New Zealand’s bovine industry can be credited for the gains it’s made in milk yield and farmer returns from its pioneering work in farming systems. While the gains have taken decades of research and development, the sheep and goat industry can benefit from what was learned during this period of optimisation. To support this, a number of Government funded initiatives are underway to help determine which farming systems will be best for sheep and goat milking in New Zealand conditions.
Initiatives such as The Sheep – Horizon Three Programme through the Primary Growth Partnership Programme (PGP), is enabling Spring Sheep Dairy to explore the impacts of different farming systems, genetics and farm management practices on milk production. The programme will also cover commercialisation opportunities for sheep milk by gathering market insights and evaluating the potential for high value products. The programme will run from 2016-2022. Over the next few years, Spring Sheep Dairy’s goal is to develop the right farming system and breed of sheep for New Zealand’s unique environment.
Like Spring Sheep Dairy, genetics is also a focus for Maui Milk. With assistance from the Ministry for Primary Industries, Maui Milk’s General Manager, Peter Gatley and Geneticist, Jake Chandon, developed an import protocol to allow the best sheep genetics to be imported into New Zealand. Combining the genetics of three breeds, East Friesian, Awassi and Lacunae, the team at Maui Milk have created what is thought to be a world first “Southern Cross” breed. Drawing upon their extensive experiences in breeding dairy cattle and deer, Peter and Jake are using their science-based approach to determine which breed will optimise milk yields.
Dairy Goat Cooperative is also reviewing its farming systems as part of the Government funded Primary Growth Partnership Programme (PGP), The Caprine Innovations New Zealand Programme (CAPRINZ). Running from 2018-2023, the research will focus on how it can enhance the natural features of goat milk for infant formula.