The interest in the self-shedding Wiltshire sheep has prompted Massey University to run a special field day at their Riverside farm near Masterton on 1 June.
The conference exceeded the expectations of its organiser, associate professor Craig Prichard from the university’s school of management.
Prichard told Rural News they set out to attract a few key industry players: 40-60 people would have been great, he said. “In the end, we got 157 people, effectively the whole industry in the same room, which was fantastic. We had sheep milk producers, regulators, consultants, new farmers – a great range of people.”
He says the spirit of the group imparted a sense of what’s possible for this new industry.
The new society is a “coalition of the willing”. It will raise money for in-market research on sheep milk products, he says. The society needs some sort of marketing role given the nature of the industry, which currently has one big company – Blue River Dairy – and smaller ones.
There is speculation Landcorp will form a joint venture with a marketing and brand company and could then play a large role in the industry.
Prichard says there is so far no decision on what structure a sheep milk industry might adopt. The present aim is to get the society running well, hold more conferences, do some research and go from there.