Gold seen in New Zealand sheep milk

Last updated 12:32 25/09/2013

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Sheep milking will be big business for New Zealanders in the near future, says a manager at Blue River Dairy, which plans to lead the way after investing millions of dollars in new machinery.

Blue River is a Southland sheep-milking business that produces foodstuffs such as cheese, ice cream and milk powder.

About 80 per cent of its sheep-milk powder is exported.

Plant production manager Robert Boekhout said the company had made a significant investment in a milk powder canning plant at its Invercargill premises.

The machine, which was commissioned last month, gave the business greater flexibility for production and allowed it to add baby formula to its product portfolio.

"The investment gives us the capability to manufacture high-value products to be exported to Asia, including a range of baby formulas," he said.

The company would also look at producing the baby formula for the domestic market, he said.

The new canning machine was processing about 25 cans a minute and was capable of producing up to 50 cans a minute, he said.

In the past six months the growing business had employed four new staff. More would be employed when baby formula production began.

"These are exciting times for the business and we are building on 10 years of hard work."

While his background was in cow dairy farming, after 10 months at Blue River he was convinced sheep milk was the future of dairy. "People will be milking sheep in New Zealand soon, it will be the next big dairy boom in this country," he said.

Last week Blue River won the Ministry for Primary Industries' healthier choice category for Blue River Sheep Milk Powder at the New Zealand Food Awards.

Blue River marketing co-ordinator Hannah Shand said judges described the product as "very New Zealand" and were impressed by it as an option for those allergic to cows' milk, she said.

"This is a fabulous achievement for any producer. It showcased that New Zealand produces world-class products of a extremely high technical standard," she said. Finalists were judged on technical excellence, innovation, consumer appeal, flavour and packaging.

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- The Southland Times

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