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Delmarva Farmer Columnists
Dairy goats in Brazil (Dec. 3, 2013)
Recently, I made my third trip to Brazil. I was invited to speak at the eighth Congress of the Brazilian Society of Animal Production.
My topic was fattening (finishing) meat goats.
I spoke about our pen-versus-pasture comparison studies.
While in Brazil I had the opportunity to visit a dairy goat farm located in Fortaleza, the city that hosted the conference.
As with most places I have visited, the goats were being kept in complete confinement.
The does were group-housed in pens, on raised wooden, slatted floors.
The bucks were individually housed.
Their ration consisted of chopped grass, chopped hay, corn meal, soybean meal, and minerals. They were fed in fence line bunkers.
The farm dedicated a few hectares to the production of elephant grass, a tall, high-yielding perennial grass.
Since it only rains two months out of the year, irrigation is a necessity.
After kidding, the kids are immediately removed from their dams and fed heat-treated colostrum.
They are fed colostrum, then cow’s milk via a bowl.
It was a high producing herd of Sannens, with genetics from Europe and the United States.
The milk, obtained twice daily via a portable milker, is made into various confections, including Doce de Leite (“candy of milk”), a popular sweet in South America.
The farm had plans to start making three different kinds of cheese.
All products were being direct-marketed.
On my last visit to Brazil (in 2011), I had also visited dairy goat farms.
Dairy goat production is being promoted in Northeast Brazil; the government is purchasing goat milk for schools.
While sheep production is more evenly dispersed throughout the country, most goat production is concentrated in Brazil’s two northeastern states.
The farms I visited in 2011 also housed their goats, in concrete or wooden structures or in dry lot with shaded feeding areas.
Native goats, resembling Alpine, were the breed of choice.
Rations included a variety of feedstuffs, such as hay, grass, silage, chopped cactus, and by-products from food processing.
Milking was by hand, on elevated walkways.
The confinement rearing of goats is common throughout the developing world.
Dairy goats are also commonly raised in confinement in developed countries, such as New Zealand and France. Confinement rearing offers many advantages over free grazing. In fragile environments, it prevents overgrazing and environmental degradation.
A pen provides a collection point for manure, a valuable by-product in many countries.
Pen rearing prevents goats from getting infected with worm parasites, though coccidiosis can still be a problem, especially in kids.
The diet of the animals can be more precisely controlled in zero-grazing situations.
I enjoy visiting farms in other countries.
I always learn something that I can apply back home.
McGowan a natural fit for USDA Rural Development (Dec. 3, 2013)