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New sheep milk venture hopes to shake-up the market

Dairy sheep farmer Huw Jones with the flavoured ewe's milk drinks and his flock at Ty'n Llan Farm, Anglesey

An Anglesey sheep farmer hopes to capture health-conscious customers with the launch of flavoured Welsh ewe’s milk drinks.

Huw Jones is among a growing number of Welsh farmers joining the burgeoning dairy sheep sector, and he has just launched his enterprise – Llaeth Medra Milk.

Huw said, “There is a growing global market for sheep milk, especially with people looking into different types of milk alternatives. I’m particularly keen to target sports people and the health conscious.

“Sheep milk is high in vitamins B6 and B12, also iron, zinc and essential amino acids. Also, it has a high calcium, protein, and energy content; while the fat globules are smaller than in those of cow’s milk, it can make it easier to digest and suitable for people who cannot tolerate cow’s milk.”

Huw, who farms at Llanerchymedd, was inspired to take up milking sheep following a Farming Connect exchange programme to France in 2019 before last year getting involved in an Agrisgôp group with other sheep milk producers.

He began by buying 50 Friesland x Lacaune ewe lambs – breeds particularly suited to milk production – and has already more than doubled the flock.

A new milking parlour, imported from Greece, has just been installed and by next year Huw hopes to be milking 200 ewes.

Huw also supplies milk to a local cheesemaker Cosyn Cymru, but for his own enterprise he has chosen to make flavoured milk drinks which are produced at the Food Technology Centre in Llangefni – which also helped him to develop his products.

Huw has had help in establishing his flavoured milk venture from Cywain – a Menter a Busnes project that supports the development of growth-orientated businesses in the food and drink sector in Wales.

“Cywain have been great, they’ve helped me with my branding and marketing as well as areas like cash flow, pricing and getting access to new markets.”

Cywain Development Manager, Nerys Davies, said, “Llaeth Medra Milk’s new flavoured milk range is an exciting product. Ewe’s milk is considered a superfood by some people, and I’m sure the strawberry and chocolate flavours will tempt those who want to try something new, and boost their nutritional consumption too.”

Llaeth Medra Milk’s drinks are available from a growing number of outlets including Blas ar Fwyd. He hopes the milk’s creamy texture will attract coffee shops too, and plans to supply sheep milk to cafés.

Huw said, “We started with the Chocolate flavour, and we’ve just released the strawberry version. Eventually I hope to move production on to the farm, and I’m working with other sheep milk producers too, so that there will be a year-round supply of milk.”

Globally, the sheep milk market is worth £23bn and is used to make a variety of high-value products from cheese to powdered infant formula milk.

Working with Menter a Busnes project Farming Connect, the Welsh Government is currently looking at the feasibility of establishing a dairy sheep industry in Wales that is market led, resilient and focused on high value products which can offer opportunities to new markets post Brexit.

Huw said, “It is an exciting time, sheep milk is a huge market, and I’d like to go and study the systems in New Zealand and Israel where the dairy sheep industry is big.”

Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd, said: “We are continually exploring new ways of supporting Welsh farmers to diversify in the marketplace and add value to their products.

“Llaeth Medra Milk is a great example of innovation in a sector which, while still at early stages in Wales, could potentially be a valuable and sustainable addition to our food and farming industry and an exciting new product for consumers.”