Sheep milking could be the go for NZ farmers
Milking sheep might be the go for struggling New Zealand farmers says a Chinese dairy specialist who has invested in sheep dairying in New Zealand.
About 180 people attended a sheep milking conference on Monday, as a part of New Zealand's inaugural Agri Investment Week. The week has several food and agricultural forums and the Central Districts Field Days.
As part of the sheep milk conference, Yuanrong Chen said he owned the sheep milk processor, Blue River in Southland, and had been in the dairy industry for 40 years.
Sheep milking has grown in New Zealand by 3000 ewes in the past year to 25,000.
Chen was upbeat about the industry.
"Sheep milk formula for children is a growing market in China and is growing so fast, we can't keep up with demand."
He said sheep milking was an option farmers should consider.
"A stock farming restructure is necessary. In New Zealand there are more sheep than anywhere in the world. New Zealand is well placed to advance sheep milking."
Chen said sheep were lighter on the environment than cows, and growth in the cow-milk industry would need to take that into account if it was to grow in the future.
"I am confident New Zealand sheep dairy will become big and famous and challenge the cow-milk industry."
He said New Zealand had strict food safety regulations, with every batch of formula checked, something consumers liked.
"At the moment, in China, goat milk is filling a larger proportion of the market than sheep milk. But it's a big pie, and we hope for 10 per cent of that formula market. Yes goat has got more of the market than sheep, but sheep milk can do it."
He said while New Zealand had the raw material of sheep, most were for meat and wool.
"New Zealand is keen to do the sheep dairy milk industry. You have the know-how when it comes to production. I am confident in 10 years' time, you'll be expanding and there'll be more exports."
He said a 800 grams of sheep milk formula cost about NZ$100 in China.
"New Zealanders wouldn't pay that. But in China, there are six adults raising one child. For example, my son and daughter-in-law have a child, we help, and so do her parents. So although the earning power per person is less than New Zealand. There are more people who raise each child."