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The New Zealand sustainable sheep milk programme kicks off

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.

The Agreement

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.

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Sheep milk: Sardinia anxious about the price collapse

According to Coldiretti, the situation being experienced by the dairy sheep and goat sector in Sardinia is serious, with sheep milk fetching less than 60 cents per litre. Coldiretti has expressed its intention to organize a demonstration, driven by what has been defined as the ‘bluff’ of sheep milk overproduction. In September, with the final production data, it appeared as so. Meanwhile, the state of affairs is heavily damaging the market with losses amounting to roughly 150 million euros in the supply chain and firstly causing the price of Pecorino Romano to collapse and then that of sheep milk.

The situation in Ogliastra appears to be dramatic as in the rest of the island. According to Vincenzo Cannas, local manager of the above-mentioned association, it is not true that overproduction is such as to justify the decrease in milk prices imposed by industrialists.

On the contrary, the arrival in Ogliastra of processing companies from the north of Sardinia signifies that the situation is not so. What is true – again according to Cannas – is actually the opposite, i.e. that there has been a decline in production. In the meantime, the price of sheep milk has dropped from 90 to 60 cents.

The processing companies

The processing companies are not faring well either. Prices of Pecorino Romano, the cheese that determines the price of sheep milk in Sardinia, are falling: the price per kg was 9.50 euros in July 2015 but is now 5.30 per kg. Consequently, the processing industry is currently offering farmers around 50/60 cents per litre compared to the euro per litre from 2013-2014, resulting in a 40% curtailment of farmers’ incomes. This is what has been affirmed by Copagri (the confederation of agricultural producers) which calls for special measures to be discussed with the organisations. President of Copagri Ignazio Cirronis has requested that the ministry approves a decree requiring milk buyers to communicate to the Member State on a monthly basis data on the litres purchased, as already happens for cow’s milk.

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Sheep milk, the right choice!

Why is it really better to consume sheep milk?

There are various, good reasons…

- Its original flavour and taste

– It contains more calcium and minerals (such as zinc) than other types of milk.

– It is particularly rich in folic acid and Vitamin B 12, which are important for preventing spina bifida.

Find out the other important advantages and characteristics of this unique product in our short video.

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Organic dairy produce is on the rise

There is good news from the organic dairy industry: a growth rate of between 6.7% and 7.6% is expected up until 2025 in Europe and the United States – approximately three times what is expected in general for other food products. This is what has emerged from a Rabobank report and an analysis by CLAL.
This boom is the result of greater consumer attention towards environmental issues, animal welfare and health and food safety which has driven sales of organic products to achieve double digit growth in recent years – a trend that is expected to steadily increase. This has obviously particularly occurred in more developed and mature markets, where the concept of food quality now goes beyond nutritional characteristics to embrace how food is produced along the entire production chain.

The United States

Along with consumer interest for organic dairy products, the number of organic dairies continues to grow. In the USA, in an effort to support research in this sector, the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has allocated $1.4 to a team co-led by Pablo Pinedo, an assistant professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University.
In a collaborative initiative, researchers from the University of Minnesota, Colorado State University and Kansas State University will come together to test and develop new treatment strategies for organic dairies and take what they have learned to other producers and dairy practitioners throughout Colorado and the rest of the country. Dairy is the second largest segment of organic agriculture. “Therefore,” said Pinedo, “we need procedures based on studies that are supported by rigorous research. Our long-term goal is to contribute to better health.”


It is significant that in Europe, despite the continuing economic crisis, consumers have increasingly turned to discount supermarkets but without abandoning organic produce, whose purchases have steadily increased. In the decade from 2005 to 2014, the value of retail sales of organic products rose from 11.1 billion euros to 24 billion euros, with 10.3 million hectares dedicated to these crops. Organic dairy products vary from 5-10% of the total market in Austria, Germany and Holland but milk has already exceeded 15% of total sales in Austria. Germany represents a third of the total value of organic consumption (7.9 billion euros) followed by France (4.8 billion euros), a country with annual growth rates of 10%.
In the European Union farm-gate organic milk prices show a higher growth trend compared to a year ago. In Germany, farm-gate organic milk prices have increased by 3% compared to a year ago; in Baviera prices have increased by 3.67%. In France farm-gate prices have increased by 3.1%.

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Demineralized milk serum: what is it and how to obtain it

Milk serum, which represents up to 90% of the gross product in cheesemaking, has been considered for years only as a supplement for animal feeding or, where it could not be used for this purpose due to shipping problems, as a waste byproduct to deal with. Sweet milk serum is a liquid diluted byproduct derived by cheese production. It contains lactose, proteins and minerals, however, the serum can be processed in order to extract minerals, e.g. through electrodialysis. This is how we can make demineralized milk serum. If compared to other products, it has better organoleptic characteristics, low acidity and low solubility.

Characteristics of main milk serum derivatives


source: SardegnaRicerche

Largely employed as base ingredient in the infant nutrition, as a substitute for breast milk, demineralized milk serum is used as raw material for multiple food products: it is used to produce dairy products (whole milk production, ice cream production, spreadable cream cheese, cottage cheese and other kinds of cheese); in the baking industry (cakes, sweets); in the meat industry (deli meats, salami and pate).

The serum contains, besides proteins, lactose and mineral salts that can be recovered and turned into high added-value substances.

Demineralization process

Demineralization process aims to maintain lactose and proteins of the serum while decreasing the mineral content (up to -90%). It is a process based on ion–exchange resins, i.e. insoluble organic substances that are able to exchange their ions with other ions having the same charge and contained within the solution in which they are submerged.

Demineralized serum, which is subsequently crystallized and dried up, is largely used as base ingredient in nutrition for infancy, as a substitute for breast milk; moreover, as we have already mentioned, it is also employed as raw material for several food products and in the pharmaceutical industry.

Demineralization process takes place, as already mentioned, through electrodialysis or ion – exchange resins, but those are not the only technologies used, in fact nano-filtration and ultrafiltration are other possible technologies employed. Membrane technologies, at the present, allows to significantly value serum and in particular we must cite the following applications:
ultrafiltration, which allows to almost totally recover proteins and fats in concentrated form, with the possibility to further process – for recovering lactose – the permeate that contains lactose and mineral salts, besides obtaining lactose powder; inverted osmosis, which concentrates the whole mass about three times, and this mass can be concentrated even further by heat treatment to obtain a protein flour. The permeate is good quality water which can be reused into cheese factory or discharged in surface water; nano-filtration, which is similar to inverted osmosis but, unlike the first one, allows the passage of a portion of mineral salts contained in the permeate (especially chlorides), then providing a partially demineralized concentrate.

The market

High protein content and low fat content of milk serum in its demineralized powdered form is well known; these qualities, within a global market that is growing more and more technologic and which focuses on products more suitable for a health-conscious lifestyle, represent an added value for the growth of this ingredient. The increasing world population and the growing demand for artificial milk are a contributing factor to this phenomenon.

The market for demineralized powdered milk serum is segmented based on how the ingredient is used (artificial milk, baking products, sweet baking products, milk and dairy products, beverages and others). Among all the segments, artificial milk should be the most dominant on long-term and also from a financial perspective. This ingredient is also widely used in the beverage industry, especially to support foaming, stability and mouth feel. Another leading industry for the growth of this ingredient is packaged infancy food products.

However, there is also a geographical segmentation, North America and Western Europe are mature markets, while emerging markets, such as Pacific Asia, will have substantial growth opportunities over the next ten years. These favorable predictions are based in the first place on the technological advance of processing industries for milk serum and on an increasing consumption of packaged food products and low-calorie products both in the Pacific Asia and in Middle East and Africa.

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Rabobank quarterly report, China and price increase amongst keywords

Milk production from countries with the highest export volume has sensibly decreased, from the 2,6 million tons of the second half of 2016, especially milk stocks coming from Oceania and Europe. Moreover, if we take into account the fact that internal demand in the United States and Europe has been growing more and more strong, it is easy to see how available inventories for export are dwindling (four and a half million tons) and, as a consequence, we are seeing an increase in milk prices on a global scale (up over 45% during the second half of this year).

Demand is growing the most for products such as cheeses and butter. Consequently, demand for butyric fat matter will lead the market and weight heavily on it, at least according to the quarterly report by Rabobank relative to third quarter of 2016.

According to Rabobank’s Kevin Bellamy, “Milk production all over the world, during the second half of this year, seemed to be in very bad shape. European production grew stronger, not only thanks to low prices, but also in reaction to efforts coming from European aids (ability to remove a million tons of milk from the market). Meanwhile, we see poor production from Oceania, with New Zealand far away from last year’s 6% production level”.

Key elements of Robobank quarterly report

Various scenarios with various interpretations can be extrapolated from Robobank’s quarterly report: the current rise in prices will be followed by a further increase; at the same time, milk offer in all regions will not grow overnight, in spite of better prices for milk. We will have to wait at least till mid-2017 in order to see an actual recovery of production and available inventories for export; China will aggressively enter the international market, with a forecasted 20% increase of imports. However, an additional increase in US Dollar’s strength, combined with higher prices for raw material, might be able to also favor other importing regions who may play a key role.

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Ricotta: a rich and versatile product

Ricotta is not a cheese but a dairy product, i.e. a by-product of sheep, goat or cow’s milk. Indeed, under current regulations, cheese is a product that is obtained from the acid or presamic acid coagulation (caused by adding rennet) of whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk. This does not happen with ricotta, which is instead made by coagulating whey proteins, i.e. the proteins that remain in the liquid (whey) which is separated from the curd during the cheese-making process. The coagulation of whey proteins – albumin and globulin – occurs at a temperature of 80-90°C and is facilitated by adding whey of citric acid or lactic acid.
During cheese production, a part of the fats passes through the meshes of the sieves used to separate the curd from the whey. The fat globules of sheep and goat milk are smaller than those of cow’s milk and tend to remain more easily in the whey, producing a ricotta which is fattier and tastier but higher in calories.

What are the nutritional characteristics?

Ricotta is a dairy product which is often defined as being low in fat. Indeed, its calorie content is fairly reduced compared to other dairy products: a 100-gram portion contains 174 calories. Ricotta consists of 13 % fat, 11% protein and 3% carbohydrate.
Ricotta is a variable food: its macronutrient and calorie content varies greatly according to the method of production and milk used. Furthermore, the method of production influences the fat content of the whey. Ricotta produced from the residual whey in the production of Pecorino Romano is extremely tasty because the fat content of this whey is 2.1% against the 0.30% of the whey of Parmigiano Reggiano, for example.
Ricotta whey proteins are rich in essential amino acids. Whey proteins have a biological value that is even higher than that of the classic cheeses. Ricotta is also a good source of calcium: a 100-gram portion provides about 26% of the daily requirement of this micronutrient. It is also high in vitamins, especially Vitamin A, riboflavin and Vitamin B12.

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Iranian Milk and dairy sector on the rise

Iran was certainly thought to be one of the most promising markets to keep an eye on in the coming years, however, two-figure growth predictions for the immediate future are definitely a news worth noting: in a recent in-depth study by CLAL they analyze the growth of milk and dairy market in Iran, a growth promoted by rapid urbanization and evolution of lifestyle that in turn sees a growing customer interest towards milk and dairy products. An annual growth rate of over 22% within 2021 is expected, thanks for the most part to diffusion of online sales and consumer profiles that gets more and more westernized.

Livestock assets and products

There are around 8.8 million cattle in Iran, with Holtein breed representing 1 million of that, with an average day-to-day production of 32 kg of milk (Source: www.clal.t). Most in-demand products are yoghurt and cheese, besides typical local doogh, a type of fermented milk usually consumed over lunch.


The incentive towards development of milk cattle and agricultural sector at large, comes from policies aimed to decrease the country’s economic dependence from oil sector and natural gas. Thanks to these policies, in 2015 Iran exported around 600 thousand tons of milk and dairy products to 30 countries, for a total value of $ 624 million and that figure is expected to reach 624 million dollars within the end of current fiscal year, thus making Iran the second exporter of the area after Turkey. Main buyers of Iranian milk and dairy products are Iraq in the first place (with 35.505 tons during January-November period), followed by Afghanistan (with 4.879 tons). Iran’s export pie chart shows that the biggest slice made up by yoghurt and buttermilk with 72% of total exports, followed by milk and cream (14%) and cheese (13%).

Once more, we clearly see a strong regional-oriented trend in exports: surely, international market exposure favored by removal of ONU-imposed sanctions will push the country more and more towards investments and trade relationships with major European and North African countries. As a consequence, we also expect to see investments by main milk and dairy operators at an international level, with the building of factories and production facilities in various provinces of the country. As a matter of fact, future looks bright.

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Late milk and dairy season in Australia

It looks like Australian milk and dairy season is sensibly late: it is in fact largely believed that the usual seasonal trend has been delayed. Apparently, the cause might be the cold and rainy weather that went on for most of the spring and is still persisting in summer.

In spite of all this, pastures and fodder conditions are quite good, and these factors should allow breeders to be able to keep a stable milk production at a reasonable price.

In the meantime, data sourced foresee a decided drop in milk production in Australia during July-October period of this year, equal to a -10,29% compared the same period in 2015, with a steeper decline in October (-11,39%), which is notoriously the most prolific month. On the other hand, 2015/2016 and 2014/2015 seasons ended up in the green (+1,96% for the first one and +6,42% for second). A decidedly milder drop for the neighboring New Zealand, with -2,44% (source: Clal)

Products trend in Australia and New Zealand

Butter price is decidedly on the rise. Stockpiles are running low in Australia, and cream availability limits butter production. Certain butter users who needed only small quantities have purchased packaged butter in retail stores in order to satisfy their production needs.

Cheddar cheese prices are also increasing. While milk is mainly destined to cheese production in Australia, some producers from New Zealand are shifting their focus toward other dairy derivatives they believe to be more profitable.

Powdered skimmed milk prices are stable. The European commission’s decision to sell some of the stocks for powdered skimmed milk of the intervention is generating concerns in Oceania, a fact partly tempered by the news of the recent increase in exports.

Powdered whole milk, on the other hand, sees an increase in price. Powdered whole milk became the main choice for milk in New Zealand, in terms of profitability, and many producers expect this to be true also in the coming future.

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Weather-related issues for South American milk and dairy industry

Weather conditions influenced and continue to influence performances of main players in the milk and dairy industry in South America, that is Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

The situation in Argentina and Uruguay

In Argentina and in bordering Uruguay temperatures are gradually rising with the incoming summer, a factor that induces stress in dairy cattle. Pastures and forages conditions are average. In October, milk price at the stable in Uruguay was 8,93 Uruguayan pesos per liter (around  28,77 €/100l), a +1,6% increase from the previous month and a +18% increase compared with October of last year (Source:

The volume of milk destined to bottling has decreased in both countries, which is also due to schools closing for the summer. Therefore we have seen an increase in the quantity of milk destined to processing, in spite of a decrease in production. On the other hand, milk and yogurt production is very active. Although we must not forget that the king product in the dairy and milk industry of the two countries is powdered whole milk, in spite of a decrease in Argentinian exports over the last years (a reduction from the 201,000 tons exported in 2011 to the 138,000 tons in 2015), and with Brazil constantly importing powdered whole milk, especially from Uruguay, in order to satisfy the strong demand coming from the food industry. As of today, Brazil’s milk production is uneven due to weather (strong rains on the Minas Gerais area, the first milk-producing region).

… and in Brazil

Average milk price at the stable in November was 1.34 Brazilian reals per liter (around 37,20 €/100l), a 10.9% decrease compared to the previous month although a +27.3% compared to November 2015 (Source: Now price is going through a decreasing phase following the notable peak in August (47,04 €/100l). Demand for bottled milk from food shops and restaurants appears to be good, however there is a physiological decrease coming from schools. A noteworthy (although insufficient) quantity of milk is turned into powdered whole milk, since there is a strong demand for it coming from the food industry. On the other hand, UHT milk production saw a decrease.

For what concerns milk deliveries during the October – January period of this year, all South American countries show negative trends if compared to the same period in 2015: from Argentina (-11,48%) to Uruguay (-11,37%), from Brazil (-5,08%) to Chile (-1,57%).

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