Dairy goat industry facing over-supply, uncertainty with processors

Photo courtesy of Paula Menzies

It wasn’t that long ago that just about everyone said if you are looking to diversify or get out of cows, you should get into goats.

The market for these little milk makers, seemingly, had no where to go but up: major processors were expanding or adding product lines, consumption trends positive, and prices were good. Kingston was named as the site for a new mega-factory, being built by Chinese baby formula company Feihe International, and the plant promised a near doubling in demand for eastern Canada’s goat milk.

But, as with any free market, good times equate to more production, and now — similar to cow’s milk — the world is awash in supply. What’s more, there is talk that Canada’s latest trade deal with the U.S., the USMCA, could put the Kingston plant in jeopardy, though officials with the plant could not be reached for comment.

Dirk Boogerd, president of Ontario Goat and goat milk producer based near Embro, Ont., says that these are certainly challenging times for the goat dairy industry.  Supplies have increased and prices have fallen, just as you would expect with supply and demand dynamics. Boogerd says that, as of right now, Ontario Goat has not been contacted by the Kingston plant’s representatives and he can’t say whether or not construction of the plant has stalled.

While Ontario producers are facing lower prices and uncertainty, the situation is worse across the border in Quebec. Several dairy goat producers there have been given 80 days’ notice that their contracts will not be renewed. A Quebec processor was contacted directly for a comment, but none was offered. Quebec media reports, however, that Saputo has cited quality and animal welfare concerns in its decision to not renew contracts, and is looking to Ontario for cheaper fluid milk. Co-operative Agropur is shuttering at least some goat milk processing, sources say.

Boogerd can’t comment on what’s happening in Quebec, but he does say that Ontario Goat has been working hard to improve milk quality and raise animal welfare standards on all Ontario goat farms, through workshops and education.

While there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this industry, Boogerd concedes that the ebb and flo of demand, prices, and contracts is simply a fact of life with open markets. That doesn’t make it any easier, of course, when trying to manage breedings and herd size in anticipation of market demands, but overall he’s still optimistic about the industry. “We’ve been through this before,” he says.

 

Lyndsey Smith

Lyndsey Smith is a field editor for RealAgriculture. A self-proclaimed agnerd, Lyndsey is passionate about all things farming but is especially thrilled by agronomy and livestock production.

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