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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 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
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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