Global demand for sheep milk and its dairy products is growing, with particularly strong growth being seen in Asia. Despite this strong market demand, however, the dairy sheep industry in New Zealand is expanding slowly.
A solution is offered by the Sheep – Horizon Three programme whose goal is to create a high-value sustainable sheep milk industry in New Zealand by constructing a commercially viable agricultural system that is eco-sustainable and replicable. The programme will aim to encourage high performance from the New Zealand dairy sheep flocks by importing breeds that are world leaders from a genetic point of view. The programme will also carry out market research to determine which market segments have the greatest profit potential as well as learn how to access these markets successfully and create high margin products to meet demand in the markets of reference. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Spring Sheep Milk Co. very recently signed a contract for the new programme.
Scottie Chapman, chief executive of Spring Sheep Milk Co., said that New Zealand is in an ideal position to develop sheep milk products. Over time, the programme will establish a platform for the industry which will gradually be able to hold up to 55 farms managed by farmers with specific expertise in sheep milking.
General director of the Ministry Martyn Dunne said that New Zealand’s sheep milk industry is still in its infancy, but increasing demand for sheep milk in New Zealand and overseas offers the ideal opportunity for strong, long-term growth. Dunne added that during the next few years Spring Sheep Milk Co. will develop the right farming system for milking local sheep together with imported sheep. The aim is to start breeding sheep suitable for milking in only one environment such as that of New Zealand.
The Ministry will invest $8.7 million into the new programme and Spring Sheep Milk Co will invest $13 million over six years.