Farmer Focus: Goat milk bucking dairy price trend

I have a tough act to follow in taking over from my near neighbour, Kate Beavan, in writing this column (particularly as she is considerably better looking than me).

We are lucky to be in a sector that is not suffering from low prices at the moment, with goat milk still in demand. We have supplied our buyer, Abergavenny Fine Foods, since we started milking in 2002, and we have an excellent relationship with them.

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We have held farm visits for many of the firm’s customers and potential customers, including supermarkets, food service wholesalers and fast-food chains such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC.

They have taken and paid for every litre of milk we have produced, with a price set annually after a sensible negotiation.

There have been lots of farmers trying to get into goats recently and the niche market could quickly be oversupplied – particularly with unscrupulous dealers importing goats with unknown health status from continental Europe.

This risks not only oversupply but also introducing new diseases in to the UK goat herd.

Farming goats is certainly no licence to print money. There is a margin to be made, but it requires a lot of capital investment and hard work. You also need to be close to a processor who requires more suppliers.

The goats are housed all year, as they don’t like rain, have no resistance to worms (there are no licensed wormers for milking goats) and they are browsers, not grazers.

High standards of stockmanship and attention to detail, particularly with kid rearing, (Jess’s department) are a must.

Our feeding system is TMR, and we try to be as self-sufficient as possible with feed. We have excellent local contractors that carry out most of the field work to a high standard with big machines I can only dream of.

Hunting has started after a delayed harvest, and we have just hosted a barn dance to raise money for the local Monmouthshire Pony Club mounted games team, who have qualified for the Horse of the Year Show at the NEC next month.

Gary and Jess Yeomans run a herd of 700 milking goats across 100ha, and supply a local cheese factory. They also own a small pedigree Welsh Black suckler herd to graze permanent pasture