Moove over Cows; Goats Got my Dairy!
Moving the Trinidad and Tobago Dairy Goat Industry from Farm to Market
Goats are an ideal farming option for smallholder farmers living in challenging climates. They convert plant material into milk and meat with an efficiency that makes them an appropriate and practical livelihood, especially for rural farm families. They offer a nutrient-rich alternative source of animal protein and are relatively safe for consumers who suffer allergies or sensitivities, including lactose intolerance.
The Trinidad and Tobago Goat and Sheep Society (TTGSS) has strategically developed a dairy goat product industry. The 150 members of TTGSS include women and youth; more than 90 percent are small to medium in operation size. These producers share challenges including difficulty in accessing reliable markets, as well as a need for training in science-based animal husbandry methods.
Since 2014, International Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) has partnered with TTGSS, providing direct technical assistance and helping the producers adopt a value-chain approach, allowing for complementary interventions to improve productivity and business management.
With IICA’s support, TTGSS farmers were educated on improved dairy goat breeds, in model housing for enhanced animal safety and encouraged to use local, high-nutrient legumes and grasses as forage for additive-free animal health and nutrition and in boosting milk production. Milking rooms were also constructed, with farmers trained in automated milking operations.
Milk is a very perishable commodity and spoils very easily due to microbial contamination. IICA encouraged adopting best practices in production and sanitation to consistently produce high-quality, safe goat milk and milk products. This was achieved through technical training in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Sanitation Standard Operation Procedures (SSOP) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP). Such training interventions were supplemented with strategic industry information and practical tools to support improved herd management, farm innovation, efficiency and productivity.
The partnership has strengthened the ability of all public and private-sector participants in the goat value chain to enhance dialogue, decision-making and coordination. The value-chain approach continues to boost the productivity of the goats and quality of dairy products, including butterfat content, odor, taste and safety while also effectively helping producers position themselves for local markets.
The development and implementation of a marketing strategy to expand opportunities beyond the farm-gate sales was also a necessary contribution from IICA. A recent product launch, which included goat’s milk, cheeses and Greek yogurt, was an important milestone and indicator of progress with respect to training in compliance with public health requirements, including packaging and labelling standards for value-added processing. Once implemented, the proposal to establish a pasteurization processing plant will add even more value to current production, product and market development.
The TTGSS continues to achieve success from the strategic value-chain approach, increasing the productivity and quality of their goat products. This approach has been accepted and internalized through a Dairy Goat Stakeholders Committee, the main platform for enhanced industry dialogue, decision-making and coordination.
Important public educational goods have been created and now serve as reference points, including: The Trinidad & Tobago Dairy Goat Manual: Breeds, Milking, Herd Health, Records; forage fact sheets and Dairy Goat Milking Handbook for Farmers: A step-by-step guide.
To learn more about the Trinidad & Tobago Goat & Sheep Society, see their video on YouTube