How Did the Goat Project Get Started?
The idea of keeping goats began in 2004 with a plan to bring dairy goats from France for the production of cheese and yoghurt. The first goats, four females and one male, arrived at The Farm in December that same year. Cheese production started immediately and proved to be a big success, but yoghurt production proved difficult with such a small herd.
Once several babies were born and 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 and 1/8 local blood. After trials, errors, a few setbacks that were resolved, and a growing cross-bred herd, we were able to begin a limited production of cheese.
In November 2008, we obtained, through a generous donation, additional goats from Thailand, ensuring their good health and proper certification and vaccinations.
Meanwhile, 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 Organic Farm. We used wood and bamboo to make the rest of the stable. We also planted more forage, such as banana trees and pigeon pea, to satisfy the enormous appetite of our goats.
How Does Having Goats Benefit Our Farm?
We currently produce a smooth, delicate goat cheese, which is served at The Farm, and sold to restaurants in Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. The production of cheese takes only three days through a simple, but highly effective, process.
What Does the Future Look Like?
Our long-term goal is to distribute goats to local farmers and train them in the raising this type of milk/cheese-producing goat. 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 yoghurt rather than cheese, as cheese is not consumed by Lao people. As the diet of subsistence farmers and their families is mainly rice and lacks proteins, milk products can help correct this situation. Also the production of yoghurt does not require a large investment and would therefore not be a hardship for the farmer. A bucket and a small pot bought at the local shop can be used to get started.