reach such volumes it has the capacity to produce for high-value, niche markets.

New Zealand’s many advantages include its world leadership in sheep farming, breeding, technology and research, Griffiths says. Our farmers are good adopters and developers of milking technology and some of the main sheep milking breeds, e.g. East Friesian and Awassi,  are here. 

She concedes the challenges in developing a large sheep milk industry in New Zealand: the lack of a strong tradition of sheep milk consumption, limited flocks of milking sheep breeds, and few people with experience to run sheep milk operations.

“But sheep dairy has the potential to be a billion dollar industry in 10 years if the right breeding programmes, feed mixes and other technologies are implemented. Demand for sheep milk products is growing worldwide driven by health, tradition and fashion.”

More like this

Better late, than never!

Noted animal geneticist Dr Jock Allison is full of praise for the initiative to build a larger sheep milking industry.

High society for sheep milking

Plans to expand the sheep milk industry have advanced to the formation of a society to develop and promote the industry, confirmed at the close of a recent two day conference at Massey University. 

Sheep milking untapped opportunity for farmers

Lincoln University farm management and agribusiness lecturer Guy Trafford is so convinced about the opportunities sheep milk presents he plans to manufacture his own ice cream from it.

National

Government funds RA research

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says the Government will fund two new research projects to investigate the impacts of regenerative farming…

Luxton leaves a legacy

Former Agriculture Minister and DairyNZ chair John Luxton leaves behind a legacy and lifetime of achievement in the agriculture sector…

Machinery & Products

Vaderstad's new drill is Inspire(d)

Tillage, seeding and planting specialists Vaderstad has introduced its new Inspire product range – focused on the 12-metre seed drill…

JD's new 6Rs for 2022

With the upcoming market year 2022 (MY22) only a few weeks away, John Deere has released details of changes to…

New features on Case IH Optum

The latest Case IH Optum AFS Connect range features a new cab, interior and connectivity package designed to benefit both…

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Fond farewell

OPINION: Your canine crusader would like to pay tribute and a fond farewell to former Agriculture Minister and Dairy NZ…

Front page!

OPINION: This old mutt reckons (un) social media is just an echo chamber of self-important, self-professed experts who lecture and…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter