Today we visited the dairy goat farm Papen-Olbach in Vragender (NL). Traditionally, goats are kept in straw barns with just one floor level. But goats are climbers, and like to rest in a safe high place. They also prefer hard surfaces. With this in mind, Mattijn Papen-Olbach started looking at a new way to house his goats. What started with a few concrete blocks placed down in the straw (the goats loved to lay on them), has grown into a small trial barn with different concrete levels to live on (from low to high). Mattijn uses cameras to closely monitor the behaviour and preferences of the goats. The urine and droppings of the goats are separated and continuously removed, with the purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Together with Mattijn and co-developer Geitenbelang, we observed goats in the trial barn via a webcam. Following this we also visited the barn. We saw that on the top level goats were mainly resting and on the bottom there was more activity. The plan is to reconstruct the entire barn next year.
We are positive about the barn design by Papen-Olbach and Geitenbelang, which is more considerate of the needs of goats to climb and be able to lay down at a higher level. We do prefer to see that goats retain the freedom to choose. We can imagine for instance that goats, who are about to yean (give birth) or suffer from painful joints or udders, would prefer to have a soft surface with straw to lie down on. Another advantage at Papen-Olbach is that goats are allowed to go outside during part of the year whenever they wish.
We also spoke about creating sheltered and comfortable yeaning-spots and “roughening up” the concrete so that goats are not limited in their behaviour by their fear of slipping. Mattijn and Frank from Geitenbelang will use trial results to determine how to act on these challenges.
We would like to thank Mattijn and Frank for the interesting visit and their motivation to design a barn that is as goat friendly as possible.