Courses highlight goats as serious alternative; no kidding

The couple behind Goat Ireland are running training courses for people interested in diversifying into goats as a serious alternative to traditional farming models.

Dubliner Ami Madden and her partner Paul Davis produce goat meat on their rented 32ac farm in Dunmore, Co. Galway. Having started out with sheep, they now specialise in goat rearing.

“We have about 150 goats at the moment at various stages of growth, less than normal but Christmas business has been brisk. It won’t be long until kidding season is upon us. The sheds will be full of kids then,” said Ami.

The courses are aimed at people looking for alternative enterprises and the couple see plenty of potential in the area. “Without doubt I would recommend goat farming as an alternative to traditional farming models,” Ami said.

There is huge potential in the industry. In particular, sourcing goats from dairies is a sustainable and ethical practice in farming. It avoids the waste of many kids born to the milk industry.

“This alone makes it a good way to move forward in farming but it also offers extremely healthy delicious meat. Also because goats are smaller animals, it makes it easier for us as a family to all work and enjoy the farm together, even the two-legged kids.

Needs and expectations of participants

“We start the courses by looking at the needs and expectations of the participants. The classes are run one-to-one but we encourage families to come together,” Ami said.

“We cover all aspects of goat husbandry gained from our happy and painful experiences over the last few years and find this helps send people off on the right foot,” she said.

“An in-depth interview of what the participants have in terms of land, sheds, time and expectations leads us to their needs. We then focus on their strengths and whether they will lie in: purebred breeding; adopted rearing which is like bucket calves but goat kids; contract rearing; or milking.

“We can also advise on topics like nutrition. We have developed a range of goat-specific rations in conjunction with Irwin’s Milling,” said Ami.

“We offer free ongoing support to these participants as the long-term goal is to create a viable goat producers’ group. There is more than enough growth in the area to work co-operatively with other producers. The relationships we have nurtured with dairies has proved this,” she said.

“Now is the time to get in touch about the courses. Once kidding season is over, it is more difficult to source the type of stock needed to grow for meat. Goat Ireland’s work with its dairying counterparts has ensured an ethical source of meat kids,” Ami said.

Valhalla Meats

“Having a mentor and like-minded people in you network is so important. When Goat Ireland transitioned from farm-to-food producer, having other people’s knowledge available was invaluable.

“As we are primarily a farm-to-fork online business that supplies goat meat, that is our personal main focus, bringing good meat to tables around the country. Boxes of Irish goat meat are delivered nationwide and can be found on our Facebook shop.”

Paul will shortly open a meat processor enterprise, Valhalla Meats, with the help of a private investor. “This will help us simplify our route market and the hope is that we can do the same for many other small meat producers,” Ami said.

“Valhalla plans to offer an alternative to the factory for the family farm, the artisan producer.

Finding a complete food safe way of getting product to market can be a difficult road for small suppliers and Valhalla will offer a full service of meat processing and storage solutions for anything from snails to dry aged beef. All while fully compliant with food safety legislation for businesses similar to our goat enterprise.

The fee for the four-hour course with lunch is normally €350 but Goat Ireland is offering a special offer of €300 on the last three January and February sessions. Either Paul or Ami will be available to answer any questions that may come to mind after course completion, the couple said.