01 Jan, 2021
Hoofprint the small ruminant magazine
"Lower environmental footprint of dairy goat farming is providing an attractive preposition for farmers"
Data from the US Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture, shows dairy goat herds expanded faster than any other major livestock group from 2007-2017, in the US.
The Asian-Australian Journal of Animal Science also reports new dairy goat industries are developing in countries which did not have a long goat milk tradition, such as China, the United States, and New Zealand.
Rising consumer demand, strong prices and climate change are among the reasons more farmers are exploring dairy goat production.
New Zealand dairy technology company Waikato Milking Systems is turning its focus to the dairy goat and dairy sheep industries, to help farmers looking to upscale in the small ruminants market.
In 2020, the company commissioned 14 dairy goat rotary milking parlors in China and in New Zealand it completed two goat rotary parlor installations and one parallel milking system.
In the US, the company commissioned a 60-bail goat rotary for the Laughing Goat Dairy in Wisconsin, a project completed in April.
The milking plant includes the Waikato Milking Systems, NaviGate Dairy Management, which can collect milking data and generate reports on each animal to help the farmer make better decisions.
The Laughing Goat Dairy plant has the capacity to milk more than 600 goats per hour with just one person.
The plant is not the first in North America for Waikato Milking Systems.
In 2017, it commissioned a 100-bail rotary for Richard and Wilhem Vendrig’s Wilma Farms, in Ontario, Canada.
Waikato Milking Systems Small Ruminants Specialist Andy Geissmann, who has been involved in dairy goat projects in New Zealand, China and the US, said consumer demand was driving interest in the market.
“We are seeing customers expand their taste pallet and there’s more interest in goat cheese and goat milk being sold than before. This is a global trend.
“Most goat milk products are being processed into a blend for infant formula as well as niche markets for dairy products like skim milk and cheese.
“There are also some areas of the market where goat milk is being used for pharmaceutical products like health supplements.”
Andy said there are several different dairy goat milk processors in the US and some farms are processing their own milk as well.
“We know that customers are interested in the nutritional benefits of goat milk and they are demanding to know more about how their dairy products are made.
“So that public awareness and the lower environmental footprint of dairy goat farming is providing an attractive preposition for farmers to enter or expand in the market.”
Andy has worked in the international dairy industry for more than 20 years, initially in the bovine sector and has also been involved with small ruminant milking for the past 17 years.
He now heads Waikato Milking Systems’ efforts in the emerging dairy goat market.
“Goats are very inquisitive animals and they are always on the go, they like to be up high to see what’s going on.
“They are quite different animals from cows or sheep, so it’s important to understand that when designing a milking parlor.”
Andy led development of the Optima External Goat Rotary, which was designed for medium-to-high input farming.
Key features include rubber matting on the deck, to make milking time more comfortable for the animals and to reduce noise and stress for the goats, so they feel at home in the milking parlour.
The rotary’s unique cluster presentation arm ensures the cups and controls are at the optimal height so it’s easy, fast and comfortable to use for the operator.
The automatic headlocks ensure each animal remains in their own bails, reducing their ability to sample the other animals’ feed, the headlock automatically releases at the end of the goat’s turn on the rotary.
“We know goats like to investigate, and the main way they do that is with their mouths.
“The Optima rotary is fitted with stainless steel feed bins so the goats can’t chew and cause damage, like they might do with plastic bins.”
Stainless steel material features highly on the Optima, which ensures the plant’s longevity, reduced wear and tear, lower maintenance costs and also makes it easy to clean even when exposed to effluent.
Andy said for those entering the dairy goat market, converting an existing bovine Herringbone or inline parlour, to a rapid exit goat milking system, can be a cost-effective option.
Rapid exit systems are used widely around the world and known for their simple design and ability to maximise animal flow.
Waikato Milking Systems has converted a number of old cow parlors, into Agili Goat Rapid Exit systems.
Unique features of the Agili include a self-indexing gate system for faster loading into the milking system.
Its rapid exit gate can be released in sections, for best animal flow at the end of milking.
The rapid exit system can be equipped with either basic pulsation or with the Waikato Milking Systems, Milking Control Unit with integrated pulsator and a fully adjustable cup remover.
Electronic Milk Meters and Dairy Herd Management will be future automation additions.
Andy has some advice for those thinking of entering the dairy goat market or those looking to upscale their current operation.
“If you are new to dairy goat milking, make sure you gather an understanding of what the difference is between cows and goats, in terms of farm management practices.
“Get some advice on who the processors are in your area and what the options are for your farm’s business plan.
“Think about what type of milking parlor might best fit your new venture and then come and have a talk to us in regards to the options.
“Our plants are manufactured in New Zealand but distributed to all of the major dairying countries of the world, designed for the specific needs of each farm.”