Holy Goat Dynasty

We’ve just had another successful kidding. Kidding is always a stressful time, but this season was so much easier for us all, thanks to our repurposed shed and refined management systems.

The new shed has a concrete floor – its thick layer of straw bedding can be quickly and easily cleaned out and replaced. Twelve separate pens means everyone gets individual attention and space. A big whiteboard lets us keep a daily track of health issues for each goat and the kidding herd more generally. One of the biggest pluses is that the shed is literally at the centre of the farm. We can easily move does and kids and keep a regular eye on them at this critical time.

But before that comes the kidding. Dairyfarming by its nature is an intensive farming activity, but we try to minimise interventions and provide the herd with what nature intended (given that goats have been domesticated for some 10,000 years, it’s more about working with their hormones, physiology and innate behaviour in the context of our farm).  Our does kid out in the paddock. They choose their own location; a sheltering tree or a preferred patch in the lee of a hill. We leave them to it until they’ve cleaned up their young and eaten the afterbirth. After that we bring doe and kid/s into the shed.

By having a dedicated nursery that’s set up just for them, the kids stay warm, well and connected to their mothers. The kids develop greater immunity and their mothers benefit too. There’s more time with their offspring to bond. Time for us to bond with them too, which is crucial to herd management. Spending time with the goats now means easier, calmer stock management when we need to trim feet or carry out treatments, at milking and when moving the herd. We also get to know the goats as individuals.

See this earlier post about the importance of knowing your goat.

Our first-time mothers go on the line for the morning milking – another new experience – and then the kids have them for the rest of the day. Having the time with their mothers not only benefits the kids. As the kids constantly drink, butt and suckle, any hard spots in the udder are worked out and there’s less chance of secondary problems like milk fever or mastitis. Milk flow and oxytocin release are also triggered by the attention on the udder, so the kids soon put on condition. The kids manage the health of their first-time mothers just as much as the mothers do their kids. We’re setting up conditions for both kids and does to thrive.

The Holy Goat lineage is now well into it’s fifth generation. Vision was one of our original goats and you can see her genes carried on through into this latest crop of kids. Her line is the strong Nordic one: Vision begat Lilith, who begat Hilde, who begat Erda, who begat Freya, who begat Olga – the mother of Nordic and Viking. Winona and Blanchett are the offspring of Hath and Anne, whose mother was Anne Hathaway. Likewise our Chinese line: fifth generation Tibet is by China, who’s mother was Ming, and hers Dynasty. It really is a royal lineage.

You can read more about our lineages and why we name our goats in this earlier post

 

We couldn’t manage kidding without the help of our interns Eloise, Lydia and Caitlin. Each kidding we have an intern (or two) who’s sole focus is the nursery. This season it’s Eloise, a 19 year old French Agricultural Engineering student. Eloise is the latest in a line of exceptional interns that have come to the farm from France. The interns, alongside our permanent staff, ensure the mothers and kids get all the care they need and a good start in life.

The new kids always provide us with a sense of joy. Not just because there is new (and let’s face it, very gorgeous) life on the farm, but the fact that this cohort of kids will be the next in line – and on the milking line – to continue on the dynasty and legacy that is Holy Goat.

 

August 2017 progeny at Holy Goat; warm and snug in their new kidding shed and carrying on the genes of more than five generations of holy goats.

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Up on the new line

It’s been 15 months since we upgraded our dairy and it’s made a big difference for everyone. We have gone from 12 goats up on the line and eight milking cups, to 12 cups with 24 goats up. More space for everyone and a better feeding system – more ergonomic and efficient for humans, less stress and standing about for the goats.

Watch our new dairy in action.

or go to the link here.

Presently we are milking 92 goats, seven are our oldest does – the blue collars – who are nine years old. Even with these ‘lower producers’ the milking herd is giving us around 140 litres a day. Not bad, especially when you consider that most of our herd is “milked through” and some goats have only ever had one kidding to date. We are selective with our breeding, so after their first kidding, most of the does are four years old before they have their next kid. This time allows us to keep a longer record of performance and traits and means we can select our goats to best breed from. This was something we observed in WA when we worked there. We don’t want to grow our herd, well, we don’t want to grow the numbers of goats in our herd over time, but we do want to grow the milk quality and quantity and herd health and resilience. We can afford to be selective and take the time for it.

But back to the new, improved dairy. It’s wider, for a start (our goats are large framed compared to the norm; they don’t kid until they are two years old) so more space for them, and for us as we feed out with our nifty trolley (sure beats the old wheelbarrow and scoop!). The milking cups slip off automatically and we can adjust their pressure – both of these factors mean less pressure on the udder, literally.  Most dairies work at a pressure of 51kpa. We try for 36kpa. We want to be gentle on the udder sphincter  and not cause damage and untoward, unavoidable problems. The goats milk just as well.

Our higher viewing platform means we can see what they are eating and whatever else is happening. It’s a good height for the milker to operate at. The swing door at the end of the line operates smoothly; no wire hook or mesh or make-do setup there either. We have a you-beaut flushing system, swirling down the line in a circulating wave. We can see what each goat, and the line, is producing on the digital display.

So, how do you keep a dairy herd milking when you are putting in a new dairy? Ask your very good neighbour. Mark Collison helped us enormously. We kept milking on our old dairy – displaced and sidelined, very cramped – whilst he installed the new. It took a week, ‘only’ 14 milkings to install. Mark did a fantastic job.

Now the goats aren’t standing about in the milking shed for three hours from go to whoa. Cups on and off is about 90 minutes. We still get the same opportunity to observe what’s happening with the herd and individuals, and the goats get the same time to eat. Our efficiencies have improved enormously.

Kidding starts in one month, the new stand will be greatly appreciated then.

Posted in Feeding/Feed, Holy Goat News, Holy Goat News, IN the Dairy, spring | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A four-eyed focus on Obsalim

We’ve written about Bruno Giboudeau’s, visit and our training and learning with Obsalim in an earlier post and page.

Since July, our two interns Maider Haicaguerre, from France, and Eva Zanettini, from Italy, have been undertaking a focussed project using Obsalim with the dairy herd. Four eyes are better than two, and Maider and Eva have been observing the herd everyday, carrying out milk tests and using the Obsalim cards every week, and discussing and questioning everything they see all the time.

In just three months they have been able to pick up issues in the herd and address them though nutrition and management.

Maider and Eva’s work has helped all of us at Holy Goat become more attentive to the herd and the conditions on the farm as they impact upon the herd; we have all participated in the discussions around Obsalim and we have also seen a change in herd health, for the better.

Maider:
I am doing the internship at Holy Goat as part of my University training in France, where I must study a question as part of my stay. Bruno arrived on the farm to run the Obsalim workshop on the same day that I arrived, so it was a good fit and I could assist with this project. With our first observation we noticed issues, but without being very sure. After about a month we became very confident and the milk tests confirmed what we were seeing.

Eva:
We already observe the animals on the farm closely, but not so much as a herd and how they behave together as a herd. This is the first sign to look at; to recognise differences and changes in the herd over time. Having others who know the animals from before is also a plus. For example Tango, who wears a blue collar, is 8yo and one day we noticed her body and neck was covered in small red lumps. The other workers Tessa said she was like that 8 years ago, which helped give a history for us.

Maider and Eva’s main finding from their observations using Obsalim was that PhG area (see the earlier blog and page) was reactive – a sign that the rumen pH was dropping too quickly and causing rumen instability.

They introduced three main changes to the herd to balance the gut:

Maider:
By adding bicarbonate of soda to the whey, we were able to increase the pH of the whey to neutral (pH7). Because of the lacto-ferment process, whey pH is 4.4, quite acid, and when we give that to the goats it causes a big dip in their rumen pH, leading to rumen instability. Bicarb is quite alkaline, so it will buffer the whey and therefore the rumen pH.

Eva:
The other change has been to  the feeding and milking schedule so that the goats are able to ruminate more naturally. Before, we would milk at 6am – the herd would arrive on the line and be fed concentrate on an empty stomach. Now we milk at 7am. We feed them hay at 6am before they come on to the line. They feel fuller, have more fibre in the gut and the rumen can manage the concentrates much better and so there is better rumen stability.

Before, our afternoon milking was at 2pm. The peak time for rumination is between 2 and 4pm, so we don’t want the herd to be eating when they would naturally be digesting. Now we milk around 3 -3.30pm. Maider and Eva bring the herd up from the paddock at 2pm so they can ruminate, not eat.

The third change was to reduce the level of concentrate fed to the herd, in response to the seasonal conditions, feed type and availability in the paddock. They have found that the goats are producing the same amount of milk, even with lesser concentrates, and the herd is in very good condition. The PhG symptoms have disappeared in the main part of the herd. all but a couple of the older goats.

Maider and Eva both agree that Obsalim does take a lot of time, and that implementing changes to adapt to the animal’s schedule (and its rumen) can mean that it is harder for the humans – it does ‘stretch the day’.

Maider:
The most important thing for the farmer to see is a healthy herd and so the time spent is worth it. Because we are interns we work and live here, it is our passion and we are happy to spend the time. For employers it may be harder because time is limited and there are many jobs to do.

Both women say that working together was much more effective because they were able to share what they had each seen during the day and also to question other staff. Obsalim became a broader conversation – and observation – for the whole farm. Plus four eyes are always better than two!

Eva:
We need to adapt to the goats and respect the cycle of the animal. But you are not just working with the goat, you are also working with millions of microorganism animals in the gut; it is the symbiosis of the goat and the rumen flora. Obsalim gave us each a pair of glasses and helped us how to read the body of the goat.

We will be sorry to say goodbye to Maider as she returns to France to finish her University studies. Maider hopes to work on other farms and then maybe come back to Holy Goat one day but for the time she will being continue at University and on her family sheep dairy.for another stint.

Eva has just headed south, to work at Bruny Island Cheese after she rides a bicycle along Tasmania’s cost to work at Bruny, where she will look after a smaller herd, 35 goats, and make cheese. She wishes also to return to Holy Goat.

Both interns have valued their time at the farm and say the Holy Goat environment is a very special place, full of ideas and great produce. In turn we have valued their energy, enthusiasm and dedicated hard work, not just in Obsalim, but in the life of the farm.

Interns Maider and Eva, from France and Italy, have provided important input to the farm, not just by their presence and work, but by taking on the Obsalim project over three months at Holy Goat. And there's the new dairy set-up; good for goats and humans alike.

Interns Maider and Eva, from France and Italy, have provided important input to the farm, not just by their presence and work, but by taking on the Obsalim project over three months at Holy Goat. 

Posted in Feeding/Feed, Holy Goat News, Holy Goat News, IN the Dairy, In the Paddock, spring | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Delicious! Holy Goat wins again

The 2016 delicious. Produce Awards were held this week at the Pier One Sydney Harbour Hotel. We couldn’t make it to the affair, attended each year by the who’s who of small, sustainable production, and those who support, sell and cook with their produce.

Sally Gosper and the team from our Sydney-based distributor, Simon Johnson attended on our behalf and were just as thrilled as we were to pick up two ‘gongs’ – one for our Brigids Well cheese and another for our farm, awarded “Producer of the Year”.

We are really proud and honoured that our cheese, our goats, and our farming systems are continuing to be recognised and lauded by the industry. We are also proud to represent small, sustainable and biodiverse producers that keep focused on their farms and production. We don’t believe the statement you need to work on your business not in it! Farming is a vocation. The daily presence of us with our team, goats and cheese room means we grow, change, develop and move with the needs of the goats, and the cheese.

Sixteen awards were presented, including three new awards: In the Bottle, celebrating Australia’s artisan drink makers; Outstanding Design, recognising the artists and designers whose products enhance our cooking and dining experience; and Outstanding Region – Readers’ Choice award. delicious.

Nominations for the 2016 delicious. Produce Awards were, for the first time, opened exclusively to industry experts, and this year we received more new and exciting entries than ever before. Innovation was a big factor that set good produce apart from exceptional produce. I would like to congratulate all of our winners and gold medallists and make special mention of Melbourne producers Carla and Ann-Marie, who show no sign of slowing down and whose Holy Goat Cheese is the absolute pinnacle of Australian produce.”

Kerrie McCallum, Editor of delicious.

The produce awards have been going for 11 years and we have been nominated in a fair few of them. Nominations are made by experts in the food industry (it’s a bit like the produce equivalent of the Academy Awards!) so we feel chuffed that leaders in the food industry continue to acknowledge our cheeses, and our cheese production.   The national judging panel this year was Matt Moran, Andew McConnell, Peter Gilmore, Alla Wolf-Tasker, Maggie Beer, Guillaume Brahimi, Christine Manfield and Shannon Bennett.

“I was once again lucky enough to be a part of the National Judging Panel for the delicious. Produce Awards. Every year I am so excited by the quality of produce. This year I tasted some of the best seafood, organic vegies and cheese I have ever tasted. As a chef, it is a really exciting time for the Australian food industry and so much of that comes down to the quality and accessibility of our produce.”

Matt Moran, host of the Awards

Sally Gosper and the Simon Johnson team with Holy a Goat producer of the Year Award. The fabulous team at Holy Goat are very honoured to receive this award.

Sally Gosper and the Simon Johnson team with Holy a Goat producer of the Year Award. The fabulous team at Holy Goat are very honoured to receive this award.

The full list of winners and gold medallists appears in the October issue of delicious. and on delicious.com.au.

And on the topic of small, sustainable production, you might like watching Ann-Marie talk about why farmers markets are so important to Holy Goat Cheese.

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Producing, Employing, Sustaining, Conserving … and it’s a Farm

We were proud to host a recent farm field day at Sutton Grange and on our property last month.

The focus was on biodiversity and production, and how it is possible to manage the land for the benefit of both of these elements; to sustain the environment, farmers, and communities.

We were also thrilled that Connecting Country and the North Central Catchment Management Authority worked together and with us and several other local farms to create the day, which saw around 70 attentive and engaged participants listen, walk, question and talk about what it means to be a productive, diverse and biodiverse, farming enterprise. All this on a very cold and wet, very wintery (but very welcome) central Victorian day.

Along with Katie from Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens, Mandy (Guildford Winery), John (JCB Honey), Ben (Farm Forest Growers of Victoria), Sam (Sidonia Road Organics) and Clare (Pig in a Box), we talked about the road thus travelled; what it means to be a farmer in the current climate, how we have diversified and value added, and what it takes to be sustainable on an economic, environmental and also a social level.

A lot in a day, and that’s not even mentioning the farm walks!

Carla and Ann-Marie:

“The farm field day was an important milestone for us, the connection and importance of our farming enterprise and the preservation and care of the natural world together with Connecting Country and the North Central Catchment Management Authority.

This was an opportunity to highlight some of the challenges we face in our farming life, erosion, water and weed management and some of the work we do to mitigate these issues. We have great respect for the natural aspects of this land and are humbled to be the custodians here for a short while.

Other producers highlighted the resilience required to farm, how to imagine outside the square and overcome some extreme situations. We feel lucky to be part of this farming community.”

Krista Patterson-Majoor:

“Carla and Ann-Marie have used all the tools available to the nature conscious farmer – protecting remnant vegetation with a Trust For Nature covenant, fencing-off waterways, native pasture management, and biodiverse shelterbelts. We thank Carla and Ann-Marie for their generosity in sharing it with all of us”.

Mandy Coulson:

“A collaborative partnership between Connecting Country and the North Central CMA saw participants share and learn from a host of local sustainable, biodiverse and viable producers. Coupled with the official launch of the soil health guide for north central Victoria, participants embraced the wealth of ideas and inspiration, with many keen for more like minded days”.

Our farm walks aimed to show participants the issues we have been working on and thinking about since we took up the land in 1999. This includes maintaining and promoting our native grasses through pasture cropping, dealing with gully erosion, spiny rush removal using scalping and revegetation with suitable species, understorey replenishment with long-lost species such as Silver Banksia and Tree Violet, and looking after our land during drought using containment areas. Many, if not all, of these topics you will read about on earlier blog posts.

You can read a report about the day from the CMA’s perspective here. And from Connecting Country here.

Thanks to both of those organisations, plus presenters Gerry Gill, Tanya Loos and Ian Higgins, Krista Patterson-Majoor (and for the photos, despite the wet) and Mandy Coulson who shared their knowledge about the cultural, indigenous and ecological aspects on our farm.

We hope that participants went home as energised and inspired as were were by the conversations and connections. We also hope this is the start of more discussions about the Nature of farming.

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Finally, a winter for growth

We have been persevering with our pasture cropping for some years now. Knowing the theoretical returns, only ever seeing some evidence of it. Finally, here’s a winter approaching the average and we’re seeing great results.

Our farm has still many vestiges of native grasses. Broad swathes, including wallaby, kangaroo, spear and microlaena. Long-lived perennials, they are most active during the summer and into autumn, when feed is most needed. A living haystack, in the paddock. Even during the harsh times, given a sprinkle of summer rain, or a sudden thunderstorm, they’ll respond quickly. They are well adapted to the vagaries of our local climate.

But, in between times, especially in late winter and into spring, we still need ongoing feed for the dairy herd, without having to rely too heavily on the traditional haystack.

We’re now discovering a way of having both. Pasture cropping uses annual crops (eg cereals, chicory, plantain, clover, etc) and still retains – and maintains – the perennial native feed. It’s a win-win because the native grasses contain important fibres, minerals and nutrients well suited to the goat herd. And it seems the pasture cropping – mainly oats this year, tries to outcompete the capeweed which has been an issue on the farm ever since we have been here.

Is this the best of both worlds?

We have been guided by Colin Seis in our endeavours to protect, conserve and grow the native grasses, yet still operate a farming system that requires annual pastures as a crucial part of it.

As Colin says:

‘Multi-species pasture’ cropping is ‘pasture cropping’ or sowing crops into perennial pasture/grassland, but instead of one species such as oats or wheat, multi-species pasture cropping uses two and up to ten species of annual crop as a mixture that is zero tilled into established perennial pasture/grassland …. (it) uses a group of plant species that produce good quality forage, have different root systems, includes legume species, flowering plants and species that will add organic matter … and feed a diverse range of  soil micro-organisms which further enhances soil health.”

It’s about cultivating a many-culture, not a mono-culture; plants with differing root profiles and growth characteristics and nutrient needs will be far more beneficial than a single crop, for reasons that include pest and disease tolerance, nutrient use and physical growth characteristics. All the while not outcompeting the native species that exist.

We are trying to create an ecosystem in the paddock that can be resilient in the face of weather, climate, biology and management interventions. (Just as we are trying to create a resilient ecosystem in our ruminants; see our last post!)

Each plant brings it’s own qualities; some bring nutrients, others are allopathic (they suppress the growth of other plants through root exudates), or simply outcompete less desired plants (the capeweed is a case in point). We can also try to manage carbon and nitrogen ratios and therefore enhance soil microbial activity with the plants we employ.

Our pasture crop sown April 2016: 1 tonne Saia oats, 25kg chickory. Sown with an air seeder with 1.2 tonne guano. All this done over 42 hectares (104 acres) and dry sown. But then it rained!

Coming to the farm day on August 19th? It’s booked out, but if you are attending, you’ll have a chance to see our pasture cropping in practice.

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More than gut instinct

We have been managing our farm at Sutton Grange for over 17 years now. Before that we’d spent many years developing our apprenticeships with dairy goats, both in Australia and overseas. We are still learning.

It’s very exciting to see things anew and to see new things, even after this stint. The recent visit from Dr Bruno Giboudeau is a case in point. He’s a French vet who has spent 20 years observing farm animals, dairy in particular, with the sole focus on the fact that they are ruminants. Simply put, ruminants have rumens. Rumens rule the animal and they also have specific needs. Put even more simply, if the rumen is out of whack, then the animal, and most likely the whole herd, will be too.

Bruno approaches things from a herd perspective. We know our animals individually (for example, see this earlier post). But it is another thing to watch the herd, as a whole organism, and try to work out what is going on. Goats are herd animals. And it’s another language. Like learning French, or Spanish, or Cantonese, or Goat, when you’ve never even been there.

Hence Obsalim and Bruno’s visit. He ran two workshops last month, one at our farm and another in northern NSW. In France, many small cheesemakers, organic and biodynamic farmers, use it. We had 27 farmers visit from all over Australia – sheep, cow and goat focused. We all learnt to look at our animals in a different way.

Thanks to Alison Lansley for the photos of our local workshop and her great support. You will get a sense of the level of attention, from both people and goats in these images.

It’s all about the ruminant. Most importantly, we must give them time to ruminate (it’s what they’re made for) whether that fits our farm schedule or not. In fact the farm should revolve around the goat’s (or cow’s, or sheep’s) needs, not ours. And if not, we need to be ever aware and observant of our intervention, and make compensation, especially where food is concerned.

For ruminants, rumination (cudding) is like a second feed. The first feed is when they ingest it. The second is when they ruminate and the bulk of their saliva (alkaline) goes into buffering the rumen (acid) to allow nutrients to be extracted and absorbed, thanks to the microbes that live in their guts. The rumen is where things are digested properly, nutrients extracted, then milk (and cheese) eventually made. It takes time. We need to allow our animals to take the time for it to be made. To keep the bacteria happy. There’s a bit of a cycle in goats and sheep and cows (and humans, though we don’t have that many stomachs) during the day and night. We need to be aware and accommodate this.

Nutritional – and then health – problems can arise from not paying heed to the rumen.

Goats give you so many signals that all is not right (or is right) with their rumen function. We ‘just’ need to pay attention. All are rewarded if we do. There’s a bit more info on the Obsalim theory and process here (link to more detailed page on our website) and far more, if you wish to delve deeper.

Our learnings? Leave our goats quiet at rumination time (9-11am and 2-4pm); give them hay first thing at 6am (before any concentrates) and also rougher hay; watch our goats as a herd, as well as unique individuals; and watch our goats with a more directed focus, through the Obsalim cards; be consistent about our herd’s feeding patterns and content. And, well, there’s lots more, but that’s a start.

Your herd may be different. Want to know more about Obsalim? Find out here.

Obsalim cards - workshop and info at Holy Goat Farm Sutton Grange July 2016. An example for the holy goat herd ... how to learn the language

Obsalim cards – workshop and info at Holy Goat Farm Sutton Grange July 2016.
How to learn the goat’s language

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Have a happy, healthy festive season (with cheese on top)

Well 2015 has been another year of growth and change for Holy Goat. It’s been a year where the seasons have certainly teased and tried us, where we’ve all continued to learn and share skills and knowledge, both on the farm and in the cheese room, and where the goats have thrived – despite those seasons – to provide us with exceptional milk. As a result, our farm has continued to develop an enthusastic following of cheeselovers across SE Australia, and beyond.

For us, Christmas Day (and the other holidays) will still mean morning and evening milking (just like Sunday arvos). But we will take some time out to reflect and celebrate the festive season, and the year that was, before we set sail into 2016.

We’re already excited about the year ahead, especially the possibilities opening up for specialist, artisan cheesemakers like us, right around the country.

We held our Holy Goat christmas celebration at the Guildford Stables (behind the General Store and and actually a wine bar) last week. It was fabulous to be able to have almost everyone around the table. This is a rare event because our farm business has many aspects – and people – involved; from chaff cutting to cheese wrapping and from farmers’ market selling to bookwork and blogging.

We value each and everyone in our team, and the unique qualities they bring to our business. The christmas celebration isn’t just about relaxing and sharing good food and company, it also allows us to publicly and specifically acknowledge our people. And share Kris Kringles, paper hats and bad bon-bon jokes.

We’d like to wish our fantastic staff and interns, supporters, distributors, customers – and of course the goats – a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

May your festive season be joyous and replenishing, and of course, feature plenty of goats cheese on the menu!

If you haven’t stocked up on your festive fromage, we will be selling cheese at the special twilight Melbourne Farmers Markets leading up to Christmas. Check the market link here, or facebook and twitter, for more info. 

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Sunday arvo on the farm

It’s been a while since we posted a blog, but things have been busy on the farm. Sundays are no different. A typical Sunday at Holy Goat involves milking early morning and afternoon (just like every other day) cheesemaking (just like every other day) and the usual farm related chores (and farm related things/events/surprises that happen when you have animals). We do try and have a proper Sunday lunch down at the house, invite friends over, and our interns, to have a few hours down time. Until 3pm.

And because it’s spring, there’s more happening on a Sunday of late; even after a very low rain-fed autumn and winter (less than half the average totals for our farm). Spring so far has seen around 20mm and we’d certainly wish for more to fill our dams and the soil. But the pastures are doing surprisingly well. We’ve just let the dairy herd out onto a pasture cropped paddock – see earlier post – in small stints. The poor season to date meant there was no point putting them out onto short grass before this. So it was mostly hay and supplements. Now they’ve been out and slowly introduced, a couple of hours over the last couple of weeks, to fresh pick. Last weekend was their first whole day out; a Sunday treat.

There’s new kids – and new mums on the milking line-up (with trimmed tails to remind us all). Our first lot of 14 kids have now been weaned. After three weeks on their mothers milk they are big and strong, very healthy, and just a little wild. Even though separated by wire mesh, they still sleep and talk and hang about with their mums for much of the day. The kids – already forming their own herd – have proud lineages. Crema begat Cream; Cafe begat Tea; Nut (her sister was Meg) begat Almond and Tibet begat Nepal. There’s more to these names than just wit; see this earlier post to find out more.

Our compost is brewing and we’re about to clean out the sheds and create more feedstuff for the microbes.  Tristan Jubb – remember him? – is coming back to do a farm boundary walk with us to hone in on biosecurity issues. Ruby has been learning and helpful in moving goats from A to B. Sometimes she’s over helpful.

Spring milk means making more Nectar  every week. We’ve been driving over to the Mannes’ organic shorthorn cow dairy for extra milk to supplement our goats milk whilst we wait for our own herd’s production levels to increase.

We’ve also been planting trees, or shrubs. We have 70 understory species – read more about the importance of shrubs here – planted in spots where we have thinned small and very close growing saplings (using their root activity to help establish the young seedlings). Around our two dams where spiny rush had taken hold over decades, we’ve removed ten tonnes of the noxious weed, placed it in piles to compost, and replanted with species that will hopefully tolerate damp and slightly saline conditions. More on planting for biodiversity and productivity in an upcoming blog.

And there’s feet trimming. We trim now because the feet get really tough and hard over summer. It doesn ‘t matter whether it’s a Sunday afternoon or any other day of the week. We trim every three months; it’s constant and ongoing. If you are really interested in this highly important activity, there’s a link on our animal health page here more explanation and images. If not so interested, just know that it’s a critical aspect of dairy goat husbandry and just another Sunday afternoon activity.


We’ve been 15 years on the farm now, making cheese for 12. The farm has developed it’s own quite highly developed routine, for both humans and goats. We all fit into that routine. Sundays are no exception.

Posted in Feeding/Feed, Holy Goat News, Holy Goat News, hooves and udders, IN the Dairy, In the Paddock, spring | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Safe and Secure

“If it can move, it can carry diseases, pests and weeds.” *

Last week we met with Tristan Jubb, a Bendigo based vet,  who also specialises in biosecurity issues, working in export marketing and with national livestock bodies.

When you think of ‘biosecurity’ do you think of apples and New Zealand, or frozen berries and China? Well these international issues may be a lot more than just ‘bio’ and also about ‘trade’ and ‘political’ security. Look a lot closer to home and ‘biosecurity’ becomes an issue for every farm, everywhere.

Basically, biosecurity is about managing the on-farm animal and plant health risks, to ensure a clean, healthy environment – and food – for everyone. It’s also about safeguarding farm futures and livelihoods.

We are organic certified, so the issues of managing risk are a lot more familiar to us through the annual organic audit processes. Though in this case, it’s more about managing the risk from contamination through conventional (non-organic) inputs into our operations. So the focus is on buffer areas between us and our neighbours, aiming for peak animal and soil health, and supply chain tracking of our certified organic inputs.

As well, we have the more regular, very intensive, audits of our dairy and cheesemaking operations, covered by our HACCP and Dairy Food Safety Victoria audits. Their focus is on public safety and confidence in our product. Our processing activities have a constant concentration on health and safety for humans and animals alike, but what about the rest of the farm?

This is where biosecurity comes in. It’s no good having all these well documented and well managed systems in the processing part of our business, if the farming side is open to compromise. Last year we had some animal health issues and in dealing with the problem we met Tristan Jubb. We’ve been working with Tristan on developing a biosecurity plan for the farm, but without any trade and political complications!

Most farmers think their farm is ‘clean’ because nothing ever happens, but this thinking is very dangerous. It’s especially important for us, as we aim to refresh and improve our herd genetics. We want to ensure any bucks we bring onto the farm are not also bringing latent or undetected health issues. The same goes for machinery, people, other animals, or any other organic inputs that come through our front gate (or through fences, or via other vectors like birds or foxes, kangaroos or rabbits…) Tristan coins this PATIO – People, Animals, Things Inorganic (machinery, vehicles, etc) and Organic Things (feed, water, seed, etc).

Tristan gave us a run down on the basics of biosecurity and how we might look at protecting the integrity of our farm at three points; before it gets to the gate, at the gate, and after it gets through the gate. Keeping these three levels of protection in mind, all the time and at once, are critical.

No farm is an island, but by improving our farm’s resistance to disease (and pests and weeds and …) and concurrently reducing its exposure to pathogens (and pests and weeds and …) we are in a much stronger space. ‘Resistance’ focuses on good nutrition, minimal stress levels, good shelter, low worm burdens, good genetics, etc. ‘Exposure’ means ensuring high levels of cleanliness and hygiene, reducing opportunities for pathogens/problems to build up. The real challenge is to keep resistance and exposure levels at odds and apart, whilst at the same time being cost effective.

One sick goat might be just an ill animal, but at the same time it may also be an indicator of a much bigger issue, so by keeping resistance and exposure as far apart as possible, we increase the odds of having just one sick goat.

Ovine Johnes Disease (OJD), Q Fever and  Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) are the primary disease and environmental health concerns for dairy goat farmers, then follows worms and enterotoxaemia. We can ensure our biosecurity plan addresses these five main issues by looking at the management, environmental and animal factors that contribute to them. For example, with Johnes, we can source disease free bucks (pre-entry/gate), carry out clinical testing of blood and faeces and quarantine the animals (point of entry/at the gate) and vaccinate other goats (post entry/through the gate).

Our next step is to have another session on the farm to discuss the principles, and then start developing our plan for the farm. We can see already where things might be changed, more attention paid, and by walking around the farm with PATIO on our mind.

There are many reasons for farms to be serious about biosecurity. It’s about ensuring the people that work on the farm are safe and healthy, as well as the animals and plants they look after. It’s about immunising the business (not just the animals) against risk, and improving our production and farm efficiencies.

Most of all it is about security and peace of mind, for us, and for everyone who eats our cheese.

More links:

* www.farmbiosecurity.com.au

Posted in Holy Goat News, In the Paddock, winter, winter | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment