Two hundred people are attending the second Sheep Milk NZ industry conference, being held in Palmerston North this week (14th-15th March). The first conference last year attracted 160 people, with the rise reflecting the increased interest in the industry.
AgResearch scientists presented the initial results from two years of research from the $6 million MBIE-funded programme “Boosting exports of the emerging dairy sheep industry”, ranging from composition of New Zealand sheep milk through to best practice effluent management.
“New Zealand’s dairy sheep systems are unique to us, and we have the natural advantages of our year-round pasture-based farming. We need to establish the particular qualities and advantages our systems produce,” says research leader and AgResearch research scientist Dr Linda Samuelsson.
“If we are to make claims about the benefits of New Zealand sheep milk, we need the data to back it up.”
Differences established so far include research by Marita Broadhurst analysing 500 milk samples collected at different times of year over the last three years. It shows that on average, New Zealand sheep milks have higher levels of protein and twice the fat of cow’s milk, with high levels of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
Dr Wayne Young and Dr Linda Samuelsson’s work show sheep and cow milk cause different effects on gastrointestinal physiology in rats. “We also observed that rats fed sheep milk required less solid food than rates given raw cow milk to maintain the same level of growth. This supports the view that sheep milk is an excellent source of nutrition,” says Dr Young.