Boyd, Kate

Viability of establishing a sheep dairy platform on North Canterbury dry land

Executive Summary

Is now the time for bovine dominance in the milk market to be challenged? There are variable and questionable milk alternatives more readily available both locally and abroad and our New Zealand sheep dairy history would suggest the current spike in popularity will be short-lived. I disagree. In my opinion New Zealand is the ideal location to develop this budding industry. We have the operational know-how, the geography and access to reliable water sources, a tourism market that opens our primary sector to the world, a developing pool of ovine milking genetics suitable to the New Zealand environment, capacity for diversification as we investigate change in land use opportunities and a hunger to pursue an alternative farming vision with learned failures of other ventures a source of inspiration.

“We believe that strong science, a supportive Government and industry solidarity are essential for the future success of sheep dairying in New Zealand” (Blue River Dairy)

Sheep Dairy is an industry that has experienced two substantial ‘false starts’, in both the 1970’s and 1990’s. One overarching factor was market fragility which proved too challenging and the detriment of the industry at the time. What can we learn from our chequered history? To determine a sound market before we establish supply, mitigate financial risk with comprehensive process of due diligence, a slow and steady approach to ensure long term viability and fundamental is collaboration within the sheep dairy community.

The aim of this project was to investigate viability of establishing a sheep dairy platform on North Canterbury dry land as a profitable land use alternative.

Key findings as a result of this research are that alignment of the sheep dairy community is critical to our success long term, honesty with information is vital and that although dry land sheep dairy in North Canterbury may be ambitious – nothing is impossible!

Acknowledgements: During the 1990’s, Jock Alison’s East Friesian sheep, together with the promise of ovine dairy, caught my parents’ attention and my fascination in milking sheep was ignited. Thank you Mum and Dad for your pioneering intuition and willingness to explore alternative land use systems.

Thank you to Quintin, the ‘Ideas Man’ for your continued belief, perseverance, vision and encouragement.

To Rural Women New Zealand and the Amuri Lions for your financial contribution to my involvement in the Kellogg Programme. Thank you for your generosity.

Particular thanks to Peter Gatley, Guy Trafford, Craig Prichard, Keith Neylon, Lucy Griffiths and Ian Macdonald and members of the ‘Sheep Dairy Community’ for your honesty, advice, vision and support as we continue our process to establish a sheep dairy operation in North Canterbury.

Yes, sheep dairy brings with it challenges but nothing is impossible and if anything, insight gained throughout this investigation has proven the opposite. We can do this!