Science support for emerging dairy goat industry

Science support for emerging dairy goat industry

The New Zealand dairy goat industry is an innovative, emerging one, with growth potential in key overseas markets. Goat milk products bring in more than $150 million per year.

AgResearch has partnered with the Dairy Goat Co-operative (DGC) over the last decade to research the attributes and benefits of goat milk and optimisation of formula processing. A new on-farm project, Dairy Goat Supply Systems, aims to develop best-practice guidelines for farmers.

Goat milk infant formula is a niche, premium, value-added product with excellent export opportunities for New Zealand. It is currently exported to more than 20 countries including Taiwan, Korea and Australia, and recent legislative changes in Europe offer new, potentially lucrative export opportunities.

DGC, with the support of AgResearch-led science, has been able to position itself into the premium infant formula market.

Dr Ali Hodgkinson, senior researcher in Food and Bio-based Products at AgResearch’s Ruakura campus has conducted several major studies into goat milk composition and allergenicity. She is also looking at the manufacturing process of whole goat milk into infant formula and how different ways of processing might impact the bioavailability of macro- and micro-nutrients in the final product.

Dairy goat farming in New Zealand is a small industry compared to the dairy cow industry.

“With cows the best-practice guides are on the shelf,” says Dr Warren King, who works in the Innovative Farm Systems group at AgResearch’s Ruakura campus.

“With dairy goats there are no farming manuals to follow and a wide range of views on best practice farming systems.” Over the course of the remaining five years of the sixyear on-farm project, AgResearch’s Dairy Goat Project team will share its research and best practice in a series of articles on two key topics: forage supply systems and animal performance and welfare.

Benefit to New Zealand

An established R&D relationship  exists between AgResearch and DGC, with continuing science-based evidence underpinning value-added product development. Now AgResearch science is targeting on-farm productivity improvements, both within sustainable and cost-effective farm systems.  The logical, combined approach of goat milk quantity and quality supply being attuned with DGC’s production of high-value consumer products to niche global markets, results in notable economic benefit gains.  The annual revenue turnover of DGC has increased steadily from less than $100 million to around $150 million in the last 10 years. In part, the revenue gains have accrued from the bioactive and functional studies undertaken by AgResearch providing evidence-based science that supports the value of premium infant formula.

With regard to economic benefits on-farm, recent survey and farm-system data have revealed a wide range in annual milk solids (MS) yield per milking goat.  Variability in feed-supply nutrient quality and on-farm pasture and conserved forage management, has been observed across farms. This highlights the potential for new management systems to improve efficiencies and yield gains.  It is conjectured that annual yield gains per milking goat of 30 kg MS would be realistic, which could increase gross annual revenue (on-farm) across the DGC supplier base by $13 million, at a target 70% farm adoption goal.

Project Investment

In the past decade Government has invested more than $10 million into dairy goat research. The Ministry for Business, Innovations and Employment is currently funding two AgResearch programmes: $860,000 per annum over a five-year period to study the health and nutritional properties of goat milk formula and a further $1.4 million per year over a six-year period for on-farm goat research. The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Farming Fund has also invested $200,000 over three years for researching best practices around forage supply.  DGC and the farmer goat-milk supplier base have also provided notable support and in-kind contributions.

About DGC

DGC formed in 1984 and is based in Hamilton, with manufacturing facilities at its Gallagher Drive site. The co-operative produces dairy goat infant formula (birth plus), follow-on formula (six months plus) and growing up milk formula (one year plus). Most dairy goat farms are based in the Waikato, although there are a few suppliers in Taranaki and Northland. This season 72 farms will supply approximately 30,000,000 litres of goat milk to the co-operative.