Government supports innovative dairy sheep sector to scale up

The Government is boosting its partnership with New Zealand’s dairy sheep sector to help it lift its value and volume, and become an established primary industry, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has announced.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF) fund will contribute $7.97 million to a $19.94 million developmental programme led by Spring Sheep Co.

The investment is a measure of Government backing for ‘Scale Up’, a new five-year partnership programme with Spring Sheep Milk Co. designed to take the dairy sheep industry from the piloting phase through to an established primary industry.

Several R&D projects are planned for Waikato, Canterbury, Taranaki, and Wairarapa to improve industry understanding of sheep milk and refine best practice standards across the sector.

A Dairy Sheep Industry Training Module will be set up to upskill the required workforce to support this growth. This work will be supported by investment into genetic development, new market development, and new products designed to meet the next big market opportunity in sheep milk.

Mr O’Connor pointed out that – globally – the premium alternative dairy category is growing by about 20 per cent a year.

With New Zealand food and fibre exports forecast to hit a record $52 billion this year, Mr O’Connor said, and

“… now is the time to expand the industry and tap into even greater value so we can continue growing our exports.”

Mr O’Connor did not mention Spring Sheep Milk Co’s ownership:  it is a partnership between Landcorp, a state-owned enterprise, and the SLC Group, which supports the Food & Beverage and Agribusiness sectors through investments and strategic support.

He did enthuse that New Zealand produce is is in demand globally because  of its reputation for sustainably produced food and fibre.

“This potential industry could be worth more than $750 million in annual export receipts by 2035, which means good things for our farmers and our economic security.

“The investment in ‘Scale Up’ follows a successful six-year pilot programme and complements the recently announced Government funding of $700,000 for the Māori Agribusiness Sheep Milk Collective to support Māori landowners explore the potential of the sheep milk industry in the central North Island.”

Spring Sheep Co. played a key role in growing the dairy sheep industry substantially over the last six years through the Sheep – Horizon Three programme. It now has 12 supply farms in the Waikato, bringing new careers, and boosting the local economy and communities.

The next stage will involve expanding into the Taranaki region alongside Spring Sheep’s regional partners, Parininihi ki Waitotara (PKW).

The ultimate aim is to have more than 10,000 dairy sheep in the Taranaki region by the end of the programme, producing 750,000 kilograms of milk solids annually.

“Global growth is fuelled by macro health and wellness consumer trends,” Mr O’Connor said.

“This includes Spring Sheep’s current offerings of an early life nutrition range, including toddler milk drink, and speciality milk powders made with sheep milk.”

The ‘Scale Up’ programme is closely aligned to the Fit for a Better World roadmap for the food and fibre sector, which aims to boost sustainability, productivity, and jobs over 10 years.

Read more about the SFF Futures fund here.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture


Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog