Sheep milk has 'huge potential for New Zealand', minister says

Primary Industries minister Nathan Guy tries some cheese made at the Blue River Dairy plant in Invercargill as the ...
John Hawkins

Primary Industries minister Nathan Guy tries some cheese made at the Blue River Dairy plant in Invercargill as the company's quality manager Robert Boekhout, left, and executive director Linda Gao look on.

Forecast dairy prices have bottomed out and are on the way up ... and sheep milk has huge potential for New Zealand, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.

Guy was visiting the Blue River Dairy plant in Invercargill,  which produces sheep milk products, when he stopped to chat about both sheep and cow milk on Thursday.

He welcomed news Fonterra had raised its forecast payout to dairy farmers to $4.60 per kilogram of milksolids; up 75 cents on the previous $3.85/kgMS. 

"It's been a period of volatility and quite a tough winter and early spring period, so this will put a spring in the step of dairy farmers," Guy said.

"This shows we have bottomed out and are on the way up." 

GlobalDairyTrade prices had increased 50 per cent in the last three auctions, he said.

"2016 looks a lot more positive." 

About five per cent less milk was expected to be produced by dairy farmers this season.

"As a result of New Zealand producing less milk it doesn't take much for the over supply seen in recent times  to correct itself," Guy said.

The average price between 2002 and 2006 was $4.14 per kg of milk solids, with price peaks invariably followed by troughs which meant tough times for dairy farmers, he said.

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When asked about the future of sheep milk, he said he saw it as having huge potential for New Zealand.

It had a small environmental footprint and the growing asian market was screaming out for premium products such as those produced by Blue River Dairy, Guy said. 

During his visit to the Blue River Dairy plant, he was told it was supplied by about 15,000 milking ewes in Southland but they wanted it to grow to 100,000 milking ewes within six years.

The company had shipped out its first consignment of infant formula to China which was now on that country's shop shelves, and a video advertising the fact was recently shown in Times Square, New York.

Guy, who enjoyed some cheese made from sheep milk while at the Blue River Dairy plant, said one the company's biggest challenges would be to get a big enough supply of raw milk into the plant, which was expanding this year.

"Part of the constraint on sheep milk is genetics and having enough breeding stock available to meet the demand."

He believed there was an opportunity for both sheep and goat milking to be expanded in New Zealand, saying it was very early days. 

The minister said he was excited significant investment was being made at the Invercargill plant, which currently employs 36 people, as it would result in more jobs and a boost to the Southland economy.



 - The Southland Times


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