How did the Goat Project start?
The idea of keeping goats began in 2004 with a plan to bring dairy goats from France for the production of cheese & yoghurt. The first few goats, 4 females & 1 male, arrived at the Farm in December that same year. Cheese production started immediately & proved to be a big success, but yogurt production proved difficult with such a small herd.
Once several babies were born & a Vietnamese male goat introduced, The Farm was able to establish a breeding program. To obtain a certain resistance without losing milk production ability, we aimed for a breed with 7/8 western & 1/8 local blood. After trials, errors, a few setbacks that were resolved & a growing cross-bred herd, we were able to begin a limited production of cheese.
In November 2008, we obtained additional goats from Thailand through a generous donation, while we ensured their good health & proper certification & vaccination.
At the same time, we started building a new goat stable to accommodate the increased herd. This new goat stable was largely financed by a French NGO called Feu Vert pour le development. A concrete sloped base was constructed to collect the goat droppings to be used as fertilizer at the Farm. We used wood & bamboo to make the rest of the stable. We also planted more forage, such as banana trees & pigeon pee, to satisfy the enormous appetite of our goats.
How Does Having Goats Benefit Our Farm?
We currently produce smooth & delicate goat cheese, which is served at The Farm, and distributed to restaurants in Vang Vieng & Luang Prabang. The production of cheese takes only 3 days through a simple, but highly effective, process.
Our long-term goal is to distribute goats to local farmers & train them in raising this type of milk/cheese-producing goats. To meet this end, we will establish a “Goat Bank.” Farmers will receive the goats free. They will in turn “pay back” in the following years the same number of baby goats (min. 35 kg), which then can be given to other farmers.
Farmers will be encouraged to produce yogurt rather than cheese, as cheese is not consumed by Lao people. As the diet of subsistence farmers & their families is
mainly rice & lacks proteins, milk products can help improve this situation. Furthermore, the production of yoghurt does not require a large investment & would, therefore, not be a burden for the farmers. (A bucket & a small pot bought at the local shop can be used to get started).