Goats Farming: The Facts

Goat farmers and cheese-makers, Annette Emmerson and Paul Emmerson, live on a 400-acre farm 1.5 hours south-west of Brisbane.

In episode three of Matthew Hayden’s Home Ground they offer him advice on raising the intelligent animals who, they say, make great companions.

Meet Annette and Paul Emmerson

Annette and Paul both come from a long line of farmers. They are fourth generation farmers and their farm has been in Paul’s family since his great-grandfather settled there in the 1860s.

In the past the farm has been a cow dairy farm, but with the difficulties of the drought and keeping cattle, the Emmersons are now making the transition into cheese-making.

The farm produces cheese with cow and goat’s milk. With cow’s milk they make camembert, blue cheese, cream cheese, and a cheddar-style cheese. With goat’s milk they make fetta, camembert, soft curd, haloumi.

The fetta is Annette’s favourite, and the best-selling cheese. “In the past three years I have won several gold, silver and bronze awards at the Maleny cheese competition and won the champion cheese there in 2008,” she says.

“In 2007 I was awarded silver and bronze at the Brisbane RNA Dairy awards and this year I was awarded Gold for my fetta at the Brisbane cheese awards and also at the Royal QLD Food and Wine Show. I have had an exceptional year.”

Saanen goats

Saanens represent the largest number of goats in Australia and therefore have the biggest genetic pool.

The majority of goats on Annette and Paul’s farm are Saanens. There are 80-90 goats, of which 40 are milkers.

Saanens are the largest dairy goats and produce the most milk. This tends to have a low butter-fat content of roughly three per cent.

A Saanen goat holds the world record for milk production of 3,500 kilos or 750 gallons of milk in 365 days. Another gave 3355 kilos or 718 gallons and another 2870 kilos or 615 gallons. A top goat will give you up to eight litres a day.

How to raise goats

Dairy goats can fill your life with so much enjoyment but they’re not for everyone. Dairy goats require daily attention.

Here are some rules to keep in mind when raising goats:

• Dairy goats require good housing and should not be tethered as they are natural browsers, not grazers.
• Good wire netting fences are required. They also train favourably to electric fences.
• Dairy goats need bulk, such as leaves, e.g: gum, wattle, soap tree, mango leaves, Lucerne hay and a protein meal of pellets.
• They need to be regularly drenched for worms.
• They only drink fresh clean water and don’t like getting their feet wet.
• Their feet need to be trimmed often because they are used to walking over mountain ranges which naturally trims them.
• They need good shelter because they don’t like rain.
• They will not eat food that is spoiled or fouled by their droppings.
• Goats should be milked at least once (sometimes twice) a day.
• They love routine and like being milked and fed at the same time each day.
• They will want your company as much as possible.

Goat’s milk

Goats are seasonal, which means that they all dry off (stop producing) for a period of two months each year usually around April and June. They start producing again but it does mean you don't have goat's milk for two months.

Goat’s milk has been found to be great for people who are lactose intolerant. Goat’s milk has lactose in it but people who are lactose intolerant seem to be able to drink it without upsetting their stomach.

Cheese made from goat’s milk is a strong tasting cheese but is excellent for people with the following medical conditions: asthma, stomach ulcers, skin complaints due to allergies, digestive problems. It is also great for infants who cannot tolerate cow's milk.

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