Implementing Dairy Goat Nutrition Programs on Farms for Improved Sustainability
After over a year hiatus (see 2006 report for background on this), the project resumed in 2007 with the continuation and re-recruitment of eight commercial dairy goat farms to participate collecting the following data: monthly individual goat milk production, milk components (fat, protein, SCC), herd MUN (milk urea nitrogen), quarterly goat body weights and condition scores, and diet components (amount and nutrient analysis and purchase price).
Milk production information was collected by Vermont Dairy Herd Improvement Association technicians and this information was shared by email or mail with the farmers and summarized on PCDART, a software program provided to the PI. Forage and concentrate analysis was mostly performed by the feed companies with some cases of verification and service provided by the PI.
The study is relying on recommendations made by feed company representatives or results from ration analysis done using Langston University’s Goat Nutrition Calculator offered online at http://www.luresext.edu/goats/research/nutr_calc.htm
From a pool of 21 dairy goat farmers in Vermont, 10 will participate in the project and adopt recommended nutrition programs that are more profitable, improve milk production and utilize nutrients better for their improved sustainability.
Progress: 10 farms were recruited/re-recruited to participate in the continued study in 2007. 8 farms were participating by the year’s end.
Jon Manns, Leicester, VT
Chris Lekberg, Brandon, VT
Hannah Sessions, Salisbury, VT
Kristan Doolan, Bakersfield, VT
Laini Fondiller, Westfield, VT
Lynn Rockwell, Cabot, VT
Jean Claude Roberge, North Troy, VT
Theresa and Lee Lawyer, Enosburg, VT
Eric Lindstam, Groton, VT (dropped from study)
Kevin Tessier, Enosburg Falls, VT (not added b/c they would not agree terms of study)
Target 1 Assessment: In the project’s second year, eight of the 10 farms will continue implementing the original study. A follow-up debriefing visit with the farmers and feed consultants after two years will provide a personal summation and written evaluation of the success and usefulness of the information. Comparison of data collected during the study including feed costs and milk production from years previous to the study will add determination of its success.
The eight farms in the study and had monthly milk metering for production and milk components. Farms were visited quarterly for collecting goat weight and body score data to assist in making feed recommendations. If feed analysis was not immediately provided by the feed company, the PI contacted the feed company and encouraged them to provide the service. By the end of the year, all farms were receiving feed ration or component nutrient analysis by the feed companies. The study continues to complete year 2 by the end of the spring of 2008. At that time, meetings with the feed representative, the collaborating ruminant nutritionist, the PI and the farmers will consummate the results of the study and the continued partnership between the farmers and the feed companies.
Milestone #4. 10 farms will adopt recommendations and eight will continue the study for a second 12 months. Data will be collected every quarter and PI will discuss program with farmer every month.
Milk data is now collected and compiled by Vermont Dairy Herd Improvement Association (VT DHIA) and this information was shared by email or mail with the farmers and summarized on PCDART, a software program provided to the PI. This has served the purposes of obtaining useful reports quickly to the farmers and researchers of the on-farm production data and creating a history and rapport between the farmers and VT DHIA for continued relationships after the end of the study. At this time, most of the farmers will continue using the services of VTDHIA in some capacity which shows they value the information collected. This goat production data has been very useful in encouraging the involvement of feed companies as it shows the serious commitment the goat farmers have to their businesses. It also can quickly pick up the results of the feed changes and where adjustments may need to be made.
While the study has not completed one year of DHIA data, the milk production data shows a range of projected 305 day lactation averages of 1150 to 2447 lbs across the eight herds. The cost of production is still being calculated.
The farms ranged in doe herd size from 32 to 163. The largest farm was dropped from the study in the first few months due to the inability to collect accurate and adequate information required for the study. This farm was replaced with another large farm late in the year. Three of the farms ship fluid milk to a cheese processor and five of the farms use their milk to make farmstead cheese. Two of the farms are certified organic. Five of the farms rely on grazing and browsing for the majority of the forage during the growing season, on farm supplements with pasture and the 2 largest farms are confinement with dry animals let out into continuous pasture/browse areas.
All farms purchase concentrates, one farm buys a total mixed ration daily and three farms harvest some or most of their own forage for the winter months; all purchase preserved forages at some level. Hay is the preserved forage of choice with the exception of the TMR fed on one farm that relies on corn silage and hay crop silage in the mix. Forage and concentrate analysis was mostly performed by the feed companies with some cases of verification and service provided by the PI.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
This, the final year, saw more input from feed company representatives in assisting in testing forage and offering feed recommendations. Where this was lacking, the project nutritionist offered his analysis of the ration, when possible. A total of six feed companies are involved in this study.
From meetings with Dr. Antonello Cannas in 2006, Dr. Matthew Waldron, collaborator and ruminant nutritionist at the University of Vermont, was planning to use a new software program developed by US and Sardinian researchers based on worldwide nutrition research. The program, Small Ruminant Nutrition Systems (SNRS), was updated to included goat ration balancing in December 2006.
This being the software program’s first run, flaws in the program became apparent to Dr. Waldron. He met with the developers of the program, Dr. Cannas and Dr. Tedeshi, at the Animal Science meetings in July, but the discrepancies were not resolved. While this program has the potential of being useful, for the purposes of this study we reverted to using the online program provided by Langston University. The time devoted to the pursuit of the resolution of whether or not to use the SNRS was drawn-out and led to a decrease in the frequency of feed recommendations originally planned in 2007. However, it was time well spent, as it allowed us to make a decision on where to get information for balancing goat rations.
Research Ruminant Nutritionist
University of Vermont
Department of Animal Science
302 Terrill Hall, 570 Main Street
Burlington, VT 05405
Office Phone: 8026560593