Sheep milk … is it really a thing? More than 250 people turned out at the first Sheep Milk New Zealand open day last week, to see for themselves what sheep milk might mean for the future of New Zealand’s primary industries.
The open day was held at Tuscany Downs, Kirwee, 40 minutes west of Christchurch. Farmers and interested folk from Central Otago to North Canterbury attended.
The sheep milk industry has come a long way in recent times and not only has it firmly established itself in New Zealand, it now has a co-operative and processors and is growing, albeit slowly. The national sheep dairy flock is about 20,000.
The open day brought together industry experts and those interested in learning more about sheep milk products.
Sheep milk is rich and creamy, has no aroma, is possibly easier to digest, and contains twice as much protein and calcium than cow’s milk.
Sheep produce double the milk solids a cow does and the price hovers around the $16-17 per kilogram of milksolids, which could make it a plausible business option for some farmers.
Sheep Milk NZ is the inspiration of Matt and Tracey Jones who began commercially milking sheep in 2019. The open day was a result of Matt and Tracey wanting to connect industry people with others interested in sheep milking.
“We wanted to get the community together to discuss the opportunities of the industry and provide a forum where people could ask questions,” Matt says.
Questions from the audience related to breeds, getting the best from milking sheep, and understanding the benefits of sheep milk in an international marketplace.
People from as far south as Ranfurly were interested to know if there were options for their milk to be delivered to Sheep Milk NZ’s processing plant in Canterbury and were surprised to find out that plans were in place to start transporting milk from Otago.
A big question from those wanting to increase flock sizes, ‘what do we do with our milk?’
Matt’s answer was unequivocal, “We are continually working on investment and infrastructure, but Sheep Milk NZ needs milk to grow production.”
The open day included samples of sheep milk and cheese produced by Jones Family Farm and Sabelle, Sheep Milk NZ’s body care products. The sheep milk Gouda and Havarti cheeses are produced by Jones Family Farm. Jones Family Farm are working on an aged cheddar and a Creamy Blue to add to their cheese range, which we here at Federated Farmers are seriously looking forward to.