Milking goats must be given the best possible start
Ireland’s milking goat sector might be small, in terms of its physical size. However, those involved are totally committed to achieving the highest business management and animal husbandry standards. Brian and Linda Cowan, who own the Owenskerry herd, are a case in point. The couple milk a herd of 260 goats on their Fivemiletown farm. They set up the business 13 years. Prior to that, a herd of suckler cows had been the main enterprise on the farm. Brian takes up the story:
“Linda and I believed that milking goats would allow us to develop a full time business on what is a small family farm.
“We have 60 acres which are used to produce the forage for the goats and to maintain a small pedigree Simmental herd in tandem with a small flock of pedigree Charollais and Texel sheep.
“It was also important that we would both have an opportunity to work together on the development of the business. And so it has turned out. We are one of only three milking goat businesses in Northern Ireland at the present time. ”
All the milk produced by the Owenskerry goats is sold to Strathroy Dairies at Omagh. The herd comprises of a mix of Toggenburg, Saanen, Alpine and Anglo Nubian breed types. The breeding females are divided up into three groups, each kidding down at different times: January, April and September. This approach ensures a reasonably constant supply of milk the year round.
The general management standards that Linda and Brian are achieving across the business as a whole are second to none. Fresh bedding straw is put down for the milking groups every day. The goats are fed a mix of high quality haylage and a proprietary concentrate. The standard of hygiene and animal comfort achieved across all the pens is also top drawer. The goats are milked twice daily and, again, every effort is made to secure the highest standards of milking practice on a consistent basis.
Linda takes all to do with the rearing of the young kids. And, as she is quick to point out, it’s a full time job the year round:
“We keep all the female kids, rearing them as herd replacements. Surplus animals are sold on to other herds.
“It’s imperative to ensure that the kids are thriving at all times. This means making sure that they are maintained on the best possible diets and that health problems are kept to an absolute minimum.
“All the newborns receive their mothers’ colostrum as soon as possible after birth. We have a portable milker in the farm, which allows us to take the colostrum from the new mothers. The various batches are colour coded so to ensure that each kid receives colostrum from its own mother for 2 to 3 days.”
“The kids are then put into straw-bedded pens in a bespoke house which is draft-free. While there they have access to Novilam lamb milk replacer, which is fed courtesy of an automated feeding machine.”
“The milk is made available on an almost ad lib basis for the first 7 to 8 weeks. After that, the milk supply is gradually reduced. This encourages the kids to eat concentrate and roughage. The kids are weaned at between 10 and 12 weeks of age.”
Linda has used a range of other milk replacers in the past, but has always come back to Novilam.
“The results speak for themselves,” she stressed.
“I am weaning kids at around 18 kilos liveweight. The average across the industry is 16 kilos. What I particularly like about Novilam lamb milk replacer is the condition it puts on the kids. It puts a real shine on their coats as well.”
Novilam is distributed by Eringold Milk Replacers. The company’s Robert and Chris Mollan were recent visitors to the Owenskerry herd.
Novilam is an innovative milk replacer for both lambs and kids. The milk has been developed with a high content of dairy raw materials to increase digestibility. In addition, Novilam contains a range of ingredients to support the intestinal health and the immune system of young animals.”
They were joined by Robert Nelson, from Deering Farm Supplies Rosslea who along with Martin McCaffrey supply a wide range of agricultural supplies throughout Co Fermanagh and further afield. Deering farm supplies provide the Owenskerry farm with the Novilam milk replacer as Robert Nelson commented: “Novilam lamb milk has proven itself over many years on UK and Irish farms and is uniquely suited to the rearing of young kids and lambs.”
For further information contact Chris Mollan from Eringold Milk Replacers on 07739061672