As the milking season in New Zealand starts to wind down, we caught up with Brad White and his family in Otorohanga to find out how they’re doing after a couple years in the sheep dairy industry.
As one of the first four farms to sign up with Maui Milk as sheep milk suppliers back in 2020, brothers Brad and Kieren White continue to grow their business off the back of hard work and family values.
The farm conversion
The White family bought a dairy cow farm which they converted to a sheep milking operation, called Green Park Sheep, back in 2020. The property is 81ha and they aimed to milk roughly 1200 ewes this past season. Brad said that in the first year on the property they naturally reared their lambs, until this season when they had a purpose-built lamb rearing shed and were able to hand feed the lambs as needed. Both Brad and his brother Kieran jointly manage the farm, and both live on the property with their families.
“Being new to sheep dairy farming we’re really grateful to have family nearby to help out and we receive a lot of support and guidance from our parents Paul and Dianne and brother Andrew over the busy periods,” says Brad. Paul, Dianne and Andrew are just 10 minutes away on the family’s original dairy farm. Paul splits his time between the dairy farm, the runoff, and Green Park Sheep. "Dad’s pretty busy." Brad says.
In 2019 the Whites were looking into new business ideas and with a farming background, and a strong interest in dairy, sheep milking seemed like a natural fit for them. Back then, sheep milk was a relatively new concept in New Zealand. Sheep milking as an industry in NZ is innovative and has an environmentally friendly footprint which are all attributes the Whites sought.
Brad says it became clear early on that sheep dairying had a lot of potential as a business venture and as a dairy farming family they could apply a lot of their existing farming practices to this new endeavor, which would make the transition slightly easier.
Partnering with Maui Milk
We choose to work with Maui Milk because we were impressed with the breeding program, the Maui Milk team, and the ongoing, hands-on support they provide. The higher payout was attractive at the time and the 3-year rolling contract also gave us security over our income.
Brad says two of the main highlights for him in farming is working with the animals and looking into ways to enhance the business.
Being a new industry there's a lot of scope to improve in all areas, for example the quality of the animals we are breeding and perfecting the type of nutrition the ewes receive throughout the year. As a Maui Milk supply farm, Brad and Kieren have the opportunity to meet up with the company’s other milk suppliers a few times a year and share ideas to learn from each other.
Raising an infant on Sheep Milk Formula
Brad’s son, Leo, who’s just gone one has been enjoying sheep milk his whole life. Brad and his wife say they did their research on the benefits of sheep milk, and with the product being naturally A2, high in protein and calcium, it was an easy decision to give Leo the best start in life.
From birth Leo was mix fed with both breast milk and infant formula and so Brad said it was important for the couple to choose the highest quality product on the market to ensure his nutrition needs were met.
When asked if Leo liked his sheep milk drink, Brad had this to say. “Leo loves his milk for sure! He is currently 14 months old, so his milk intake has reduced to one bottle per day. Come bottle time though he never leaves a drop. We love the product as we are confident that he is getting all the nutritional requirements he needs and more for every stage of his life to date”.
Priorities for the off-season
Brad says they are currently looking at ways to improve the quality of their milking flock which will increase production and enhance the profitability of the business. One of the ways we are achieving this is with help from Maui Milk’s genetics programme that utilizes Southern Cross™ dairy sheep technology to develop ewes that are suited to New Zealand’s conditions. The breeding programme continues to prove a success with advances each season.
Fencing is also a priority for the brothers in 2022 as this will allow them to better manage and care for both the ewes and lambs.
Bringing nutrition to the world through sustainable farming practices
At Maui Milk we’re proud to be able to share stories of the hard-working farmers and their animals that help us produce premium sheep milk powder and products. Keep an eye out for our next farm family feature on the blog.