National Fieldays 2015 was a fascinating first outing for Sheep Dairying.This year we were part of the Massey stand (PE50) and thus went with Massey’s ‘More Productive Sheep’ and FoodHQ backdrop. A photo of the site (with out the crowds that thronged through) is below. With that said I think Sheep Dairying was the star of this ‘show’ due to our engagement tactic of giving away about 35 kg of sheep milk yoghurt, 4 kgs of sheep milk toffee and 5kgs of sheep milk paneer cheese (with a curry sauce). All three foods were produced by Riddet Institute and Massey’s School of Food and Nutrition students working with Abby Thompson (Riddet) and Alistair Carr (IFN). As a backdrop to this discussion we also with ran a short video. A copy of this is also below.
We also gave away about 180 copies of the Countrywide magazine special section on sheep dairying, spoke to dozens of people about setting up sheep milking operations, met many of our industry colleagues who stopped by to swap news and discuss current challenges (including Peter Gatley, Jake Chardon, Steve Carden, Andrew Sherman and John Ryrie, who on Friday stepped off a plane ready to start his new job). In a couple of cases we seem to have helped people find jobs in the industry and we also had some very interesting discussions with people who were in sheep dairying back in the 1990s.
If I were to volunteer a couple of choice moments from four days of talking flat out about sheep dairying they would be meeting Ruby Mulinder (recently of Landcorp and a Massey Alumnus) and her husband who are planning to become sheep milk producers in the future but in the meantime are heading off to the UK for him to play rugby and for her to find work in the UK sheep dairy industry. These are two very engaging, passionate and smart young people whom I hope we can help get a start in the industry when they return. And the other choice moment is sitting with Sally Burnett and talking through some options for the truly unique sheep milking business she and her daughter are looking to develop in the South Waikato.
Of course its very difficult to tell just how successful a few days of talking with hundreds of people about sheep dairying might have been. Our target was to put the option in front of as many farmers as possible, to help the public that stopped by to get a taste of sheep milk products and generally to carve out a space in what is a truly stunning event (thanks to National Fieldays for sponsoring out site this time around!) . I hope we’ve made an impact. The feedback from those we talked to was encouraging, but the proof will come when these same people make a start in the industry or, come to regularly buy our sheep dairy goodies currently available or arriving soon.
Next year we’ll have our own stand, outside probably, and we will, I hope, run some kind of milking demo as well as seminars, workshops and be able to offer space for people to meet, engage and discuss things with a huge group of industry members. Of course it is a bit of an ask to have milking ewes onsite in June, and this explains the very small numbers of animals at Fieldays( a few highland cattle and few sheep on the Pratley stand, as far as I could tell), but such a demo would certainly allow us to stand out from the rest of the exhibitor flock.
Thanks to all the team for helping out. We were: Sam Peterson (Massey IVABS), Lucy Griffiths (Consultant and Nuffield Scholar), Linda Samuelsson (AgResearch, Sheep dairy Project team leader), Grace Powell (Food Technology student and creator of the sheep milk paneer), Bob Longhurst (AgResearch), Natalie Watkins (AgResearch), Marita Broadhurst (AgResearch), Sandra and Dave Ray (Waikanae Sheep dairy Farmers), James Clairmont (Waiheke Cheeses) and Craig Prichard (School of Management, Massey Business School).