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

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Grant Aid for Goats under TAMS II

The latest tranche of grant aid announced by the Department of Agriculture is commonly known as TAMS II (Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme).  This has already been opened for young farmers – Young Farmers Capital Investment Scheme (YFCIS) – and for dairy farmers under the Dairy Equipment Scheme (DES).  This grant scheme covers the purchase and installation of new milking and milk storage equipment subject to a maximum investment of €80,000.  It also now appears that goats will be eligible for other valuable farm equipment under further TAMS II funding to be made available over the next few months. This would include handling equipment, rollover crates and weighing scales.  The exact details of this new scheme will be announced by the minister in due course so keep an eye on the farming press for its release.  Further details on all on-farm investment schemes are available here.
More details and lots of other goat related information are contained in the latest Teagasc Goat Advisory newsletter which is available for download here.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Busy Times for Bluebell Falls

While working at the National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska last week I came across a very busy Bluebell Falls stand.  I had a great chat with owner Victor O'Sullivan about goat farming (of course!), their range of goats cheese and very attractive new packaging.  These cheeses have already won many awards including gold for their Goats Cheese with Garlic, Honey & Thyme at the Irish Cheese Awards at Bloom
Bluebell Falls is a family run business owned by Victor and his wife Breda near Charleville in Cork.  As you might imagine these award winning cheeses are very popular in restaurants and hotels locally, however their quality has been noticed much farther afield and can be found in such upmarket hostelries as Darwins, O'Connells, The Dylan and Merrion Hotels in Dublin and the likes of Kai and The G Hotel in Galway.  They have also signed up for Origin Green, which is a national food sustainability programme operated by Bord Bia, showing their commitment to producing quality food in an environmentally friendly way.  
This is a shining example of how goats milk can produce a high quality, sustainable and perhaps most importantly for Victor and his family, much sought-after product.  I wish them every success and encourage you to try it - you won't be disappointed!

Friday, 15 August 2014

National Goat Expo Report - Part 3

As part of the Expo there were a number of demonstrations and clinics being carried out each day. FAMACHA (FAffa MAlan CHArt) is a diagnostic tool to help farmers diagnose parasite infection in small ruminants. The tool is a chart that matches eyelid colour to anemia levels, an indicator of parasite infection. Dr. Steve Hart of +Langston University provided training and certification on this as part of the seminar series. Dr. Donald Bliss of Mid America Ag Research, in conjunction with his seminar on parasites, provided a faecal clinic with faecal counts being done on goats present at the show.

One of the seminars I wasn’t able to attend was regarding LGD’s. At first I had no idea what LGD’s were but I discovered they were Livestock Guardian Dogs. These dogs protect the goats from predators and are basically full members of the herd. They are introduced to the goats at just a few weeks of age so that the ‘imprint’ on the animals and the urge to protect is therefore instinctive. Despite their size they tend to be gentle and are often protective of children.
On the final morning Crede Garriott gave two comprehensive ‘Boer Fitting Clinics’ on how to prepare your goats for the show ring. Over the course of the demonstration he outlined the many points to consider during preparation for a show, what judges will be looking for and demonstrated no end of skill in his work.
There were a number of commercial stands present at the Expo. Some were specifically aimed at goat farmers with a wide array of products for practical use. Others were laden with many different products demonstrating the versatility of goats for any size holding.

The full report contains many more details and photos and is available on the Publications section of the Teagasc Goat Page.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

National Goat Expo Report - Part 2


There was a large variety of goat breeds present at the Expo. Some of the breeds are well known here in Ireland such as Saanen, Toggenburg, Alpine and Anglo-Nubian. However others either don’t exist at all in Ireland or are present in only small numbers. Each of the individual breeds had a number of competitions for different classes and ages of animal. There was also a large number of other competitions including dairy (see photo below), meat, fibre, miniature and myotonic. It was also lovely to watch the ‘Pee Wee Showman’ competitions, where even very young children are encouraged to show their animals.

Dairy Breeds

Dairy goats are by far the most common type of goat in Ireland. However some of the breeds at the Expo were much less familiar than the few we know so well.   La Mancha are a very distinctive dairy breed, easily recognized by their very short ears – ‘elf ears’. They are known for high yield and milk butterfat content. Oberhasli are a form of Alpine goat, originally from Switzerland. They are known for their distinctive colouring and excellent temperament, along with high milk production. The Nigerian Dwarf  is a miniature goat breed with West African ancestry. Although short in stature it gives a surprisingly high yield of milk. The milk is also extremely high in butterfat (as much as 10%) and is therefore ideally suited to cheese and soap production.
Meat Goats
In recent years we have become much more accustomed to seeing Boer goats in Ireland.  Their powerful build and dsitinctive marking is easily recognisable. It is originally from South Africa, has a fast growth rate and excellent carcass qualities. This breed had the highest numbers shown at the Expo. The Myotonic goat  or 'Fainting Goat is so called because when panicked the legs of this goat freeze for about 10 seconds, often causing it to fall over. It’s rarity means it can be quite valuable but they were originally bred for meat production.

Other breeds
The Pygmy goat is originally from West Africa, this hardy breed is typically kept as a pet but can be used for milk production. The Miniature Silky is bred for the quality of the coat and its miniature size. It was originally bred from the Tennessee Fainting Goat but other goat breeds have been added such as the Nigerian. The Cashmere is instantly recognisable by their name and any goat that produces cashmere wool is referred to as a cashmere goat. Breed standards vary regionally even in the United States.
The full report contains many more details and photos and is available on the Publications section of the Teagasc Goat Page.