Interest in goat farming is on the increase, according to Teagasc, which attributes the trend to two main factors.
These are the growing popularity of goat’s cheese among consumers and the public’s endless search for healthy food products.
Some 130 people recently attended the national goat conference in Portlaoise, the first of its kind since 2007.
Census returns show there were 1,014 keepers with a total of 15,638 goats in December 2014. The average number of goats per herd was 15.
Goats are present in every county. Most of them are kept in small numbers, with more than three-quarters of them in herd numbers of 10 goats or less.
Most of the bigger dairy herds are housed indoors.
There are currently around 30 large commercial units, which suppliers milk to Glenisk or to one of the major cheese makers.
Speakers from Ireland, Britain and the Netherlands addressed issues such as goat health and nutrition, kid rearing and the industry both in Ireland and abroad at the Portlalise conference Teagasc advisor Cian Condon said goat farming is an important niche livestock enterprise in Ireland and the food products from the sector help to enhance the country’s overall basket of food products.
“There is certainly scope for adding value to goat milk in the form of goat’s milk powder, infant formula and cheeses for export.
“This should be examined further by national bodies and co-ops as it is done in other countries such as New Zealand and Holland and would provide additional products in markets we have already developed,” he said.
Mr Condon said greater co-operation between farmers, farming groups and governance is required to promote and develop the industry in Ireland to maximise incomes for existing farms, and provide a viable alternative for new entrants.
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