As something a little different this month, we decided to do an interview with one of our more unique clients and gain some insight into a day in the life of a dairy goat... enter Scott Fraser!
Scott is half of the partnership "Just Kidding", an Opiki based dairy goat milking operation. We asked him a few questions about his reasonably different brand of farming.
Firstly, a brief run-down from Scott on the set up:
- They started by buying 750 kids from goat farms in the Waikato, rearing them from weaning down here in Manawatu. They put them to bucks so were milking for the first time in 2015.
- They are currently milking 690 does through a 24-a-side, parallel, herringbone shed.
- All the goats are housed year-round in two large barns with access to outside areas.
- All feed is cut (in the paddock) and carry (taken to the goats). It is not seen as feasible to let goats graze pasture because they are extremely sensitive to parasites.
- The farm is totally self-sufficient in that all feed given to the goats is grown on farm. Feed is loaded onto big conveyor belts that run down the middle of the housing barns. They are fed twice daily at 5 am and 2 pm with a mixture of pasture baleage, lucerne baleage, cut and carry high sugar grass, plantain, red and white clover and lucerne. They are also fed one kilogram per goat per day through the in-shed feeding system.
Next question for Scott was "What made you get into milking goats?". His answer... "We were spud and onion farmers but we got to the point where we were sick of being so at the mercy of the weather. We wanted to diversify so we started investigating other options, wanting to get into a more controlled form of farming. If you told me three years ago that I would be a milker I would have told you that you had rocks in your head, but we went and visited a dairy goat farm and the goats really won us over, they just have the coolest characters! As well as that you don't have any issues with effluent and I don't even know where my rain jacket is, because everything we do we do it undercover. I have huge respect for my mates who are dairy farmers but I couldn't do it myself".
Scott cites that the challenges so far have been more in relation to the animals with two legs than those with four legs, which is no change from crop farming. Animal health is the other big challenge but it is the one that Scott enjoys the most. He says that "With goats, anything from a droopy ear to a snotty nose can end up resulting in deaths" but says he has really enjoyed learning from other goat farmers and the vets about how to look after and treat the goats. "Goats are good at hiding illness but you get to know what to look for, get to see patterns in the herd that alert you that something is wrong".
Milk is collected three times a week by Dairy Fresh (contract company) and transported to Innovation Waikato (neighbouring AgResearch and Plant and Food, and a short distance from the University of Waikato) where it is processed and dried. Some milk is also supplied to Cartwheel Creamery in Pohangina where it is made into cheese sold at the Feilding Farmer's Market as well as other retail locations in the area.
The last question for Scott was a promotional one, "Why should people buy goat's milk or its products?". His answer was clear, "Well you have to taste it to know! Everybody that comes to visit the farm, I offer them a taste of milk and show them around. Fifty percent of people will turn their nose up but every time someone does try it their eyes open wide (in a good way!). It's really tasty, a lot like blue top pasteurized cow's milk. I would love to see it in the supermarket, it is frustrating that it isn't on the shelves so people don't know how good it tastes or how good it is for you - something that most the rest of the world already knows!"
A big thank you to Scott for his time and sharing of his knowledge and experience. We hope you enjoyed learning a little more about just one of our many fantastic clients!