Goat milk

The next su­per food?

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There is a shift in farm­ing tak­ing place that is see­ing goats’ milk and goat milk based in­fant for­mula stak­ing a greater claim on New Zealand su­per­mar­ket shelves.

The rea­sons are com­plex. They in­clude a greater de­mand for goats’ milk- based ex­port prod­uct from coun­tries where goat has been a sta­ple part of the diet for cen­turies, peo­ple with an in­tol­er­ance to cows’ milk in the fam­ily look­ing for an al­ter­na­tive and a greater re­turn on in­ter­est on the in­vest­ment in some farm­land from goats.

When Bay­leys Waikato ad­ver­tised a goat farm for sale late last year, coun­try sales man­ager Mark Dawe says he and his team and the ven­dor were taken aback by the in­ter­est in the prop­erty.

The farm was pro­duc­ing 38,000kg of milk solids an­nu­ally and turn­ing over $665,000. Like many goat farms the goats are kept in big open pens, with fresh grasses, hay, silage and pas­ture plants be­ing grown on the re­main­ing 44 hectares of the prop­erty and cut and car­ried to the an­i­mals. Part of a co-op­er­a­tive of 60 goat milk farm­ers, the farm has been given per­mis­sion to pro­duce even more milk this year.

“There is a grow­ing in­ter­est in con­vert­ing to milk­ing dairy goats,” Dawe says. “The mo­ti­va­tion is var­ied, but I know one farm that is now run­ning both cows and goats in tan­dem to achieve a di­ver­sity of in­come. An­other grain sup­plier is mov­ing into goats and an­other farm was re­cently bought by a busi­ness per­son with an agri­cul­tural back­ground as an in­vest­ment.”

A look at the pub­lished fig­ures for one of the coun­try’s largest goat milk pro­duc­ers, Dairy Goat Co­op­er­a­tive, re­veals its farm­ers were paid $15 per kilo­gram of milk solids (kg/ms) last year (plus a bonus of $2.50 per kg/ms). It pro­jected that it would be able to hold the $15 rate in the com­ing year.

Both the coop and other com­pa­nies have been ac­tively re­cruit­ing new sup­pli­ers. New Im­age Group, a New Zealand health prod­ucts and nu­tri­tion­als man­u­fac­turer with a mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar spray dry plant and can­ning and pack­ag­ing plants, says it is look­ing for more sup­pli­ers as de­mand for its goat milk in­fant for­mula BabySteps is grow­ing through­out the coun­try.

Guy Wills, the gen­eral man­ager of New Im­age Group, says the com­pany was mo­ti­vated to pro­duce BabySteps for two main rea­sons – chil­dren’s care­givers look­ing for an al­ter­na­tive to cows’ milk for­mula and, more im­por­tantly, for a sus­tain­able sup­ply.

“In­fant for­mula was be­ing stripped from New Zealand re­tail shelves by peo­ple ex­port­ing it to lu­cra­tive over­seas mar­kets,” Wills says. “While new ex­port reg­u­la­tions have stymied much of that, there is still huge de­mand – es­pe­cially from Asia. Some com­pa­nies are ex­port­ing all they pro­duce and when par­ents or care­givers go to their lo­cal shops they can­not al­ways find the in­fant for­mula they have been us­ing, or the stage that their in­fant is on.

“...as a New Zealand com­pany we needed to en­sure that there was a sus­tain­able sup­ply for Kiwi par­ents...”

“We de­cided that as well as ex­port­ing, as a New Zealand com­pany we needed to en­sure that there was a sus­tain­able sup­ply for Kiwi par­ents and care­givers. That means the three stages from new-born to tod­dler would be not only for­mu­lated for New Zealan­ders, but also be avail­able on shelf.”

In terms of nu­tri­tional ben­e­fits goats’ milk ticks the boxes. While slightly higher in fat than stan­dard cow’s milk, the fat is fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent in that it does not con­tain ag­glu­tinin – a sub­stance in cow’s milk that makes fat glob­ules clus­ter to­gether mak­ing them harder to di­gest.

This, in con­junc­tion with higher lev­els of es­sen­tial fatty acids linoleic and arachn­odonic acids, means goat’s milk is eas­ier to di­gest than cows’. Fur­ther, the pro­teins in goat’s milk are dif­fer­ent from cow’s milk. When goats’ milk is con­sumed, the pro­teins re­sults in a softer curd, which also aids di­ges­tion.

The de­mand for an in­crease in goat milk pro­duc­tion has seen the Min­istry of Pri­mary In­dus­tries (MPI) give a grant un­der its sus­tain­able farm­ing fund. Af­ter a one year AgRe­search pilot, the pro­gramme has now been ex­tended for three years and will ex­am­ine how im­prov­ing pro­duc­tion ef­fi­cien­cies and the com­po­si­tion of feeds will help to in­crease milk pro­duc­tion.

The MPI pro­ject find­ings will be shared across the goat farm­ing sec­tor “gen­er­at­ing the knowl­edge re­quired to drive es­sen­tial and sus­tain­able growth in the dairy goat in­dus­try”.

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