22 November 1996

Getting out of cows and into dairy goat business

Dairy goat farming is fast becoming big business for a few livestock farmers. Michael Gaisford reports on one of the leaders of the pack, who has just invested more than £100,000 in a new 2000-goat parlour on his farm in Oxfordshire

ONCE the main livestock enterprise at Manor Farm, Garford, Abingdon, the 220 dairy cows are being sold-off with their quota to make way for 2000 more profitable dairy goats.

Due to the BSE crisis the final 100 cows have yet to go. Meanwhile the existing 500-head goat herd has just been moved from Manor Farm to a new set-up at Willowbrook Farm, Steventon, on a 700ha (1700-acre) arable and dairy enterprise now run by Neil Walker, whose family have farmed Manor Farm since 1932.

His Goosemead dairy goat herd was first established with 100 animals in 1987, and has grown progressively since. By 1995 the herd had increased to over 400 milkers and had outgrown both the buildings and the herringbone parlour at Manor Farm.

"It had become more than apparent that further expansion would necessitate moving to a larger unit with new milking facilities," says Mr Walker.

Kate Dedman, chose a fast throughput rotary parlour that they first saw on a farm visit in France.

After further visits and satisfactorily testing of Gascoigne Melottes lightweight Caprilac goat milking clusters in the existing parlour at Manor Farm, a 36-place rotary was ordered in June 1995. Then, after extensive alterations – mainly by farm labour – to a redundant dairy unit with 1973 concrete framed buildings at Willowbrook Farm, the Gascoigne parlour was installed and brought into use for the first time in May this year.

Herdsman in charge of the Goosemead goats is former Manor Farm cowman Terry Nurden, who has taken to milking goats as easily as the goats have taken to being moved from their old set of buildings and parlour at Manor Farm to new housing and the new rotary at Willowbrook Farm.

"The changeover was nothing like as difficult as we expected," says Ms Dedman. "Within a week the herdsman was on his own and the goats were queuing up in the rotary collecting yard for milking.

"On the first Sunday we milked 170 goats in just 20min, and our herdsman is now comfortably milking 500 goats in an hour and 20min, including moving them into the collection yard," she adds.

The goats are milked twice a day at 4am and 2.30pm. They are housed in pens holding 250 each, which fits well with the comb-gate rotary collecting yard, which when completely full will take two groups of 250 goats.

The existing building has space for four groups of 250 goats stocked at 2sq m (20sq ft) a goat, all flat-rate fed on a complete diet usually based on maize silage, brewers grains and concentrates. From this diet the young herd of mainly first and second kidders is currently averaging 1100 litres a goat in 305 days. Third kidders are averaging 1300 litres, which is expected to push up the overall herd average to 1200 litres within the next two years.

The herdsmans job include bedding the goats in the morning, and in the afternoon feeding them from a mixer wagon after milking and washing down.

Milking consists simply of standing at the entrance to the rotary and putting on the clusters. Routine udder washing, taking foremilk and teat dipping after milking is not considered to be necessary.

Cluster removal is automatic and milk is metered and computer recorded for every goat at each milking.

One procedure not in the rule book is to offer a sweet to any goat reluctant to step on to the rotary. Murraymints are the goats favourite, according to Mr Nurden.

Other management decisions are made by Ms Dedman in the office above. This houses a computer linked to the new parlour and warns immediately of any unusual changes in both individual or herd milk production patterns.

Milk is stored in a 9000-litre (1980gal) direct expansion bulk tank after being cooled rapidly through two plate coolers. The first uses mains water and the second iced water from an ice builder which produces ice at night from cheap off-peak electricity.

Cleaning is also automated and employs a Gascoigne Melotte Aquastar system, which automatically adds cleaning chemicals and permits re-use of washing water for more than one milking.

The new parlour also features an environmentally friendly vacuum pump to recycle oil instead of it being blown out into the atmosphere.

Dairy goat farming is fast becoming big business for a few livestock farmers. Michael Gaisford reports on one of the leaders of the pack, who has just invested more than £100,000 in a new 2000-goat parlour on his farm in Oxfordshire

ONCE the main livestock enterprise at Manor Farm, Garford, Abingdon, the 220 dairy cows are being sold-off with their quota to make way for 2000 more profitable dairy goats.

Due to the BSE crisis the final 100 cows have yet to go. Meanwhile the existing 500-head goat herd has just been moved from Manor Farm to a new set-up at Willowbrook Farm, Steventon, on a 700ha (1700-acre) arable and dairy enterprise now run by Neil Walker, whose family have farmed Manor Farm since 1932.

His Goosemead dairy goat herd was first established with 100 animals in 1987, and has grown progressively since. By 1995 the herd had increased to over 400 milkers and had outgrown both the buildings and the herringbone parlour at Manor Farm.

"It had become more than apparent that further expansion would necessitate moving to a larger unit with new milking facilities," says Mr Walker.

Kate Dedman, chose a fast throughput rotary parlour that they first saw on a farm visit in France.

After further visits and satisfactorily testing of Gascoigne Melottes lightweight Caprilac goat milking clusters in the existing parlour at Manor Farm, a 36-place rotary was ordered in June 1995. Then, after extensive alterations – mainly by farm labour – to a redundant dairy unit with 1973 concrete framed buildings at Willowbrook Farm, the Gascoigne parlour was installed and brought into use for the first time in May this year.

Herdsman in charge of the Goosemead goats is former Manor Farm cowman Terry Nurden, who has taken to milking goats as easily as the goats have taken to being moved from their old set of buildings and parlour at Manor Farm to new housing and the new rotary at Willowbrook Farm.

"The changeover was nothing like as difficult as we expected," says Ms Dedman. "Within a week the herdsman was on his own and the goats were queuing up in the rotary collecting yard for milking.

"On the first Sunday we milked 170 goats in just 20min, and our herdsman is now comfortably milking 500 goats in an hour and 20min, including moving them into the collection yard," she adds.

The goats are milked twice a day at 4am and 2.30pm. They are housed in pens holding 250 each, which fits well with the comb-gate rotary collecting yard, which when completely full will take two groups of 250 goats.

The existing building has space for four groups of 250 goats stocked at 2sq m (20sq ft) a goat, all flat-rate fed on a complete diet usually based on maize silage, brewers grains and concentrates. From this diet the young herd of mainly first and second kidders is currently averaging 1100 litres a goat in 305 days. Third kidders are averaging 1300 litres, which is expected to push up the overall herd average to 1200 litres within the next two years.

The herdsmans job include bedding the goats in the morning, and in the afternoon feeding them from a mixer wagon after milking and washing down.

Milking consists simply of standing at the entrance to the rotary and putting on the clusters. Routine udder washing, taking foremilk and teat dipping after milking is not considered to be necessary.

Cluster removal is automatic and milk is metered and computer recorded for every goat at each milking.

One procedure not in the rule book is to offer a sweet to any goat reluctant to step on to the rotary. Murraymints are the goats favourite, according to Mr Nurden.

Other management decisions are made by Ms Dedman in the office above. This houses a computer linked to the new parlour and warns immediately of any unusual changes in both individual or herd milk production patterns.

Milk is stored in a 9000-litre (1980gal) direct expansion bulk tank after being cooled rapidly through two plate coolers. The first uses mains water and the second iced water from an ice builder which produces ice at night from cheap off-peak electricity.

Cleaning is also automated and employs a Gascoigne Melotte Aquastar system, which automatically adds cleaning chemicals and permits re-use of washing water for more than one milking.

The new parlour also features an environmentally friendly vacuum pump to recycle oil instead of it being blown out into the atmosphere.

Oxfordshire farmer Neil Walker is selling off his 220-cow dairy herd and milk quota, and investing more than £200,000 in dairy goats. The 500-head herd is milked in a 36-place rotary parlour in an hour and 20 minutes by former dairyman Terry Nurden.


GOAT DAIRYING


&#8226 Herd average is 1100 litres a goat in 305days

&#8226 Flat-rate fed on a maize silage-based complete diet.

&#8226 Aim to increase herd average to 1200 litres within two years.