Case study: Pushing the boundaries

28 May 2018

Bec and John Falkenhagen

  • Location: ‘Idealview’, Meningie SA
  • Enterprise: 950 registered dairy goats
  • Property size: 229ha
  • Soils and grasses: Lucerne, Veldt grass
  • Rainfall: 350mm
  • Target market: High quality milk production  
  • Other farm enterprises: Wethers for meat production, export of high value genetics 

Why goats?

John grew up on a cattle dairy in Queensland and said he was a “bit of a disappointment to the family” when it was discovered he was allergic to cow’s milk. It was because of this allergy that goats were eventually introduced to the family farm.

Years later, John and his wife Bec became fed up with managing other farm enterprises and decided to do something for themselves. They knew there was a market for goat milk products – and so began the set-up of their own goat dairy.

Herd structure and genetics

Approximately 500 does are being milked at ‘Idealview’ at any one time, running in two herds of 250. There are currently about 400 goats on-farm which are not being milked – either dry does, weaners or kids, and 50 bucks. The herd consists of approximately 75% Saanen, with the remainder being a mix of British Alpines and Toggenburgs.

From a genetics perspective, John said they breed for functionality and undertake corrective matching.

“We individually match each doe with the perfect sire for the best genetic outcome for the offspring,” he said. 

“We have genetic records for our animals going back several generations, and this helps us understand what the new progeny are capable of. For the does, we’re aiming for 1,500L in 300 days with specific targets for both protein and fat, based on what our buyers want.”

The bucks are kept separate from the does to prevent milk taint.

“We kid every eight weeks – six times a year – and as far as I know, we’re the only dairy in Australia to do this,” John said.

“It’s a big job, but it means more consistent milk production across the year.”

John and Bec recently built a shed specifically for kid rearing. The shed can house 180 kids and will soon be expanded to fit 260.

“It’s the perfect environment for the kids and allows us to have enough room to keep the different age groups together.”

The surplus male kids are sold and raised for the meat industry.

Nutrition management

Lucerne is the base feed at Idealview, with a combination of oats and ryegrass in the paddocks and a mix of mineral-rich grains, silage and bales of lucerne available ad lib. John estimates that the does are sourcing 50% of their feed from the paddocks, 25% from hay and silage and 25% from grain.

Bec and John have monthly meetings with their nutritionist to check everything is on track and while the animals are managed as small groups at the moment, the intention is to move to a specific nutrition ration for each individual animal.

“It will give us the opportunity to monitor each animal even more closely and give her exactly what she needs so she can be running at peak performance,” John said.

This new regime will be made possible with the construction of a new dairy at the farm, due to be completed in early 2019.

Key lessons

“As I’ve spent more time on the Goat Industry Council of Australia where I represent the Dairy Goat Society of Australia, I’ve come to better understand the challenges other segments of the industry face and appreciate that we can all learn from each other,” John said. 

“The most important factors for us are genetics, nutrition and management. From what I can see, this is the same for meat producers.”

John’s advice regarding nutrition is to work out a feed system that works for your enterprise and business, and gets you the weight gain you need.

“You absolutely have to make sure your weights and condition scores are right for joining, otherwise you’ve set yourself back right from the beginning. You need to feed them to grow them, not to keep them at maintenance,” he said.  

According to John, it’s all about understanding your own system and what elements you can manipulate.

“I’d encourage people to think outside the box and push the boundaries. We’ve trialled and adopted a lot of things in our business which we were told would never work.”

More information: John Falkenhagen
Email John

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