New Zealand is world famous for our dairy products and producing sheep. Until recently, these were two quite distinct industries, but game-changer Spring Sheep has been combining them to make premium sheep milk products and the international market has been lapping them up.
Since 2015, Spring Sheep has been utilising the FoodWaikato facility to dry sheep milk into a powder form in small volumes.
The dryer is able to produce 500kg of whole milk sheep powder an hour, along with making skim milk powders and other formulated powders, including infant formula. This capability has supported Spring Sheep to develop a wide range of innovative products, from consumer packs of milk powder to chewable tablets and even infant formula products.
Spring Sheep’s production has grown from 20 tonnes in the first season to a projected 500 tonnes in the current season, an impressive growth rate that has been made possible through the agility and flexibility of processing at FoodWaikato.
Runs can range in size, from under 2 tonnes up to over 40 tonnes in a week. For Spring Sheep, this provided the ability to make low volume milk trials while the new business was working on proof of concept for sheep milk powder and also enabled the business to scale up with multiple farms.
The flexibility has also enabled the business to test out trial runs of products without committing to large volumes of expensive ingredients. Once the concept is proven, larger commercial product runs can be made.
Over time, the increasing volume from Spring Sheep and other clients was challenging the capacity of the FoodWaikato dryer. In order to allow the growth to continue, a partnership between selected clients enabled a second larger dryer to be commissioned in July 2020. Both dryers are now able to send product to major markets including EU, China and the USA.