Today we visited goat farm Ter Veen in Dorkwerd. At Ter Veen, the goat kids (both male and female) stay with their mothers in the herd for at least 12 weeks after birth. This is unusual because on most dairy goat farms the kids are taken away from the mother after birth, to be kept by themselves, in a plastic container and are fed colostrum through a bottle.
By leaving the kids with their mothers after birth, they grow up naturally. They can drink with their mother, are protected and raised by her and the rest of the herd and can socialize with the other kids. Egbert ter Veen tells us that the dairy goats take very good care of their young. “It is important to make sure the kids get enough colostrum and drink well. Sometimes they need a little help with this, but generally they manage very well on their own. We hardly have any mortality.”
Ter Veen is a small farm, with 50 dairy goats and 70 kids. Egbert thinks that keeping kids with the goats is also feasible for larger farms that are interested in this concept. “Not all goats need to give birth at the same time. By making small groups, a farmer can keep sufficient supervision”.
The goats and their kids spend most of the year outdoors in the pasture. There is also a deep bedding stall where they can freely walk in and out.
The female kids, which are later used for dairy production, grow up in pastures near the farm. The billy kids (male baby goats) grow up in a rolling area of forest – where they are part of a nature grazing project. This environment is ideal – the goats feel protected under the trees and shrubs, can climb and there is plenty to eat and investigate.
When they are 6-7 months old, the billy goats go to slaughter at a small slaughterhouse nearby. Ter Veen sells the meat of these goats himself – it can be bought at their farm store, at streekboer.nl and sometimes through restaurants.
Finally, we brainstormed about ways to give the kids and dairy goats more shelter and climbing opportunities, such as picnic tables and tree trunks.
We want to give Egbert ter Veen and Karolien van Hoogenhuizen a great compliment for their animal-friendly operational management. With their farm they show that it is feasible to keep the kids with the herd and to give billy kids a valuable life, just like the dairy goats and female kids. We will therefore add goat farm Ter Veen to our Better Farmers list.