Today we visited the organic dairy goat farm “De Bonte Weide” owned by Mart-Jan and Willy de Jong. Not only is Mart-Jan an organic goat farmer, he is also chairman of “Groene Geit”, an advocacy group for organic goat farmers.
The reason for our visit was an email Eyes on Animals sent to SKAL, the control authority for organic production. In this email we asked SKAL to make the availability of climbing equipment mandatory and to stimulate keeping kids with their mothers. SKAL indicated that these kinds of requests are best arranged privately and therefore advised us to contact Mart-Jan de Jong as chairman of “De Groene Geit”.
We had a very inspiring and enjoyable conversation with Mart-Jan and Willy. They told us that they recently stopped dehorning their goats. To prevent the horns from causing problems during feeding, they have invested in an automatic feeding machine. In addition, they have also made changes to the goats’ diet; they now receive less feed concentrates and 70 grams of different herbs daily. The herbs stimulate the goats’ immune system which also has a positive effect on the nutritional value of the goatmilk products. After our talk, we received a tour of their farm.
They keep the male kids on their farm for at least four weeks. The male kids receive the same care as the female kids. The kids are still taken from their mothers after birth, however, they all receive goat colostrum and are cared for in groups (rather than individually as is the case on many other farms) so they benefit from each other’s company. In addition, the kids have access to crates to jump up on and to lie down on. In the area where the future young dairy goats are kept, there are tree trunks to jump and play on. Mart-Jan and Willy told us that young dairy goats use them a lot.
Mart-Jan and Willy are open to experimenting with keeping kids and mother goat together. Since they have 450 goats, this will be a practical challenge; especially making sure that all the kids get enough colostrum and don’t drink from other dairy-goats. We have agreed that in May (when new lambs are born) we will spend a day at “De Bonte Weide” so that we can get a good idea of how the farm is run and together brainstorm about a ‘kids-by-the-mother’ goat experiment.
During our visit, Mart-Jan and Willy expressed their concerns about the annual Q-fever vaccinations, which the goats frequently get very sick from. Three vaccinations in the lifetime of a goat are sufficient for good protection (twice when young and once more when adult) but it is now mandatory to do this annually. Eyes on Animals has heard these concerns raised by several dairy goat farmers.
We would like to thank Mart-Jan and Willy for their enthusiasm and for sharing their knowledge and experiences. We truly enjoyed todays’ visit and learnt many new things.