Goat milk producers form new association and improve practices

The Issue

Goat milk producers form new association and improve practices
Goats in milk barn.
Goat milk production in California is increasing. Goat milk producers are typically small- to medium-sized dairies who sell their milk to milk processors or cheese makers. There are also dozens of farmstead cheese makers who raise fewer goats but add value to the milk by making their own cheese. Other goat milk products are yogurt, dried milk, canned milk and ice cream. The consumption of goat milk products, especially in the cheese sector, has been rising steadily. Some specialty goat cheese producers report sales increases of 30 percent per year.

What Has ANR Done?

Information on best practices for goat milk production is available through UC Cooperative Extension and the UC School of Veterinary Medicine. While goats have been raised and milked for many years in California, commercial producers do not have a statewide association. There are some producers who have been in business for 20 to 30 years, but there are many newer producers who need technical assistance. Humboldt County farm and community development advisor Deborah Giraud learned the local cheese manufacturer had unmet demand for goat milk and realized opportunities existed for new producers. Support systems for the dairy industry were strong as 80 family-owned cow dairies have been successful in the county. She facilitated the formation of a commercial goat milk producers association in her county which meets quarterly and she helped the producers obtain funding for individual business consultations and technical assistance. Grants were obtained to hold two regional workshops which brought together producers, extension advisors and specialists to share information.

The Payoff

Producers Improve Production Practices

Maintaining a profitable milking herd depends on many factors. One important factor is the genetic ability of a doe to consistently produce high quantities of milk. The only way to determine which of the does to keep and breed is to meter the milk each one produces. Small-scale goat dairies often do not invest in the meters and labor costs of metering. Through the workshops and association meetings, the long-term advantages of doing so where conveyed. The UCCE advisor obtained grant funding from a local foundation and industry to purchase meters for the producers in the county to share. Working together, producers and their UCCE farm advisor improved goat dairy practices and helped maintain a sustainable goat farm industry in Humboldt County. An additional grant was obtained from the USDA Western SARE program for a statewide conference, research into foot rots, and more milk meters for research and demonstration. In May 2008, a statewide goat dairy conference was held in Merced to share best practices in many areas, and information about forming a local association. A Western Region newsletter was mailed, and DVDs of the workshop was produced and is available from ddgiraud@ucdavis.edu.


Supporting Unit:

UCCE Humboldt County, UC Davis Extension Specialists and UC Vet Med.
Deborah Giraud, (707) 445-7351, ddgiraud@ucdavis.edu