Sheep milk: Science supporting industry growth

New Zealand grass-fed systems are unique. How does that change how we produce and process milk from dairy sheep? How does that influence the nutrition and health properties of our milk? New knowledge has been developed specifically for the New Zealand dairy sheep industry.
Sheep milk - producing


Rearing our lambs, feeding our ewes and protecting the environment are key to future sustainability. Our lamb rearing manual takes you through best practice approaches to maximize success. Techniques to manage effluent will underpin environmental sustainability. 

Sheep milk - processing


The unique properties of our sheep milk need special handling when getting it ready for consumers. Developing techniques to create long-life products with great taste has been a major step forward in securing high value export products.  

Sheep milk - consuming


Our nutrient-rich sheep milk imparts special benefits to consumers. High in protein, calcium and omega fatty acids, our pasture-fed New Zealand sheep milk is highly digestible and promotes strong bones. 


Nutrition and farm systems

Can we improve milk production, lamb growth and health in dairy sheep farming via improved nutrition? 

Lamb rearing systems have been developed to support the range of needs of different sheep milk producers using different farm systems and flock sizes.  

High-quality pasture-based systems can support high productivity and profitability for dairy sheep. 

Our pasture-based feeding results in unique sheep milk with highly desirable flavour characteristics for drinking milk and high-yielding cheese making. 



What is the environmental impact of sheep dairying?

Leaching measurements under dairy sheep grazing help to quantify nitrogen loss to water.

Tracking the path of nutrients through the farm using models helps to identify the key sources of emissions to water and air.

Effluent from dairy sheep contains nutrients that need to be carefully managed, and best practice guidelines for effluent management have been developed.


Milk composition

How does seasonality, ewe lactation status, farm of origin, and breed affect the composition of New Zealand sheep milk? So then how do those properties affect the nutritional value and processing, storage and product qualities?

New Zealand sheep milk contains higher levels of health-beneficial lipids and fatty acids than European sheep milk or cow milk.

New Zealand sheep milk microbiological testing shows that New Zealand sheep milk is safe.

Spray drying had a negative impact on flavour.

A new milk treatment technique was successful in delivering a long-life product of great drinking quality.


Milk functionality

What are the properties of sheep milk that deliver health-promoting functional foods?

Sheep milk proteins are more easily digested than cow milk proteins.

Sheep milk activates intestinal genes involved in gut health, growth and in keeping pathogens out of our system.

Sheep milk had more beneficial effects on bone structure than cow milk.

Sheepmilk team