New Zealand pioneered the export of frozen sheep meat in 1882 and continues to be a world leader in many aspects of sheep breeding, meat and wool production and product development for both domestic and international markets. However we have never had a significant sheep milk industry and the question is why – or more importantly, why not?
Sheep milk has superior health properties, caters for the growing market premium around lactose intolerance, is arguably easier on the environment than other forms of dairy, and has a faster return on investment than cow milk.
Currently the world produces 10,122,522 Tonnes of fresh sheep milk, and parts of Europe and the Middle East have been milking for thousands of years. Some of the world’s most famous food ‘brands’ are products made from sheep milk including Rocquefort (France), Manchego (Spain) , Pecorino (Italy) and Feta (Greece).
This business plan for the NZ sheep dairy industry is one person’s observations and ideas after traveling for three months with a nuffield scholarship meeting and working with sheep milk farmers, small ruminant experts and retailers in Israel, France, United Kingdom, United States of America, Italy and New Zealand.
If NZ is to set up a strong sheep milk industry that has scale, high premiums and optimum volume we must think with the end in mind. Where do we want to position our products? And how are we going to get there? As a new industry we’re going to face many hurdles. We need to be able to adapt quickly, and learn from others around the world.
This report is a culmination of observations and ideas gleaned from countries with vastly different geographical environments, market opportunities, political and environmental constraints to NZ.
The target market for this report is business people who want to invest in NZ agriculture, farmers looking at alternative land use, and food and wellness product producers looking at utilising the superior health benefits of NZ sheep milk to meet growing market demand locally and Internationally.