Sheep milking company seeks more suppliers to meet market demand

Waikato's emerging sheep milk industry is gaining pace with one of its main operators seeking more suppliers for the 2020 season.

The Spring Sheep Milk Company is seeking three to four more farmers to supply it as it looked to meet increasing demand from its overseas customers.

International demand for New Zealand sheep milk products was strong and the company would only bring on more suppliers when the demand was there, Spring Sheep business manager Thomas Macdonald said.

Local farmer interest remained strong. So far the company has had over 300 people through its Cambridge farm to learn more about the industry.

 "Not a week goes by where we are not having conversations with prospective farmer suppliers, which is quite exciting.

"Heading into our fifth dairy season we are noticing a lot more interest in the industry. Last year I might have received around one inquiry a month from a farmer looking at their options, but those inquiries are now coming in thick and fast."

These farmers ranged from traditional bovine dairy farmers to arable farmers looking to convert. Most of these farmers had small land holdings which was uneconomic for traditional land use, but was large enough to establish a sheep milking farm.

"The Waikato region is rich dairy country, and the pastoral farming practices and core skill set of dairy farming found here is easily transferred to sheep milk," he said.

"The optimal sheep milking system in New Zealand requires the use of high-performance genetics, combined with a farming system that utilises our pastoral advantage. We now have those genetics available, and we're looking to work with passionate, skilled dairy farmers with high-quality land."

He said it had shifted from a proof of concept to where sheep milking now had scale, efficiency and an established market.

The company had just finished its first season running three farm system trials – full grazing outdoor, hybrid indoor-outdoor grazing and large scale hybrid models on its two farms near Cambridge and one in Reporoa, near Rotorua.

Production from its Cambridge hybrid farm averaged 270 litres a ewe with the top performing ewe milking 503L, which is on a par with farms in established sheep milking countries in Europe.

Milk from its farms is then processed at Melody Dairies' spray drier at Waikato Innovation Park in Hamilton.

The production lift was a result of new European genetics which had the potential to increase production to over 600 litres per ewe per season.

"Most farming systems need about 250-450L per ewe per season to achieve a good return, so the improved productivity we're seeing presents a good opportunity for farmers considering a conversion to sheep dairy farming."

Sheep milking also had several positive environmental impacts. It did not require any land use intensification and had a low nitrogen footprint.

"We partnered with AgResearch to undertake nitrogen leaching trials on our farms, with results showing a 30 per cent reduction in nitrogen leaching compared to an equivalent stocked bovine operation."




Farming Diary


03.03.2020 - 03.05.2020


06.17.2020 - 06.19.2020

ENCA - Latest

Feed not found.