Waikato Milking Systems enters the small ruminants industry

Article Details

19 Oct, 2020

Waikato, New Zealand

“New Zealand exports of sheep milk products are valued at about 20 million"

A leading developer and manufacturer of dairy technology is moving to help New Zealand farmers switch over to the emerging dairy sheep and dairy goat industries.

Waikato Milking Systems recently commissioned three small ruminant milking parlours in the central North Island to farmers who are among the first independent commercial suppliers of goat and sheep milk in the country. It included a 40-bail inline rapid exit sheep milking plant for Green Park Sheep near Te Awamutu, a 40-bail inline rapid exit for Schuler Brothers at Te Aroha and an internal 70-bail sheep rotary plant installed for Browne Pastoral near Cambridge.

The three farms are among the first four independent commercial suppliers to Maui Sheep Milk. Maui plans a series of “Sheep Dairy Information Sessions” at Karapiro near Cambridge in the Waikato on October 22-23 with the opportunity to visit Browne Pastoral where people will be able to see the new internal sheep rotary.

Waikato Milking Systems also put the finishing touches on two new external goat rotary plants this winter, one for Oete Farm near Pukekohe and another for NZ Dairy Goat at Waharoa. The company also installed nine goat rotary parlours in China in 2020, one farm includes two, 90-bail rotary systems side-by-side under the same roof, milking 4500 goats. There was also a 60-bail rotary installed for a leading goat milk producer in Wisconsin, USA.

Waikato Milking Systems Small Ruminants Specialist Andy Geissmann, who led the installation projects, said demand for dairy and sheep milk products is on the rise, drawing interest from dairy cow farmers looking to make the switch. “We know that the dairy landscape in New Zealand is changing, as it is in other parts of the world. It’s being driven by consumers who are looking for dairy products that are made from farming systems which have a lower environmental impact. And people are developing a real taste for new products produced from sheep and goat milk.”

That was backed by the Sheep and Goat Milk Industry Development Business Case, a report by the New Zealand Food Innovation South Island with funding from the Provincial Growth Fund. It said New Zealand has an emerging sheep milk industry concentrated in the central North Island, near Food Waikato’s open access processing facility in Hamilton.

“New Zealand exports of sheep milk products are valued at about $20 million,” the report said.

“Under the current model, expanding the industry through the production of high value products such as infant formula, has potential to increase the sector’s economic contribution to $250 million in 2024.” 

New Zealand also has a small, well established goat milk industry that is concentrated in the central North Island close to industrial scale processing facilities in Auckland and Hamilton. In 2019, New Zealand exports of goat milk products were estimated to be valued at $250 million with potential to increase to $480 million in 2024.

Over the past 18 months, Waikato Milking Systems has redesigned its small ruminants offering to incorporate the lessons from a pilot 100-bail goat rotary project in Canada, in 2018.

Andy Geissmann said there was strong inquiry in goat and sheep milking systems at the 2019 Fieldays which provided further incentive for the company to invest in the emerging market as a major product pillar. “We used the knowledge gained from the Canada project and pooled our in-depth knowledge of product management and engineering design, as well as feedback from farmers already working in the sheep and goat dairy industry.” This resulted in designing a separate system for sheep and another for goats, recognising the behaviour and physiology of sheep and goats were different.

New Small Ruminants Systems
This year marked a major milestone for Waikato Milking Systems, with six New Zealand projects in the small ruminants industry, plus nine in China and one in the USA.

Optima External Goat Rotary: Features a unique automatic cluster presentation arm for  accurate cup alignment, for faster milking. It’s capable of milking up to 1300 goats per hour at a five-minute rotation speed with minimum labour. The Optima was the system of choice for Oete Farm near Pukekohe and for NZ Dairy Goats in Te Aroha. 

Ultimo Internal Sheep Rotary: Designed for comfort with rubber matting on the deck. The operator stands in the centre which means they have visibility of the animals all of the time. The Ultimo was the system of choice for Browne Pastoral near Cambridge.

Agili Goat Rapid Exit: This system can be easily installed as a new parlour or fitted into a converted inline cow shed. The self-indexing gate system loads the animals quickly into their bails to maximise time.