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New sheep   The special health benefits of sheep milk

New Zealand officially approved sheep milking breed

New Zealand SheepA new breed of sheep specially bred for milk production has been officially recognised by the New Zealand Sheep Breeders Association.

The dairymeade is the culmination of 20 years selective breeding by Miles and Janet King of Kingsmeade Artisan Cheese Company in Masterton.

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READ MORE New Zealand invests in sheep milk industry

The special health benefits of sheep milk and its value in producing highly regarded cheeses, yoghurts and other specialty products has led to a surge in milking sheep flocks in New Zealand. However New Zealand has not had a sheep breed selected for milk production which could be used to build the genetic merit of the dairy sheep industry.

New Zealand has produced a number of valuable sheep breeds such as the coopworth over the last hundred years, but none of them were specialist milking sheep breeds.

Based principally on the European east friesian breed, it also had an infusion of coopworth and border leicester stock in the mid-1990s to enhance its suitability for New Zealand conditions.

Following establishment of the foundation flock in 1996, selective breeding for both milk yield and number of lambs (up to 4 per lambing for some ewes) has been undertaken continuously, with full pedigrees being maintained on all breeding stock throughout the 20 years

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