Goat farm­ing has grown

Those with dairy herds have to watch their mar­gins as milk sup­ply has rapidly in­creased

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - NEWS - JON RADOJKOVIC

The dairy goat in­dus­try in On­tario has ex­panded dra­mat­i­cally and now pro­duces more than half of all goat milk in Canada.

But the ex­pan­sion has caused an over sup­ply of milk and op­er­a­tors need to look at their bot­tom line more, such as feed costs and health of the flock, con­cluded Dr. Dan Ganesh at Grey Bruce Farm­ers’ Week.

There are just over 130,000 goats in On­tario, with an av­er­age flock of 400, with most of the farms in south­west­ern On­tario, in­clud­ing Grey and Bruce coun­ties. The gross re­ceipts in 2016 were $41.7 mil­lion, up from $31.6 mil­lion in 2010. The av­er­age age of goat farm­ers was younger com­pared to the rest of the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try.

Goat milk prod­ucts in­clude fluid goat milk, cheese, yo­gurt, sour cream, but­ter and ice cream, as well as var­i­ous non-food prod­ucts such as soaps and mois­tur­iz­ing creams. But most of the fluid milk (85 per cent) goes into mak­ing hard and soft goat cheese. This has an ad­van­tage in that cheese pro­duc­ers can have a con­stant sup­ply of milk as op­posed to fluid milk pro­duc­ers which has more of a sea­sonal sup­ply be­cause of the sea­sonal na­ture of the goat’s re­pro­duc­tive cy­cle.

For cow dairies, sup­ply management has kept the in­dus­try from over pro­duc­ing while en­sur­ing a fixed price for milk. With the dairy goat in­dus­try, not on a sup­ply management sys­tem, sup­ply and de­mand fluc­tu­ate and now, be­cause of the high sup­ply and not enough de­mand, prices have dropped off.

“With the in­dus­try in flux, feed costs are im­por­tant as goats can be a lit­tle bit of a chal­lenge,” said Ganesh. He told the large crowd in Elm­wood’s com­mu­nity hall that a breakeven point for milk­ing goats is 0.9 litres per day, in­clud­ing when the doe is dried off.

“If your av­er­age is less than that, then you’re los­ing money.”

Most of the dairy breeds in On­tario are Alpine and Saa­nen. Al­though goats and cows are both ru­mi­nants, Ganesh ex­plained cows are graz­ers and goats are browsers. Goats can eat leaves, tree bark and dan­de­lion, each one of those sup­ply­ing nu­tri­ents they need. They also like to eat newly sprouted grasses, ig­nor­ing the older grasses, but be­cause these young grasses are near the ground, it’s also why goats have more par­a­sites.

Feed­ing needs to be done in­side barns for a good part of the year in On­tario, so if goats are not out on pas­ture, cer­tain good hays and con­cen­trates need to be fed.

JON RADOJKOVIC/FOR THE SUN TIMES

Dr Dan Ganesh speaks dur­ing Goat Day dur­ing Grey Bruce Farm­ers’ Week.

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