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Friday, 12 June 2015 08:49

Sheep milk exports in the pipeline

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HIGH VALUE sheep milk products from New Zealand could soon be available in key overseas markets.


Spring Sheep Dairy has taken its first step, with joint venture owners Landcorp Farming Limited and SLC Group agreeing on the focus for its consumer-led marketing business.

Spring Sheep Dairy chief executive and director Scottie Chapman says SSD's long term goal is to export high value high quality sheep milk products to Asian consumers.

"We're still to milk our first sheep so obviously there's a long way to go and we will take a very careful and considered approach, but we are very excited about the potential opportunities this joint venture offers," Chapman says.

Landcorp is a state-owned entity and the country's largest farmer while SLC brings market-focused entrepreneurial flair to the entity.

"The combination provides the ability to develop and control the supply chain process from farm to market. Our goal is to create high value products that will appeal to Asian consumers as opposed to just producing what we can and then going to market to try and sell it," says Chapman.

Landcorp chief executive Steven Carden says the company is well-placed to make a go of the new venture.

"Landcorp has the scale to create a thriving sheep milk business. We have a lot of experience farming sheep, a successful sheep genetics business, the country's largest dairy cow herd and a network of innovative farms throughout New Zealand," Carden says.

Landcorp has been working to refocus its products to customers and consumers in niche markets with specific requirements. With SLC Group, it engaged Massey University's Riddet Institute to experiment with sheep milk in butter, yoghurt and ice creams. "The results were encouraging, finding most people really enjoy sheep milk products. We also believe the nutritional characteristics of sheep milk will appeal to many consumers around the world."

Spring Sheep Dairy's first farm operation will be based in the Central North Island on 400ha of farmland at Reporoa. It is currently converting the farm to milk 3000 East Friesian sheep this spring. When fully operational, this first farm will milk 3500 sheep and produce about 1 million litres of milk.

Chapman says the majority of milk will be sent to independent processor, FoodWaikato, for drying. Small volumes of other products will also be developed for trial in-market.

"It's very much a fledgling operation at present, with a focus on building a quality East Friesian sheep milking flock and working with end market consumers to find out what their needs are so we can create and supply the right branded products."

He says customers in Taiwan and Korea are the initial focus.

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