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Dairy Goats


The image of the goat has undergone a transformation in recent years. Consumer knowledge of production values has increased exponentially and has fuelled a demand for healthy, quality products, such as goats’ milk and cheeses. Cian Condon, Teagasc Goats advisor has advice on farming dairy goats

Introduction

The image of the goat has undergone a transformation in recent years. Consumer knowledge of production values has increased exponentially and has fuelled a demand for healthy, quality products, such as goats’ milk and cheeses. Goats’ milk has long been associated with certain health benefits, particularly in the case of asthma and eczema. However, due to its chemical and physical properties, it is also much more readily digestible by the human body. Goats’ cheese, rarely found on menus 20 years ago, has become a firm favourite with the Irish palate and is now commonplace in restaurants. Yoghurts, ice cream and even cosmetics can all be made from goats’ milk.

Because goats can be carried at a relatively high stocking rate on small acreages, with a good system and steady outlet, they can be profitable. However, dairy goats  are particularly soft, with little weatherproofing and little resistance to parasites, so must be at least offered shelter from the Irish climate. Therefore, most commercial dairy herds in Ireland are housed indoors all year round and either zero grazed or fed silage. The typical diet is much the same as dairy cows – forage supplemented with meal. Goat kids are particularly delicate and require a lot of work to ensure their survival. For these reasons in particular, goat farming would have to be considered labour intensive.

Facts and figures

  • An initial target for yield should be 750 litres per 300-day lactation
  • Some top-quality herds produce in excess of 1,000 litres per lactation
  • Typical prices received for milk are 65c- 75c per litre
  • A net margin of €100 per milking goat should be achievable
  • Year-round production is usually required to meet processor demands
  • Most milk produced in the north midlands is supplied to Glenisk, with milk in the rest of the country usually supplied to cheese makers.

Did you know?

  • The main breeds used for milk production in Ireland are  Saanen,  Toggenburg, Alpine and Nubian
  • Goats are very selective eaters and any uneaten feed must be removed daily
  • Some high-yielding goats do not have to be bred each year and can be milked on for a number of years
  • Bucks smell strongly at breeding time and the bulk tank must be maintained at a certain distance to ensure the milk does not become tainted.

View the full factsheet here