As we reflect on what has been a tough year for many of us with the pandemic continuing, we’re very grateful for our supportive and dedicated team here at Maui Milk and Southern Cross Dairy Sheep in New Zealand.
Through perseverance and determination, we’ve been able to achieve a lot and set the business up for its anticipated growth.
He aha ngā mea nui o te ao? He tāngata, he whenua, he kararehe! What are the most important things in our world?—The people, the land and the animals.
At Maui Milk we truly believe that if we fail to care for either of these things, the others will suffer.
Growth at Waikino Station—Home of the Southern Cross™
In the last 6 months we’ve seen a whole new team join us at Waikino Station, living and working on-farm for the Southern Cross Dairy Sheep part of the business. The Southern Cross team handle the operation of our showcase sheep dairy farm, managing the genetics programme, and providing our 13 milk supply farms with Southern Cross™ rams. A major change is the appointment of two specialist managers to run the two main components of the Waikino operation, dairy and drystock.
Dairy Farm Manager Scotty McLocklan, his wife Ashley, and their two young children arrived at Waikino Station in June this year bringing with them a wealth of dairy farming experience which has been reflected in the remarkable improvements the duo has already made in all aspects of the farm to date. They have recruited an excellent team, significantly improved on-farm production, improved the presentation of the farm, and are implementing a plan for the upcoming seasons.
Josh Oden is the manager responsible for drystock where the focus is growing replacements to genetic potential and farming the rams that will drive genetic improvement through the whole Maui Milk supply base. Josh has planned a comprehensive cropping rotation to ensure that liveweight targets are met for hogget mating, and that nutrition during winter will prepare our ewes to perform during lactation in this unique environment.
An inspiring space for a growing team
After a couple of years working remotely or in shared office spaces which were suited to the smaller team at the time, it was time to create a space that could accommodate a larger team. The new office is now the hub for meetings and a myriad of different kinds of work gatherings. With help from the team at King Street in Hamilton, we secured an office space at Waikato Innovation Park—a location known for innovation, agri and tech, it was the perfect fit for the Maui Milk team as pioneers in the growing New Zealand made sheep milk category.
A team to get the job done
To position ourselves for growth, we’ve expanded the Maui Milk team significantly in 2021, with Gill (Supplier Support Rep) and myself, Debby (Marketing and Admin Coordinator) joining Maui Milk in June, Kyle (Supply Chain Manager) following in September, and finally Steve joining us during lockdown!
Steve Farrelly, a New Zealander living in Australia had hoped to be back in New Zealand to start his new role as Maui Milk’s Sales and Marketing Manager in September. With Managed Isolation spots in New Zealand difficult to secure at the time, Steve is working from his home in Melbourne until January 2022, when he is set to return.
Learn more about the team here.
Securing milk supply
Determined to grow our supply to meet demand, we’ve had eight new sheep dairy farms come on board to join the Maui Milk family. Seven of these new independently owned farms are located within 45 minutes of our processing site in Hamilton, with the eighth farm a short drive up the road from Waikino Station.
A ninth farm in the Waikato has just been secured to supply Maui Milk from next season. Their milk volume will support huge organic growth from our existing suppliers.
"Independent suppliers produce milk using our genetics, while our team focuses greater resource on the opposite end of the value chain – opening up new markets and securing new customers." Leah Davey, CEO Maui Milk and Southern Cross Dairy Sheep.
Genetics proving a success
After collecting millions of litres of sheep milk this year from Southern Cross™ sheep and having it analysed, we’ve realised the success of our breeding programme.
Not only do Southern Cross™ sheep thrive in New Zealand conditions, they efficiently produce high quality, flavourful milk with excellent health benefits for the consumer.
Our goal of producing world-class yields in the pastoral system preferred by both our farmers and our customers is clearly attainable, and Maui Milk suppliers can look forward to big steps forward in genetic gain every year for some time to come.
Learn more about the genetics programme originating from the work Peter Gatley and Jake Chardon set in play back in 2015.
Rapid growth leads to a shareholding change
Towards the end of 2021, Maui Milks rapid growth led to a shareholding change, structural change and resource injection to equip the business for expansion. Maui Milk Ltd had been jointly owned by Super Organic Dairy and Māori farming trust, Waituhi Kuratau (WKT).
Moving into a growth phase, beyond the scope of Waituhi Kuratau's ability to fund, led Super Organic Dairy to purchase WKT's shares and combine all elements of the business under one entity: Maui Food Group Limited—to provide both the resources and the structure the business needed to grow and diversify its product offering.
A new board for Maui Food Group
With a shareholder change, we have a new board who’ve brought a wealth of expertise to the table.
The new Maui Food Group Limited board comprises of Natalie Dang (Managing Director of Maui Food Group), Leah Davey (CEO Maui Milk and Southern Cross), Leon Fung (Previously NZ Dairy Board, Tetra Pak, Yashili and most recently Danone Oceania where he was Operations Director for New Zealand) and Patrick English, appointed as the chair with extensive experience in the China market, where he resided for many years in roles including NZ Trade Commissioner and Consul General in Southern China.
Patrick has also been the NZTE representative for the NZ China FTA negotiations, and on returning to New Zealand was the first executive director of the NZ China Council, followed by other advisory and board roles between government and the private sector.
From left: Leon, Patrick, Natalie, Leah
Based in Auckland, the Board were excited to go to Hamilton and Waikino Station to meet the team and get a feel for the day-to-day operations of Maui Milk and Southern Cross.
Being in lockdown for over 3 months, as soon they were able to, they headed down the line to learn some new skills from Scotty, Ash and the Waikino team. They even helped with milking at 6am on day 1!
Next stop was Maui Milk’s new Hamilton office in Waikato Innovation Park to spend time with the team and share the vision for Maui Food Group, followed by a tour of FoodWaikato’s milk drying facility.
And finally before heading home to Auckland, the Board spent some time at one of the Maui Milk supply farms in the Waikato.
Connecting with our supply farmers
We try to hold regular supplier meetings where farmers can connect with other sheep dairy farm owners and their staff. With the pandemic challenging the way we move around, as soon as was possible we gathered everyone together on Kevin and Paul Schuler’s farm in Te Aroha West for a long overdue meet up, farm tour and BBQ lunch.
"It was great to have all our suppliers in one place together again after the recent lockdowns. It's so important for us all to share our learnings and our ideas which will help shape our industry going forward." Tom Woutersen, GM Milk supply at Maui Milk.
Looking ahead to 2022
2022 is going to be another big year. We’re expecting to see organic growth in milk production of about 30-40% so we'll be busier than ever. We'll be helping our farmers achieve their goals, processing more milk than ever before, attending trade shows overseas and selling our New Zealand made product all over the world.
“I have never been so excited about the year ahead, we are well positioned to head into the year with full confidence.” Leah Davey, CEO Maui Milk and Southern Cross Dairy Sheep.
By Debby de Gouviea-Rennie