Home' Otago Southland Farmer : September 21st 2012 Contents 24
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Dairying Advertising Feature
A service to NZ agriculture
New Zealanders have seen the sheep as a source of income from meat and wool.
By PETER OWENS
A southern company is focussed on
another attribute of the sheep; the
provision of milk products and the
company is doing very well indeed.
For thousands of years people on the rim of
the Mediterranean and on its islands have
had dairy sheep products as part of their
staple diet. This led to the establishment of
a dairy sheep plant at Balclutha some years
ago but it was not a success.
The owners had milked East Friesian sheep
for their base product. The supply was
adequate but the cheese the owners were
marketing to people of Mediterranean
background in Australia was inconsistent in
supply and quality. There were also serious
The whole enterprise was about to collapse
when Southland farmer/entrepreneur, Keith
Neylon, bought out the undertaking in
2004 and transferred the operation to
Invercargill. Neylon knew the So-Fresh ice
cream operation had closed but that its
export-approved plant was still there---
inoperative but ready to go. He wasted no
time acquiring this plant and then set about
re-jigging the entire sheep milk operation.
This included a major worldwide research
programme into sheep milking and its
The whole operation became integrated
vertically. Blue River Dairy Products Limited
(Owned by Neylon) was the manufacturing
and distribution arm. This company was
supplied by another Neylon-owned com-
pany with top quality dairy sheep milk as
and when required. Neylon had seen that
the inconsistency of supply and quality had
limited the scope of the marketing of the
product and was determined this would not
Neylon immediately bought and converted
a dairy farm at Brydone into a dairy sheep
milking facility. East Friesian sheep were the
base breed but since then other breeds of
sheep, including Poll Dorsets, have been
introduced to the milking flocks. However,
since 2004 when the Brydone farm was
converted, the production base has
expanded and there are also farms and
state-of-the-art milking facilities at Winton
and recently at Hedgehope.
Neylon had long been a leader in both the
deer and thoroughbred horse industries
and had significant investments in both
industries. However, when he
moved into the dairy sheep
industry he really began to move.
Keith Neylon saw that while the
founders of the industry had
concentrated on the relatively
small numbers of Mediterranean
Rim people in Australia, the
market for sheep milk products
was much wider.
Because of business associations
with Asian markets, Neylon saw
there was a potential market in
Asia and set about marketing his sheep milk
products into China. Neylon and his team
have built up a strong Chinese and Thai
market for sheep milk products. However
Neylon found the business had to expand
and this meant more capital.
He disposed of his substantial deer industry
and thoroughbred racing interests.
Neylon saw that just to the North of New
Zealand is the rapidly expanding Indone-
sian market of over 243 million people. Like
China, it has a ballooning middle class that
is clamouring for quality protein-based
products and has the money to pay for
them. Neylon knew it was case of supplying
top quality product as and when required,
with consistency of quality and supply.
More capital was required for expansion
and late in 2011, Neylon sold a 50 percent
share in the Blue River Group of companies
to the well-known Tachril Family of Jakarta
which has strong links with New Zealand.
The capital released by this sale was used
for research and development into new
milking sheep technologies and in the
construction of a new space-age milking
facility at Hedgehope not far from Winton
Keith Nylon has recently travelled with the
Prime Minister to Indonesia as part of
26-person trade delegation and he has also
recently been marketing his company's
products in the vigorous Vietnam economy.
In 2011 he was inducted as a Member of the
New Zealand Order of Merit for his "services
to New Zealand agriculture."
The result is that today Blue River has
something no other sheep unit in New
A revolutionary new milking technology, a
genetically selected milking flock of 14,000
sheep, an export-approved processing
plant and over 50 employees.
After the sale of 50 percent of its
undertaking, Blue River Dairy Products
Limited also underwent a change of name.
It is now known as Blue River Dairy LP.
Under that name it is producing five
varieties of sheep cheese.
All products are gluten free and there is also
a significant market for powdered sheep
milk in both the export and domestic
markets. In New Zealand, Blue River
Products (including ice cream) are available
at supermarkets and quality delicatessens.
A number of new ice cream flavours are to
be marketed just before Christmas this year.
Blue River LP, thanks to the foresight and
entrepreneurial skills of Keith Neylon has
now provided a new dimension to the
sheep industry of New Zealand.
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