It is normal for dairy goat kids to be disbudded at a very young age. For disbudding to take place in the UK, it is a legal requirement for this surgical procedure to be carried out by a veterinary surgeon, at the earliest possible age; 2 - 3 days is ideal but not later than 10 days. This applies to goats and not cows, owing to the specific nature of the horn growth within goats.
Whilst it isn’t a requirement to disbud goats, it is often regarded as a practise in dairy goats farming that supports good welfare, as it can reduce the incidence of injury within herds.
Farms supplying all of the Goat Dairy Trade Association members adhere to farm assurance and welfare standards as part of the Goat Farmers (UK) Dairy Farm Assurance Scheme. This enables the farms to carry Red Tractor Accreditation. This is one such scheme that promotes world class standards of quality, hygiene, welfare and environmental care under the stewardship of the Red Tractor logo.
This assurance scheme covers kid welfare including good disbudding protocol.
Commercial goat farms average 700 milking goats and provide a consistent supply of top quality milk to processors across the country. The average yield from a milking goat is about 10% of the yield expected from a cow, so in comparison, more goats are needed to produce an equivalent volume of milk.
It is important to remember that it is not the size of the herd that affects the animal’s welfare; it is the standard of animal husbandry and quality of farm management that is important. Good animal husbandry is key, regardless of the size of the herd.
The UK dairy goat industry is made up of 40-45 thousand goats producing just less than 34 million litres of milk commercially. This compares to a UK dairy herd of 1.9 million cows producing just less than 15 billion litres of cows’ milk (2014/5).
Though significant, goat dairy remains a specialist market with goat milk representing less than 0.2% of the volume of cows’ milk produced in the UK. Goat cheese (UK and imported) is now in the top 10 cheeses consumed in the UK.
Goats’ milk produced in the UK is primarily sold as butter, cheese and yogurt.