Those seeking to grow the fledgling sheep milk industry have just taken a big step forward in breeding a composite sheep especially for New Zealand conditions.
He says the move has come late given that East Friesian sheep (the main milking breed) have been out of quarantine for nearly 20 years. The other milking breed, Awassi, is still held tightly by Saudi interests, he says. Another breed, the French Lacaune, could possibly be imported.
“Sheep milk is a totally different product: it’s not as tough on the environment and we can have systems just as profitable as dairy because of the high level of milk production. Sheep cause less pugging of the land and their effluent is not as great as a dairy cow’s.”
An economic unit of sheep milkers would be about 600 ewes. They must be fed well, like cows, to obtain good milk yields.
“It’s fantastic to have a group at Massey wanting to get involved in research,” he told Rural News. “Looking around at places such as Lake Taupo where they are restricting nitrogen runoff, sheep dairying could be a major opportunity.
“We now have dairying in the Mackenzie Country; sheep milking would fit in there quite well.”
- A high yielding ewe will produce 450L of milk per year
- The average NZ farmgate price for sheep milk is about $2.00/L
- The lambing percentage from an East Friesian flock in the UK is 175%
- China produces 1.5 million tonnes of sheep milk annually
- New Zealand has the largest sheep dairy operation in the world (Blue River) with 25,000 stock units. The next largest is in Spain.
- The largest consumer of sheep dairy products is the USA, which consumes over half of the world’s production of sheep cheese.