Spring Sheep Milk Co. looks to scale up with NZ government backing

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

NZ eyes global demand for sheep milk / Pic: GettyImages-Peter Cade
NZ eyes global demand for sheep milk / Pic: GettyImages-Peter Cade

Related tags sheep milk

The Spring Sheep Milk Co. will receive funding from the New Zealand government to scale up the dairy sheep sector.

The group, which is spearheading growth in the country’s nascent dairy sheep industry, will lead a new NZ$19.94m programme announced by the government that aims to support sheep milk as it transitions from its current pilot phase. The aim is to establish a primary industry worth more than NZ$750m in annual export receipts by 2035.

This follows a successful six-year programme called 'Primary Growth Partnership, Sheep Horizon Three'.

Spring Sheep Milk Co. said it has played a ‘key role in substantially developing the dairy sheep industry’, with a focus on the ‘foundational aspects’ of the industry. It started with a single farm in 2015 and has achieved ‘consistent growth’ year on year through developing an integrated sheep milk value chain. The company, now the largest sheep milking operator in the Southern Hemisphere, currently counts 16 supplier farmers.

“With strong customer demand for sheep milk globally, additional growth in the number of farmers will be required,”​ the company suggested.

The Scale Up programme is part of the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures progamme, whcih supports innovative projects that will create more value from the food and fibre industries, delivered through the Ministry for Primary Industries.

It will foster expansion of the dairy sheep in new regions of New Zealand starting with Taranaki. This region is well suited to dairy sheep farming and shares close proximity to existing industry manufacturing capability. Spring Sheep Milk Co. will work closely with regional partners, Parininihi ki Waitōtara (PKW), who have the necessary land and capacity to support growth.

Spring Sheep Milk Co. CEO, Nick Hammond, described the program as an important update for industry. “We are thrilled to be entering this next phase of growth in conjunction with MPI [The Ministry for Primary Industries] and are particularly excited to be launching sheep milking into the Taranaki region. The Scale Up programme is absolutely critical to setting the industry up for success over coming years, working right across the value chain from global market development to farming insights across New Zealand. It is fantastic to work with experts, from farmers to scientists and manufacturers and who are embracing this emerging industry and joining us on the journey as we deliver quality New Zealand sheep milk to the world.”

The Scale Up programme includes a workstream for farmer led research and development projects across the country’s established producers which will deliver improved industry knowledge and foster the development of best-practice standards. A dairy sheep training module will also be established to upskill the required workforce to support growth across the regions.

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