Bringing sheep into the NAIT (National Animal Identification and Tracing) system may be a way of getting more value out of the animals, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor claims.
“We need bigger batches to give us processing efficiency and more product to make a splash in the market,” he says. “We’re prepared to send a tanker up to two hours from Hamilton so there’s plenty of scope for growth.”
The company processes its milk at Innovation Waikato and the resulting sheep milk powder is packed in sachets and sold in China.
Maui Milk general manager Peter Gatley says more sheep milk will help the company broaden its product range and embark on producing value-added products.
Its 25g sachets of sheep milk powder are marketed in specially designed boxes for export.
The company exports sheep milk powder to the Chinese market where it sells as a premium product liked by customers for its subtle flavours and creamy texture.
Sheep milk is better for human health than cow or goat milk, the company says. It is said to be easily digested and to contain more medium/short-chain saturated fatty acids which could help increase lactose absorption.
It is said to have higher levels of vitamins A, D, E and C than either cow or goat milk and 50% more vitamin B12 than cow milk.
Gatley told Rural News that Maui Milk measures total solids including lactose; it aspires to match the dairy goat payout at about $17/kg. Sheep milk is about 18% solids so that works out at $3/L, so the prospect of a ewe earning over $1000 is possible, but two things need to happen.
“We need to demonstrate a big lift in yield, and our marketers need to perform well to tap into the top end of the market. The dairy goat guys have done it, but they have 30 years head start.”
Gatley says a milking demonstration earlier this year impressed everyone as ewes competed to get on the 64-bail internal rotary imported from France.
“At a rate of 1000 per hour with two milkers cupping, and automatic cup removers, it was an impressive performance.”