Why Goat Farming is The Way To Go
By Laura Bulfin
No one is sure if there’s much future for farming in Ireland, with the continued rise of veganism, the increase of outrage over methane from cow’s farts (despite there being much more serious sources of pollution in cities and towns) and the savage drop in beef prices. Milk prices are also down the drain at around 29c or that. Co-ops are also struggling to process all the milk they’re getting with an increase of dairy herds around the country (mostly due to Larry Goodman and the like taking all the money out of good quality beef). Dairy herds have also been expanding like mad, due to farmers not earning enough to keep going with smaller herds. Factory prices for fattened lambs are down too. The government tries to tempt the farmer with subsidies and grants, but why can’t they just give us a fair price for our produce? Then there would be no need for all these pointless and tiring schemes. In these times, farmers throughout the country are looking for new ways to make a living off the land.
A lad with 60 suckler cows could be looking at snail or worm farming, niche markets like that. However, I think there could be a future in goat farming. With only several notifiable goat farms around the country (those who provide a product not just for themselves) I think it is the way to go. Both goat meat and milk are full of nutrients and are highly beneficial to us. Goat meat is lean and contains omega-3s, lots of protein and B vitamins. Bigger goat dairy farms tend to sell male goat kids (bucks) for meat as there’s no need to raise them all for breeding purposes. However smaller farms can sell male kids as breeding bucks or pets (as castrated wethers). Goat milk and dairy products are half the fat of cow’s milk (typically, although different goat breeds vary), are easily digestible and therefore suitable for people with lactose intolerance, and can be beneficial for asthmatics. Google won’t give me the average price per litre for goats’ milk in Ireland but I do know that it’s more than you’d get for cow’s milk. Goats will do well in a shed for nearly all year round, though for good husbandry purposes I think it’s nice to let them out into a paddock for a while in good weather. They thrive on good quality hay but naturally they are browsers like deer (not grazers like sheep and cattle) and enjoy eating leaves off various trees and plants. They eat thistles and brambles no bother. They do require copper in an amount that would kill a sheep but go over that and you’ll have a dead goat. This can be provided in a dairy cow nut while they are milked. Goats are much cleaner than cows and the cleanliness of goat dairy parlours is beautiful and refreshing. You can forget about the amount of power hosing and scraping muck that goes into keeping cow dairy parlours clean when you’re working with goats. Their tails don’t flick you in the face (or directly in the eye) when there are flies about, and you don’t have to worry about shaving their tails. Goats are very curious and are interesting to work with, too. Smaller goat dairy farms recommend producing a dairy product such as cheese to make a tasty profit. Personally I think goat’s ice cream is a good idea, especially for lactose intolerant people and that whole market there. The flavours are endless as well. Of course there is competition from vegan and vegetarian brands such as Alpro with their alternatives to cow’s dairy products, but some (ahem, most) of them taste pure rotten so the solution is to make your goat’s produce taste better (which, frankly, can’t be hard). As time goes on people are looking more for organic and sustainable products, so make sure you’re treating your goats well and perhaps consider having an organic farm. Another option is water buffalo, but Alison Gray is taking over that whole sector there so you may find something else to farm.