Wednesday 2 January 2019

Teagasc Goat Newsletter Winter 2018

Grants for Goats and Yard Facilities

In case you weren’t aware the Targeted Agricultural Mechanisation Scheme (TAMS) remains open and any farmer can apply for grant aid for a broad range of facilities for their farm.  This grant doesn’t just include buildings and waste storage but the likes of general safety elements which are useful on any farm.  The whole application process is completed through the website and the typical rate of grant is 40%.  Young, trained farmers can avail of a 60% grant.  Some of the items of interest to goat farmers include:

·         Goat housing

·         Waste storage facilities e.g. manure pit

·         Silage pits – both new and resurfacing

·         Goat handling facilities – including weighing scales

·         Rewiring of sheds

·         New yard lights

·         Replacement of hinged/sheeted doors with roller or sliding doors

The next tranche closing date is April 5th, 2019.  Contact your agricultural adviser for further details.
Johnes Disease
Johne’s disease is present at some level in the Irish goat herd.  It is an infectious disease that is caused by a bacteria in the gut of the animal.  It results in inflammation of the gut and a reduction in the absorption of nutrients which causes a progressive wasting of the animal, eventually resulting in an characteristic, highly emaciated appearance.  It typically enters a herd through contact with infected animals and though typically spread within a herd through ingestion of faeces, it can also be passed through colostrum and milk.  There is no treatment for the disease and control is the only option.  Examples of control measures are as follows:
1.     Maintain a closed herd
2.     Identify and cull infected animals
3.     Quaratine
4.     Hygiene
5.     Don’t share colostrum or milk.
More information on Johnes Disease can be found in a technical note available on the Teagasc Goat Page.
Irish Goat Producers Tour 2019 
The Irish Goat Producers Association (IGPA) have organised an excellent tour for July 2019.  The tour will visit a number of locations in Yorkshire and give an excellent overview of goat milk and cheese production in that region.  The total cost for the tour is €265 and it includes the following:
·         Return flights from Dublin to Manchester / Leeds Bradford (or similar)
·         Small personal bag (40x20x25cm)
·         Executive coach for the duration of your tour
·         One night accommodation at the 4 star The Bradford Hotel in Bradford (twin share)
·         Breakfast buffet at your hotel
·         Evening meal at your hotel
·         Farm visits (2 minimum)
·         Entrance ticket to The Great Yorkshire Show
·         Services of a local guide
·         All travel taxes and charges
In order to travel you must be a paid up member of the IGPA.  You can get further details on the trip and a membership form by through contacting the IGPA on their Facebook page or email me and I can send one on. 
Goat Bites
Visit to Barba Goat Farm
The IGPA held an excellent visit to Barba Goat Farm in November.  Unfortunately I was unable to travel but visit was extremely well attended and feedback has been hugely positive.  I understand that the range and quality of the refreshments was very impressive.  Well done to the Marl family on their generous hosting of the event.
Winter Feeding
Ensure that you get your silage tested to assess its feed value.  Many local co-ops provide this service free of charge to their clients so there’s no excuse.  Balance the goats’ diet based on the results to optimize nutrition and maximise milk output and growth rates.
Goat Course
A goat course will be held in the Spring of 2019 (subject to demand).  If you know someone interested or have input on what content might be important please send details to me at the above email address. 
Goat Census
In order to give a true overview of the industry in Ireland, it is vital that everyone returns their goat census form.  The date of the census is Monday 31st December and you must have the form returned by January 31st 2019.  Alternatively you can complete the census online with a little extra time; until February 14th 2019. 
Dairy Sheep and Goat Conference 2019
I was lucky enough to attend this conference last February.  It was superbly run with a broad range of really excellent speakers.  It also allowed the attendees to mix socially which was an excellent networking opportunity.  Details on the upcoming conference are available here
The full Teagasc Goat Newsletter is available in pdf form on the Teagasc website at:

Friday 24 August 2018

Preparation for the Breeding Season

The success of a breeding season can depend hugely on correct preparations.  Starting now should allow sufficient time to have everything in place to optimise reproductive performance.  Some of the important factors to consider are:
The first step in preparing for the breeding season is selecting and removing does are not going to the billy.  Reasons for this could be poor production, disease, repeated health issues or lameness, producing poor kids or personality traits such as bullying.
Select your best goats
Obtaining high quality replacements from your best goats is the priority, so these animals should receive particular attention to ensure they are in top condition prior to breeding.
Condition Score
Condition score has a significant effect on pregnancy rate and litter size.  Go through your goats and segregate any that are thin.  This should be done at least 8 weeks before breeding to allow them to put on sufficient body weight.
If browsing naturally outdoors, goats can regulate their mineral intake and deficiencies are rarely a problem. However for housed stock with a controlled diet it is vital to ensure that breeding animals are receiving adequate levels of minerals to achieve peak reproductive performance and strong, healthy kids.
Check the feet of the breeding does and treat any animals showing signs of lameness. 
All animals should receive a booster shot for clostridial diseases every six months. One prior to the breeding season and another 4-6 weeks before kidding.
A faecal egg count should be carried out and a worm dose administered if required.
All of the above are also important for males.  However it is important to check out the ‘business end’ of the billy.  The testicles produce the sperm and should be large, symmetrical and firm - like a clenched bicep.  The spongy epididymis runs along the testicle and is where sperm is stored.  Any irregularities in either may indicate a problem.

Thursday 2 February 2017

Expand Your Horizons Seminar & Networking Events

Have you ever thought of starting your own business? Food? Tourism? Perhaps retraining for off farm employment? Or simply finding out what supports and advice are available to the rural community?
Teagasc working with the National Rural Network are organising Expand Your Horizons evening seminars which aim to create better awareness of the supports available from rural agencies for rural dwellers.  It will bring staff together from the likes of LEADER, the Local Enterprise Office, Teagasc, NRN, MABS, Educational Training Boards, Citizens Information, Mental Health Ireland and many others nationally. 
The central focus of the evening is to provide information for those who wish to explore new possibilities for improved economic and social development for their own lives and for the betterment of their community.  So come along, have a listen and then have a chat with the agencies and other rural people with similar interests.
These events are taking place in every county and full details are available here.

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Training Will Help Your Business!

Regardless of what food product you have in mind, obtaining proper training on skills, production, legislation and marketing are invaluable in making your business more viable.  A quick look around shows that there's far more help available thank one might think!
As mentioned previously on this blog Teagasc has an upcoming course for any budding food entrepreneurs.  It is a one-day Innovation/New Product Development Workshop.  This course covers all aspects of the new product development process and is relevant to anyone considering establishing a new food business.  The workshop costs €200 and full details and booking can be found here.  Teagasc provides many other training courses on all aspects of food production (most are industry accredited).  Full details are available here.

The National Organic Training Skillnet (NOTS) facilitates and runs a wide range of courses from a few hours right up to high level qualifications.  A very valuable upcoming course is a 3-day cheese making course in conjunction with the multi-award winning Helen Finnegan of Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheese.  This is a very comprehensive course and covers everything from the milk stage right through to packaging and presentation.  This runs on the 18th, 19th and 25th of November 2016 so prompt action is required if you're interested.  Details of this and all other courses provided by NOTS are available here.  Helen also runs shorter courses as an introduction to cheese making.  You can find out further details here.
Finally, actually coming face to face with the consumer and selling your product (along with image, ethos etc.) is a big challenge and a new experience for most.  Bord Bia recently launched a number of workshops providing skills training for selling at farmers markets.  These will be a great learning experience and excellent opportunity to meet other direct-selling producers.  These courses are very reasonably priced but places are limited so book soon to avoid disappointment.  Full details are available here.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Teagasc National Goat Conference Presentations

Following the launch of the new Teagasc website I have been able to publish the presentations from the National Goat Conference.  The conference was an overwhelming success and was totally booked out almost a week before the event.  There were attendees from all over the island of Ireland, the UK, continental Europe and beyond and it strongly demonstrated the commitment of the goat farming fraternity to the sector.
The morning session focussed on animal health and kid rearing and opened with one of the world's leading experts in goat health - John Matthews of the Goat Veterinary Society - giving a hugely educational presentation on health and diseases.  This was followed by Gert Van Trierum of Denkavit in the Netherlands providing substantial detail and research on kid rearing. The session was closed by Theo de Waal of UCD who presented the results of a study into goat parasites in Ireland. 
The second session was allotted entirely to Anne-Riet Boerenkamp of Insogoat in the Netherlands.  Insogoat are a goat-specific research, development and consultancy organisation and the presentation covered primarily nutrition and husbandry.
The final conference session involved industry participants, and the products that are on the market. Noel Farrell of Golden Goat Farm provided a farmers’ perspective, while Elizabeth Bradley from Carlow Farmhouse Cheese discussed Irish artisan cheese production. Larry Maguire from the Galway Goat Farm outlined his experience and the challenges faced when setting up a small cheese business. Roger Sutton from Delamere Dairies in the UK presented on the market for Goat’s milk products.
The presentations are available on the Teagasc Goat page.  You can find more details on Noel, Elizabeth and Larry at the links provided above.
Many thanks to both Glenisk and Makeway Ltd who provided sponsorship that facilitated bringing in internationally renowned authorities on goats.
Finally the huge success of the conference would not have been possible without the help and support of my Teagasc colleagues - particularly Fintan Phelan, Helen McNulty, Alison Maloney and Eric Donald. 

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Innovation / New Product Development Workshop

Following on from the very successful Teagasc Options programme, an initiative has been created to provide in-depth information on a wide range of rural diversification topics.  Part of this will be to support the development of innovative new food products and to facilitate this two workshops have been announced with the venues and dates as follows:

25th October             Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co Cork

25th November         Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown, Dublin 15

These courses will cover all aspects of the new product development process and are relevant to anyone considering establishing a new food business.  Each workshop costs €200 and full details can be found on the brochure which is available for download here.

Thursday 31 March 2016

Teagasc National Goat Conference

The Teagasc National Goat Conference will take place on Wednesday April 20th in the Killeshin Hotel, Portlaoise.  This is the first of its kind since 2007 and is a rare and unrivalled opportunity to attend a dedicated Irish goat conference with an impressive array of speakers from Ireland, the UK and the Netherlands covering topics such as goat health and nutrition, kid rearing and the goat industry both in Ireland and abroad.
The start time is 10.30am and the line up is as follows:
First session (Health):
John Matthews (Goat Veterinary Society) - Goat Health & Diseases;
Gert van Trierum (Denkamilk) - Kid Rearing & Health;
Theo de Waal (UCD) - Parasites of Irish Goats & Survey Results. 
Second session (Nutrition & Husbandry):
Anne-Riet Boerenkamp (InsoGoat) - Goat Nutrition & Husbandry.
Third session (Industry & Products):
Roger Sutton (Delamere Dairies) - One of the two major UK goat milk processors;
Elizabeth Bradley (Carlow Farmhouse Cheese) - Artisan Cheese Production in Ireland;
Larry Maguire (Galway Goat Farm) - Setting Up a Small Cheese Business: Experiences & Challenges. 
The course must be prebooked and the fee for the day is €35 which includes dinner and tea or coffee.  Full details and booking is available here.

Friday 11 March 2016

Feeding Goats in Late Pregnancy

The latter stages of pregnancy are often considered the non-productive part of the milk production system. However, correct goat nutrition in the last few weeks of pregnancy is vitally important to ensure doe and kid health and maintain performance.

Extra Nutrition is required to; 
  • support foetal growth,
  • support mammary tissue development,
  • prevent pregnancy toxaemia (ketosis) and milk fever,
  • ensure the birth of strong, healthy, kids of moderate birth weight.

The full technical note is available for download here and covers:
  • Body Condition Score;
  • Energy;
  • Protein;
  • Forage;
  • Concentrates.

Friday 22 January 2016

Opportunity to Work on a Goat Farm with Cheese Production

I've just become aware of an excellent opportunity for an experienced goat stockperson.  The role is that of herd manager and is located in the south of Ireland on a commercial farm with a successful cheese enterprise.  For those who have first-hand knowledge of goat farming it will allow a unique insight into turning a basic farm output into an attractive finished product.  Accommodation is also available for a suitable candidate.  For information contact

Monday 11 January 2016

Don't Forget To Return Your Goat Census Form!

As a registered sheep or goat keeper, you should have received a census form from the Department of Agriculture in early December.  The census date for 2015 was Sunday December 13th so it is the number of animals present on your holding on that date that should be included on the form.  Completing the return is a legal obligation however it has many practical uses including facilitating the draw-down of many payments including the Area of Natural Constraints (old Disadvantaged Scheme), AEOS, GLAS and Organics. 
If you examine the census returns in recent years you will find a very dramatic upturn in the number of goats and goat farmers in Ireland.  This can largely be explained by the introduction of a combined form for both sheep and goats in 2013.  This identified many registered sheep keepers who were also keeping small numbers of goats  but were not registered goat keepers.  However, what it does not explain is the very substantial increase in larger herds.  In 2012 (before the combined form) there were a total of 31 herds of over 50 goats containing a total of 6,056 animals.  The relevant comparative figures for 2014 are 70 herds containing 10,771 animals.  This increase has to be indicative of the rapidly rising interest in goats and their products.
Furthermore, the recent increase in recorded goat figures show that goats are far more numerous than previously estimated.  It is therefore hugely important that more goat-specific guidelines and legislation are created, particularly with regard to animal health and movement.  As an expanding sector they may more often included in devising future schemes and programmes.  In addition, many goat farms (including those with far less than 50 goats) add value to their products which has substantial impact on farm income and the local economy.
I'm certain there are even more goats out there so make sure you complete your form (further details available here) or submit online through by 29th January and show how important goats are to agriculture in Ireland.

Monday 4 January 2016

UCC Cheese Science & Technology Course 2016

A short course on the science of cheese production will take place in University College Cork on February 3rd - 5th 2016.  This is an intensive 3-day course and will cover introductory to advanced topics concerning all areas of manufacturing and ripening in addition to covering yield efficiency, processed cheese, cheese as an ingredient, and the acceleration and control of ripening.  The course is particularly aimed at cheese manufacturers and other related industry personnel rather than introductory farmhouse cheese making.

Further details are available here.

Friday 20 November 2015

Major Awards for Dairymaster Goat Rotary Parlour

Anyone that works with goats will certainly be aware of the labour involved in running a milking herd.  As goat numbers increase, labour can become a limiting factor on expansion and productivity and adding a labour unit to the operation can significantly increase production costs.  Therefore profitability can be heavily influenced by utilising facilities and technology that maximise efficiency.
To the very forefront of this technology is the new Dairymaster Swiftflo Goat Rotary parlour.  The parlour features a robotic carriage where a single operator can milk up to 1,300 goats per hour with a milking unit attached every 2.5 seconds.  This is possible due to its unique design where the cluster is presented out of the rotary floor directly below the goat’s teats.  This allows the operator to work easily and comfortably.  Rapid attachment also helps to minimise stress on the animals, which can have a significant negative effect on milk yield.  Teat cups are removed automatically when the goat has finished milking. The cluster can then be automatically sanitised to reduce risks of cross contamination and stored hygienically under the rotary platform. Automatic teat spraying also is an option.  Dairymaster also state that the system’s shorter milking tubes are designed to reduce maintenance costs and improve milking characteristics.
Recognition for Dairymaster’s innovation and excellence has come in the form of highly prestigious honours – nationally from the Engineers Ireland Excellence Awards and internationally with a Eurotier Gold Medal.  “Innovation in milking is key to Dairymaster and winning this prestigious award for our highly efficient rotary is an honour. Everything we do is with a focus on how we can make dairy farming more profitable, enjoyable and sustainable and this award highlights that Dairymaster has a lot to offer progressive farmers” said Dr Edmond Harty, CEO, Dairymaster.

It’s wonderful that a company from a small rural village in County Kerry is pioneering the development of goat milking technology internationally.  I wish them the very best of success in the future and look forward to seeing an example of this parlour in the near future.

Friday 13 November 2015

A YouTube tour of Irish Goat Farms

I get lots of enquiries about goat farming in Ireland and answer them to the best of my ability.  However it’s always better to be able to see how things work on the ground and with the power of modern technology it’s not always necessary to spend time and money travelling around the country.
There are lots of videos about Irish Goats and related products available on YouTube.  Some of these are obviously very professionally done and some are more home-made.  However, they are all valuable in allowing the viewer to learn a little more about goat farming in Ireland.  In this post I’m going to highlight some of these videos to give you an insight into Irish goats.
This is a beautifully made video by Glenisk about one of their suppliers  - the Boons family in North Tipperary.

Check out Charlie Cole of Broughgammon farm in this light-hearted video by Whitney Oliver highlighting his great work and excellent products .
A relatively recent and very successful addition to the goat industry in Ireland is Aran Island Goats Cheese.  Learn more about how it came about and it’s beautiful location in this video from TG4.

St. Tola is one of the most well-known goats cheese in Ireland.  Both their goats and cheese making process are featured in this RTE video featuring Clodagh McKenna.
Another well-known cheese in Ireland is Ardsallagh from County Cork.  Jane Murphy demonstrates how she makes their cheese in this video from A Taste of Ireland.
Michael Finegan produces a blue cheese from his goats near Slane in the Boyne valley, hence the name – Boyne Valley Blue.  He introduces us to his goats in this video made as part of the Boyne Valley Food Series.
Ed Harper is a highly renowned goat farmer producing a range of goods from his goats on the beautiful Cape Clear Island off the coast of Cork.  Take a short virtual tour of his farm courtesy of Lauren Hardy.
There may be lots of other videos available featuring Irish goat farms so please send them on and I’ll be more than glad to share them!

Thursday 29 October 2015

Fertiliser for Growth in a Grassland System

I'm sure you know that Ireland has a massive ability to grow grass, at least a third higher than the European average.  In fact over 80% of the agricultural area is dedicated to grassland, hence the name 'The Emerald Isle'.  But did you know that most soils (up to 90%!) are below optimum fertility for grass production?  Addressing this issue is central to maximising grass production as outlined at the recent Teagasc Soil Fertility Conference in Clonmel. 
Mark Plunkett of Teagasc highlighted a number of key messages from the day:
1.      “65 to 70% of dairy and drystock grassland soils respectively are below the optimum soil pH 6.3 for optimum grass production”;
2.      "Soil testing is the starting point for good fertiliser planning an essential requirement to maximise grass production annually”;
3.      “Maintaining soil pH close to the optimum 6.3 for grassland mineral soils will ensure soil the availability of soil P for plant growth and development”;
4.      "Sulphur containing fertilisers should be applied routinely to all grass silage swards in spring to prevent yield losses worth up to €100/ha/cut”;
5.      “Urea is a less expensive and a viable N source for grassland.  It produced similar yields to CAN when applied throughout the year, particularly at low rates.  Farmers could consider having urea on hand throughout the growing season and applying shortly before rainfall to minimise ammonia loss risk”;
6.      "The slurry hydrometer is an effective tool to measure the nutrient content of liquid manures and to determine its fertiliser value”;
7.      "Grass-clover swards increased grass dry matter production levels by 2.9t/ha compared with grass only, regardless of N fertiliser application rate”;
8.      “On average 1,000 gallons of pig slurry is equal to one 50kg  bag of 19-7-20 (N-P-K)”;
9.      “There is significant nutrient lock up especially on soils with high clay contents and low soil pH levels. Correcting soil pH based on lime advice as per the test soil report will increase the availability of soil P”.
A large number of speakers addressed a wide variety of topics relating to soil fertility research and practical application.  The full conference proceeding is available here.

Friday 23 October 2015

2015 British Goat Society Autumn Conference

As part of their 50th anniversary celebrations the Northern Ireland Goat Club host the autumn conference of the British Goat Society tomorrow Saturday October 24th .  The line up looks absolutely superb with renowned speakers on Boer goats, dairy production, kid rearing and goat health.  Refreshments and a buffet meal are included in the fee but you'd want to hurry as prebooking is essential through Terry Hanna (  Full details are available here.
I'm sure the conference will be very well attended with goat enthusiasts from all over Ireland and the UK and I'd like to congratulate the Northern Ireland Goat Club on their significant anniversary.
#goats #agriculture #boer #NorthernIreland