If you can milk a cow, apparently you can milk a goat.
According to Mark Emonson there is not much difference, just everything is to a much smaller scale.
And you also need really good fences, because goats can climb.
‘‘Keeping them in is the problem,’’ Mr Emonson said.
‘‘You could build the best fence in the world and they would still work out a way to go around, over or under.
‘‘They can have access to all the best goat food on the menu and they would still try and end up at the neighbours.’’
Mr Emonson and his wife Jane own the dairy goat business at Girgarre, managed by Renee and Steve Joyce.
The business leases a 48ha former dairy farm.
The Emonsons found their way into dairy goats due to Mr Emonson’s interest in the industry, developed while studying goats as part of his university course.
‘‘I am a dairy consultant by trade and the principles are quite similar, it is just that eight goats eat about as much as one cow.
‘‘Goats have a lot of personality.
‘‘They will either make you laugh or cry and they can be very infuriating to work with at times, but it is a growing market and goats milk is becoming increasingly popular.
‘‘The digestibility of the milk is what appeals to consumers.
‘‘The fat molecules are smaller which make it easier to digest and the milk is also used in the growing beauty market.’’
The herd is milked morning and night in a 28-a-side rapid-exit dairy, with stall gates that were modified from a 16-a-side dairy cow swing-over.
Stall gates became a necessity because the goats would fight and chew each other’s ears in the bail.
‘‘There is a real hierarchy with the goats and we found if we had the wrong goat in the wrong spot then all hell could break loose, so it was much easier to have stall gates and avoid the conflict altogether,’’ Mr Emonson said.
He said while the goats were good at exiting the bail, they were even better at returning to eat the grain.
‘‘There have been a few teething problems’’
Unlike cows, there don’t appear to be too many fertility issues when it comes to breeding and goats usually have a single birth for their first kid and then it is multiples from then on.
Goats are pregnant for five months and have a 60-day dry period similar to a cow.
They have their first kid, dependent on the doe’s size, between 18 months and two years of age.
This year the Emonsons will milk about 300 animals with plans to increase numbers annually.
They currently kid twice a year but have plans to change that to four times a year.
The Australian herd average is 2litres of milk per animal per day over a 305-day lactation.
Mr Emonson is hoping to double that figure through better feeding and herd management.
The Emonsons are one of only four suppliers in northern Victoria who milk goats commercially.
Their milk is picked up twice weekly by NuLac Foods, which has a processing facility at Keysborough.
NuLac manufacture fresh goat and cow’s milk into yoghurts, powders, dairy-free yoghurts and probiotic drinks throughout Australia and internationally.
- Sophie Baldwin