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Cabra Ranch dairy farm targets goat milk sector

CABRA RANCH Ventures Limited in Highgate, St Mary, is owned and run by Trudy Wilson and Ray Hammond, who say they were motivated by a love of goat milk products.

They started the farm after doing research, and made an interesting discovery.

“Only 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the goat meat consumed in Jamaica is locally produced. So, with that knowledge, we realised that the goat business could be a very viable business in Jamaica,” said Wilson.

Cabra Ranch, now four years old, operates as an agro-tourism entity, with revenue from tours, milk, goat milk products and training for other entrepreneurs who want a year-round source of revenue based on the model developed by Hammond and Wilson.

Hammond outlines: “We are a goat dairy operation with approximately 150 head of goat. We produce approximately 300 quarts of milk per month.”

The St Mary farm is run year-round with two full-time workers, plus contract workers, as needed.

Wilson outlined that the goat dairy farming model developed is unique and positions operators in the small-ruminant sector to have a year-round source of income similar to farmers in other sectors.

She comments that in Jamaica, “Pig farming is thriving and established. So is chicken farming. However, the small ruminant sector is struggling because there is no established production system which provides consistent revenue.

“Goat farming in Jamaica is primarily for three purposes; first for meat selling to butchers, friends, family, or round robins. There are also a handful of farms focusing on breeding and genetics. Others do it for family subsistence, including back-to-school expenses. None of these options provide consistent, year-round income,” she added.

“We are advocating a system which provides year-round revenue,” Wilson continued. “That is year-round production based on goat dairy production.”

Cabra Ranch is now an agro-tourism location based on this principle. The emphasis is on dairy goats and goat milk production with its operators avoiding chemical input.

As outlined, goat-rearing practices at the ranch are semi-intensive in that some goats are let to pasture, while others are fed in-house. The farm also features a pasture rotation system with mobile fencing and solar charges. Efforts are made to minimise parasite issues, by using cows to control parasites.

The high-yielding dairy goats are managed using an automated milking system. In Jamaica, the average daily yield per goat in general is half to three-quarters of a quart daily, as opposed to a true dairy goat, which produces up to four quarts, states Wilson.

“A true dairy goat can be milked for up to four years, instead of a few months each year,” Wilson informed. “Dairy goats can produce 1,000 days non-stop.”

Selling goat milk at around $400 dollars per quart from 10 females’ production is 900 quarts monthly, output which can be sold to processors for a monthly revenue of over $1 million.

Options for milking include physically milking by hand. The next is a mechanised hand-milking machine. Another option is a mobile milking system that does more than one goat at a time. The Cabra Ranch model is a system which milks eight to 10 goats at once.

Hammond told Financial Gleaner: “Currently our market is a niche market of people who are more health-conscious and with disposable income.

“We are one of the three known registered goat dairy producers in Jamaica. Our production is increasing year over year, which gives us a clear competitive advantage.”

Hammond added that the farm’s main income source is goat milk, noting: “We produce fresh goat milk and at this stage we cannot produce enough milk to satisfy the demand.”

The dairy goat farmer added: “This is a niche within this sector and it’s in its infancy phase and rapidly emerging, therefore, there is no substantial documented data to put an actual value.”

The owners of Cabra Ranch state that their biggest challenges in setting up and running has been “finding useful and valuable information, productive workers and limited access to sector resources that would help us move our business forward in a more efficient and productive manner”.

As the farm enters its fifth year, its owners are expecting to break even on investment made and become profitable.

In the time since the start up, revenue has increased by 30 per cent annually.

Going forward, Hammond stated:”Our target is to continue to have revenue growth of 30 per cent or more year-over-year.”

He said that they also want to create satellite farms to adequately meet the demand for goat milk.

Wilson commented: “Dairy farming provides year-round revenue. We want to create a model similar to chicken farming, where the system of growth, packaging and distribution has been perfected.

“Our vision is to change the vision of how people in Jamaica think of raising goats, from tying them in the backyard to a goat dairy system. Our system has lower startup costs and smaller animal housing needs. It would be especially good for women and youth.

“The model at Cabra Ranch offers ease of access to sector participants,” she added. “We can show them how to maximise revenue year-round.”

Training at Cabra Ranch includes workshops and internships.

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