Research may lead to new goat milk market
More people around the world drink goat milk than milk from any other animal and 98 per cent of New Zealand’s goat milk production goes offshore – mostly in the form of milk powder.
But what if we could further raise the quality of New Zealand goat milk and attract more interest from these global markets?
Researchers at the University of Waikato are collaborating with the Dairy Goat Cooperative NZ to find answers to questions like these.
Masters student Nadine Huitema is looking at how diet and genetics affect the quality of goat milk produced in New Zealand.
It’s the first study of its kind in New Zealand and she’s focussing on the milk’s functional components – the elements that are beneficial to human health.
These include the fat and protein content and also a number of bioactive elements, such as conjugated linoleic acid and omega 3.
‘‘Goat milk has lower levels of alpha-s1casein and smaller chained fatty acids than cows’ milk which makes it easier to digest,’’ said Ms Huitema.
‘‘Plus goat milk provides better nutrient absorption, so it’s often used for infant formula. There’s growing interest in Asian and Western markets for such high-quality goat milk products, which makes this a really exciting area to work in.’’
Most of the research into goat milk has been carried out in Europe.
Goats there are often a different breed to the ones in New Zealand and they are typically fed a different diet.
‘‘The research evidence is that pasture is a better diet for boosting functional elements in goat milk, so we want to find out if the same is true here,’’ said Ms Huitema.
Ms Huitema’s research involves testing goat milk from 15 herds to compare the milk quality over two seasons with different diets. She’s also monitoring one herd which has been fed a new yeast supplement.
The Dairy Goat Co-operative is also interested in key genes for milk fat and protein and Ms Huitema has adapted a method of genotyping goats to determine which goats have strong, medium or weak forms of these genes.
‘‘It’s all about trying to enhance the ‘good stuff’ in goat milk,’’ she said.
‘‘Goat milk can’t compete with cows’ milk on volume, so knowing what functional components are different is crucial if we want to encourage increased consumption.
Good goat milk: University of Waikato masters student Nadine Huitema is looking at how diet and genetics affect the quality of goat milk produced in New Zealand.