The sheep milking market, which is currently in the process of development, risks collapse if production does not grow in line with demand. This is what Landcorp consultant Andrew MacPherson said at a New Zealand Veterinary Association conference.
For McPherson the main problem for companies, particularly if they are not able to transform their milk into milk powder, is that many of them only have one product to sell on the market, which is not good for creating a rosy future in the medium term.
Landcorp, for example, which entered the sheep milking industry in partnership with the SLC Group, is not interested in selling bulk sheep milk powder in Asia or in other markets. The sheep milk is processed at Waikato Innovation Park in Hamilton and used to make yoghurt, pro-biotics, ice cream and protein products consumed by high performance athletes.
The biggest challenge faced by the industry is still low milk production. Maui Milk’s Peter Gatley said that New Zealand production levels are decidedly poor in comparison to overseas sheep milking industries – around 100-150 litres of milk per ewe compared to the 500 litres produced on European and Israeli intensive sheep milking farms.
Sheep milk offers an alternative to people who are intolerant to cow’s milk and has a different taste as well as different properties to goat milk. Gatley believes that the industry has the potential to grow to $200 million by 2030 of which a good part should be reinvested in improving genetics and feeding.
In order to talk about real development in this extremely interesting sector, the ultimate goal now is to produce 300-400 litres per ewe.