Goat farming has grown
Those with dairy herds have to watch their margins as milk supply has rapidly increased
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.
Dr Dan Ganesh speaks during Goat Day during Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week.