Monday 23 November 2015

The downside of goat farming - An ethical dilemma

If you are a milk producer with either dairy cows or goats there is a downside, the male offspring are not necessarily in demand for meat. This is especially true with goat dairying. There is a strong demand from ethnic markets, specialist restaurants and in some farmers markets but this demand is low compared to the number of males born.

Forty years ago most goats were kept in small herds more or less as pets, today there are goat dairy farms with up to 1,500 milking females such has been the growth in demand for milk and cheese. Fifteen hundred females produce up to 1,000 male kids a year. The majority are killed at or near birth because the farms specialise in milk production. Even if these animals are killed humanely its an ethical problem, " is it better to have a short but happy, pain free life than not to have lived at all beyond 24 hrs?"

Some farmers are trying to find an answer to this dilemma by developing a market for "Cabretto" , kids are reared up to about 40 kg live weight and then sold into various niche markets.

This is also a dilemma for those of us keeping just a few goats, you could be overrun by male goats very quickly if as happened this year all of my kids born were males. Luckily some of my neighbours either like goat meat or are interested in trying it.

The kids were reared on their mothers, mother being milked once a day in the morning for up to 10 12 weeks before weaning, they then grazed out of doors in good weather, last Tuesday I took them to the Mull abattoir. It's a compromise but as Churchill said to Joe Stalin, "the alternative is worse" when Stalin claimed that democracy was a flawed system.

To cheer you up after that, take a look at some happy goats; go to Youtube and look for, "Giggle with the goats" you won't be disappointed.

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