EuroSheep – Lessons from New Zealand sheep farming webinar

EuroSheep – Lessons from New Zealand sheep farming webinar

EuroSheep hosted a webinar titled ‘lessons from New Zealand sheep farming’ on Thursday 20th April from 1-3pm. One hundred and ninety four attendees from 15 different countries joined the webinar. Attendees joined from Ireland, UK, France, Italy, Hungary, Greece, Spain, Turkey, Portugal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, USA, Uruguay and Argentina. The webinar included a host of pre-recorded video interviews with New Zealand sheep producers, including merino wool, meat and dairy sheep farmers. The farmers interviewed had flock sizes ranging from 800 to 29,000 sheep. Of the farmers interviewed some highlights included; farmers forward selling wool for 10 years; managing flocks up to 30,000 sheep; managing sheep meat flocks with 2,000 ewes per labour unit; new entrants into dairy sheep production, producing milk from outdoor flocks; mixed dairy sheep, goat and cow systems; mixed sheep, beef and deer farms; developing new dairy sheep breeds, etc. All aspects of nutrition, health and management of their flocks were discussed in detail by the farmers.

The webinar kicked off with a quick welcome and agenda overview by Bríd McClearn (Teagasc, Ireland) who recorded and interviewed the farmers. Pierre-Guillaume Grisot (EuroSheep project coordinator, Idele, France) presented an overview of the EuroSheep project and its objectives. The first interview was with Mr. Jim Inglis, Head of Ventures in Pamu, New Zealand. Pamu is a state-owned enterprise with a nationwide portfolio of over 100 farms that produce milk, beef, lamb, wool, venison, wood etc. Jim gave an overview of sheep farming in New Zealand, the role of Pamu and explained how the agricultural industry has changed in New Zealand in the last 25 years.

The first session of farm interviews began with Jack Cocks from Mount Nicholas station on Lake Wakatipu, Otago. Jack farms 29,000 Merino sheep and 2,100 Hereford cattle with his wife Kate on their 36,000-hectare high country farm. Paul Schuler was the next interviewee, and he farms separate cow, goat and dairy sheep enterprises with his brother Kevin on their family farm in Te Aroha West, Waikato. They are currently milking 835 sheep, 750 goats and 380 cows on their 236-hectare farm. The final interview in the first session was with Nathan Howden who is a meat sheep farmer in Waikoikoi, Gore, Otago. He has a flock of 3,950 ewes (commercial and pedigree) who lamb outdoors and graze all year round.

The second session began with an interview with Aaron Gilmore, the farm manager at Spring Sheep Milk’s Monavale pilot farm in Cambridge. Spring Sheep Milk have 14 supplier farms and all the milk is processed into powdered infant products ( ). This farm also collects breeding data for their Zealandia genetics program ( ). The second interview in this session was with Alan Hislop, the farm manager at Eyre Creek station in the South Island. The farm is owned by Pamu and Alan manages the 1,600-hectare farm with only one other full-time staff member. The farm has 2,500 Romdale ewes, 1,400 deer hinds and 300 Angus cows. The final interview was with Anthony Sheppard, the farm manager of Maui Milk’s Waikino station on Lake Taupo in New Zealand. Maui Milk began in 2014 and now have a network of 13 milk suppliers in the North Island. They have been exporting sheep milk powder to China since 2015 ( ).

The webinar finished with a questions and answer session. The main conclusions of the webinar were as follows:

Meat sector

  • Sheep productivity has increased dramatically in the last 30 years, national flock declined but lamb carcass output only slightly decreased
  • Huge scale compared to average European farm (farm and flock size)
  • High labour efficiency on farms (e.g. 2000 ewes per labour unit, all lambed outdoors)
  • Very market focussed, 99% of sheep meat available for export

Dairy sector

  • Recent investment in dairy sheep farms
  • Optimistic outlook for powdered sheep milk into Asian market
  • Outdoor grazing system
  • Developing ‘new’ breeds to suit New Zealand

The full webinar is available on the EuroSheep YouTube channel 

All individual interviews can also be viewed separately

  1. New Zealand Sheep Industry Interview with Jim Inglis, Pamu
  2. Mount Nicholas station interview – farming 29,000 Merino sheep
  3. Interview with Paul Schuler, a NZ farmer with dairy sheep, dairy goats and dairy cows
  4. Interview with Nathan Howden, lambing 3,950 commercial and pedigree ewes outdoors in New Zealand
  5. Interview with New Zealand Spring Sheep Milk Monavale farm
  6. Interview with Alan Hislop, manager of Eyre Creek PAMU farm in New Zealand

Maui Milk Waikino Station – Interview with manager Anthony Sheppard