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Building a Rural Goat Farm That Helps Increase Production

With 35 years of experience of farming goats, Frans Janssen knows how important it is for good milk production to keep the animals comfortable and healthy.

So when he wanted to expand his Waikato goat farming operation, Elite Goat Milk, at Manawaru, just south of Te Aroha, he set his sights on building the best sheds possible for his animals.

And that meant working in collaboration with Hamilton-based Aztech Buildings, who specialise in dairy goat sheds as part of their wider operations of designing and constructing industrial, rural and lifestyle buildings.

To maximise milk production, the sheds have to be laid out efficiently and have insulated roofs for climate control so the goats remain at a comfortable, even temperature.

Metalcraft’s 50mm thick ThermoSpan EPS roof panels were chosen for the roof because of their robustness, insulation values and ease of installation. The panels consist of a 0.59mm profiled roofing sheet bonded to an EPS core with a ceiling panel sheet bonded to the underside in a choice of colours for both sides.

“Before I came to New Zealand, I had 25 years of farming goats in Holland so we were very familiar there with these sorts of sheds with insulated roof panels,” said Frans.

“The panels keep the heat out and they help to get rid of condensation so the barns are drier, and you don’t get as much noise inside when it rains – the goats are happier and healthier and it’s a nicer environment for staff to work in as well.

“It’s all about creating the right conditions for the goats to get the best out of production and to be the best for animal welfare.”
The goats are kept in the sheds following a zero grazing principle, which means that grass is cut for them and, along with other feed and supplements, brought to them in the barn’s feeding area. They also have a bedding area and still have access to outdoor areas for sunlight, and the sheds have partial walls to allow for ventilation.

Frans added three new sheds to the four already on site at the farm he has owned for just over a year. The sheds are all 25m wide but of varying lengths: 106m, 102m and 60m.

His old sheds are a mixture of wooden frame with steel roof and steel frame with canvas roof.

He said the difference between the old sheds and the new sheds is “like night and day” when it comes to milk production and comfort.

Frans’ expansion of his operation to 3000 goats comes as demand for goat milk increases dramatically due to its use in infant formula for children who are intolerant of dairy products.

Daniel Prestidge, of Aztech Buildings, which has been designing and building goat sheds since 2005, said demand for the barns has grown in the past 10 years as goat milk formula has become more commercialised, driven largely by the Dairy Goat Cooperative.
Daniel said the design of the barns is customised for each farm depending on where they can be sited, how much space there is, and the access to and availability of existing infrastructure. There also has to be the right balance between feeding and bedding areas to maximise production.

“The barns also have to be designed to operate efficiently in both summer and winter, and to deal with storms and rain,” Daniel said.

“Dairy goats need an even temperature to maintain optimum production. Big fluctuations can cause disease like pneumonia. If they get too hot they put all their energy into keeping cool and its milk production drops like a stone,” he said. “They are also very susceptible to disease outside and generally perform poorly outside whereas in a barn they are comfortable and healthy and their feed can be controlled.

“In broad terms, a well-designed barn will double their milk production.”

Daniel said Aztech’s purpose-built sheds were a perfect fit for Frans’ operation, being durable and cost-effective.
“Frans’ new barns are considered market-leading but he has been prepared to invest in them and in time they will prove their value not just with the increased production from the goats but the fact that they will last and perform well over a long time.”

Terry Stevenson, of  Metalcraft Insulated Panels, said, “Our story begins with an approach by Aztech Buildings early last year to quote for 50mm insulated panels for the roofs of new 60m and 102m x 25m wide goat sheds, with a 15-degree roof pitch.

“In conjunction with Aztech Buildings staff we set about formulating manufacture and delivery times to meet this large order as with limited site space, a good plan was essential.

“The team at Aztech Buildings decided upon our ThermoSpan EPS 50mm panels, and for us working out the correct lengths including a rebate for the gutter became easy thanks to their high-quality and detailed drawing suite.”

The ThermoSpan roof panels have a 1000mm cover, so the 102m goat shed required 102 panels per side (totalling 204 panels), and the 60m shed needed 60 panels each side (totalling 120 panels). Each 50mm R1.31 panel is 13.11m in length, with ‘Permanent Green’ colour to the top and ‘Titania’ on the ceiling side.

Terry added, “Producing more than 4km of panel in between regular customers of Metalcraft Insulated Panels involved considerable planning at the Manukau factory. But that wasn’t the only requirement, as 100mm thick ThermoPanels laid horizontally at 1200mm high were specified for the full building lengths, permitting ventilation on both sides.

“Our production manager is top notch and made sure we had enough COLORSTEEL® coil on deck and managed to fit the order amongst our normal production runs.

“I visited the site numerous times during installation and after the 102m shed was finished I spoke to the farmer, Frans Janssen, who said that straight away he noticed the kid goats were a lot calmer inside their new buildings. I understand that goats are highly sensitive to their environment and it became clear that our ThermoSpan roof helped his animals.”

And Metalcraft Insulated Panels were called on again when Frans decided later on to add the third shed – at 106m long.
Terry said, “It took a massive back-office effort to get our panels made and to site on the exact day they were required, and, not without a couple of hiccups, our team achieved that. I really enjoyed working with the Aztech team; we always knew where they stood throughout the build process which meant we were working off the same page.”

 

Design and construction: 
Aztech Buildings
Telephone: 0800 298 324
www.aztechbuildings.co.nz 
Roofing: 
50mm thick R1.31 ThermoSpan EPS
roof panels in COLORSTEEL® Permanent Green/Titania
Claddding: 
Horizontal oriented 100mm thick ThermoPanel EPS wall cladding in Titania/Titania
Roofing and cladding supplier: 
Metalcraft Insulated Panels
www.metalcraftgroup.co.nz/products/metal-insulated-panels
Telephone: 09 277-8844
Terry Stevenson
Hamilton office
Telephone: 027 493 0423
Email: Terry@metpanels.co.nz

Janssen Barn ΓÇô Te Aroha45Janssen Barn – Te Aroha21Janssen Barn ΓÇô Te Aroha1

 

 

No Kidding Around with Goats! 

From the very start, Matt and Sarah Bolton had a vision for their goat operation – to be one of the best.

In 2014, the couple decided to step up and start the first goat milking operation in Auckland. Partnering with New Image Group Nutritionals to provide premium infant formula to parents around the world, they made a commitment to quality and transparency from day one.

The challenge ahead wasn’t easy. The couple had one shot to design and build a robust, profitable farm system to care for 3,000+ goats. The biggest hurdle was working with a council new to goats, not just for approval and consents, but in building a model for others to follow.

It was in these early days that picking the right infrastructure partner payed off.

Peter from Aztech Buildings was the man for the job. Before the technical work and council box-ticking, Peter took up a support role for the couple. He arranged farm tours with other goat raising clients, guided the council approval process and helped the couple shape and define their vision.

Great infrastructure is about getting the small stuff right. Mistakes and missed opportunities matter in the long run when a building stands for decades.

Optimising the 1.2 hectare shed for the local weather, daily wear & tear and biological challenges of goat raising meant the details really mattered. Including:

  • Wall and ceiling heights that allowed for a breeze, but no wind.
  • Finding the lighting sweet spot between warmth and bug-loving humidity.
  • Making the tough calls on a time-saving, but expensive and complex feed conveyor.
  • Choosing a colour that balanced aesthetics with heat reflection and resilience.

The couple have some straightforward advice for other up-and-coming goat farmers – have a clear vision and invest in the right people and systems to get you there. Be it staff, mentors or partners like Peter, find those people who genuinely want you to succeed and nurture that relationship.

Four years later and the operation is not just up-and-running, but primed to grow. True to their word, Matt and Sarah have opened their farm to the public and regularly host tourists, customers, school and community groups. For them, putting their best-foot forward and proudly telling their farming story today, started with getting the basics right years ago.

As for growing the operation, another shed is in the works. No design changes necessary.

 

Get the facts on goats! 

 

The NZ Dairy Goat Industry

  • There are around 66,000 dairy goats in New Zealand, housed across 92 farms.
  • The Waikato is our dairy goat heartland, with 72% of the national population.

On the Up and Up

  • Goat milk products are increasingly popular – from low lactose, nutritious infant formula to high-end cheeses like chevre and feta.
  • It all starts with the milk. A high protein, low fat profile makes goat milk more easily digestible and less allergenic than its cow counterpart. It’s a great fit for lucrative nutritional niches around the world, like medicinal powered milk tablets in Asia or supplementary milk for lactose intolerant infants.
  • The dairy goat industry is projected to be worth a tidy $400 million in export revenue by 2023, thanks to a new $30 million public-private programme to deliver breakthrough research and improve farming standards.

Dairy Goats: The Kiwi Way

  • The average herd size for a commercial operation in New Zealand is 750 milking does.
  • Around 85% of the local population is Saanen goats, favoured for their high milk yield and docile nature.
  • Dairy goats can struggle in wet, cold conditions, so most farmers operate a barn-home model and feed via a cut-and-carry forage system with supplementary grains or maize for a balanced diet.
  • A healthy doe, raised indoors, will produce an average of 2 kids and 86kg of milk solids per year which is roughly double the production of those raised outside and will be less likely to have worm or feet problems.

The Dairy Goat Lifestyle

  • For many kiwi farmers, dairy goats represent a lighter way to farm. The animals are easy on the environment, small enough to handle and generally placid and gentle.
  • Goats give farmers flexibility to fit their lifestyle – be it partial-retirement, making farm work accessible for younger people and women or manageable diversification on the farm.

The Numbers

  • The goat milk payout hovers around $13 to $18 per kg of milk solids, with costs around $8-9 per kg. That’s a healthy return generated from a relatively small parcel of land.
  • Starting costs can run high though, you only get one shot to build the right infrastructure for your operation.

It’s Never Easy…

  • While dairy goats are an attractive option for diversification, there are pitfalls for first-timers.
  • Processors are renowned for tightly limiting the number and caliber of new suppliers to protect their premium niche. Shareholder buy-ins can be expensive.
  • For those new to dairy, adjusting your business to a payout schedule can be challenging.
  • Finding qualified staff and support people like vets can be tough in the small sector.
  • Goats are very susceptible to disease and health risks.

 

Source: New Zealand Goat Industry. Scholtens, Lopez-Lozano and Smith. Massey University 2017

C947_GH_G (34)Matt and Sarah editedC947_GH_G (31)

The 5 Step Guide to Building a Commercial Shed

An investment in the future returns dividends today.

Great businesses are built on strong infrastructure. It’s only when the road washes away or the plumbing stops that we recognise the value of getting the basics right.
Erecting a building to grow your business is one of the most important, lasting infrastructure projects you’ll undertake. It’s an operations hub that needs to integrate into your business systems and daily life from the start and grow with you.

To help maximise your infrastructure investment, here’s our 5-step checklist to getting your building right, first time.

1. Outline why you need the building. Be specific.
A general answer like ‘storage’ or ‘protection from the elements’ isn’t enough here. A clear objective will help find efficiencies, choose styles, site correctly and build to last in the long-run. Common objectives focus on streamlining loading operations by X% or expanding to house more vehicles or larger class sizes. Many also set multiple or overlapping objectives – like building a workshop, storage space and business front, all rolled into one.

2. Picture how the building will fit into existing systems.
Understanding how a building will integrate into your daily life – on a pretty granular level – will help find efficiencies and avoid problems early on. It helps to break this part down into natural & operational systems.
Natural systems include considerations like prevailing wind, heat, pests and rain. The choices you make in the build process need to take these into account. Prevailing wind will impact who can smell operations, summer heat might require ventilation and a rainwater system could cut down on costs in the longrun.
Operational systems cover the processes and assets you’ve built up over time. How will the building fit into the mix of habits, machinery, people and tasks that make up your daily life?

Common questions to ask at this stage might be:
• What direction will you usually approach and exit the building from?
• How could operational health & safety risks be minimised through smart design or features like rubber-matting floors.
• What class of vehicle will use the building Will the turning bays be big enough?
• How long will you spend in the building each day and what facilities should be on site?

These seem like small details, but over time, small details matter. If you use the building 10 times a day, the extra 20 seconds it takes to cover the courtyard from a misplaced door adds around 20 hours of wasted time a year.

3. Choose the material
Generally, this part will come down to one of two choices – timber or steel. Both have their applications, but at Aztech Buildings, we think steel really delivers for our customers on price, quality and build-time. To help choose a style, we revisit the natural & operational systems the building will integrate with. We need to consider everything from the type of machinery that will operate in the space, to the material’s ability to withstand heavy wear and maximise natural light.

4. Do the maths
Your infrastructure investment has to deliver a return – either in operational efficiency or capital. Preferably both. A clear business model that takes into account construction costs, expected maintenance, operational savings and associated benefits is a key threshold to cross – it takes the project from a ‘nice to have’ to a business priority. If nothing else, a strong business case will at least keep the bank manager happy.

5. Navigate the regulations
The NZ Building Code isn’t light reading, but it matters. Councils also have varying requirements. Professional help at this step is usually a wise investment. Working with an experienced builder and their planning team can streamline consent processes and save time and money. A good example is siting new builds near boundaries where set-back rules differ by councils, build type and several other factors. For space restricted builds, knowing how to get the best site for the least investment is critical. Building regulations seldom stand still, so having a professional who understands how construction standards are evolving can help you futureproof your infrastructure investment.

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