New Southern Cross dairy sheep breed takes off


Maui Milk CEO Peter Gatley (left) and geneticist Jake Chardon. Photo / Supplied


  • The fastest growing sheep farming option in New Zealand
  • An officially recognized new breed of dairy sheep
  • More and more farmers are switching from dairy cow to sheep
  • Multi-year contracts of $ 3 per liter offered (i.e. a dairy income of $ 1,000 per ewe)

Sheep dairy farming is said to be the fastest growing cattle rearing option in New Zealand, and the availability of advanced genetics builds farmers’ confidence.

The three major dairy breeds in the world have been combined on a Coopworth basis to provide the industry with a dairy ewe that promises to do for sheep dairy what the Kiwicross has done for cow dairy in this country.

The new breed is now officially recognized by the NZ Sheepbreeders’ Association as the Southern Cross.

Geneticist Jake Chardon says the new hybrid capitalizes on hundreds of years of selection pressure in the East Frisian, Awassi and Lacaune breeds.

“In particular, the Lacaune de France breed is supported by an extensive and very sophisticated progeny testing program which closely matches our requirements for grazing capacity, high components and good udders. We see the advantages of the French program and we are also acquiring a hybrid vigor “.

An Awassi ram.  Photo / Supplied
An Awassi ram. Photo / Supplied

Chardon is well qualified to comment. Born on a dairy farm in the Netherlands, he studied in the United States before returning to spend most of his career at Holland Genetics (now CRV), reaching the position of Managing Director.

For the past 17 years he has lived on his small sheep farm near Cambridge, working part-time for LIC where he co-founded Deer Improvement, a leading provider of genetics to New Zealand venison producers.

He’s also a consultant to the Dairy Goat Cooperative, so the dairy sheep is the fourth species he’s focused on.

“Until recently, New Zealand sheep dairies depended on a small shipment of ancient genetics from East Frisia. Everything descended from a trailer of rams and sheep that were brought in to increase fertility and put in more milk. milk in our meat and wool breeds. They weren’t “I didn’t expect to create a sheep dairy industry. That all changed in the past three years when the door opened to importing sperm and embryos from the UK and Europe.

In addition to the 3,000 artificial inseminations performed by Southern Cross, more than 200 Southern Cross rams have been herded with ewes by several breeders seeking to create offspring to meet the demand for more milk.

That number is expected to more than double in 2020 as Maui Milk hires new suppliers.

A lamb from Lacaune.  Photo / Supplied
A lamb from Lacaune. Photo / Supplied

Maui Milk chief executive Peter Gatley said the company offers multi-year contracts with a payment stuck at $ 3 / liter.

“This reflects the forward commitments on our milk and there is no way to meet demand over the next few years. At that payout, a sheep can earn over $ 1,000 in dairy income, so it’s pretty appealing.

“New Zealand needs export diversification. We need higher value. Farmers need payment stability and being able to meet environmental regulations.”

Deals at Waikino station.  Photo / Supplied
Deals at Waikino station. Photo / Supplied

Gatley says typical demand comes from small dairy cattle farms in Waikato that lack scale for dairy cow production, or from larger properties in South Waikato or on the Central Plateau that operate stocks of dry cattle and seek better returns.

“Farmers are aware of the success of dairy goats. It is a great export option to countries where cow’s milk is not traditional, and where many people have problems digesting cow’s milk. Dairy products from goats and sheep are in high demand, but farmers we are talking about preferring to raise sheep on the grass rather than goats in a barn. And the high-end consumer wants to feed on grass. It’s also a better fit with the New Zealand brand. We are famous for sheep, for dairy products, and for free range breeding. Here it is, all together ”.


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