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New Zealand Goats Go International

Goat milk consumption is increasing around the world and scientists are looking to make New Zealand's goat milk the best.

Scott McDougall at the Animal Health Centre in Morrinsville is leading a study which looks at improving the quality of goat milk quality and production.

"We are tackling problems infections of the goat udder such as mastitis," said Mr McDougall.

"The dairy goat industry is growing rapidly by producing high quality, value added milk products of which 95 per cent are exported.

"Milk from cows undergoes stringent testing for quality before it gets to consumers. Among the common tests for milk quality include counting the number of bacteria in the milk and the number of immune system cells found in milk.

"However, as the mammary gland of goats produces milk in a slightly different way from cows, the somatic cell count tends to be higher than in cows."

Around the world there has been confusion as to how to interpret the milk quality tests in goats and what standards to set. The research is an investment of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and aims to understand what causes increases in the somatic cell count in dairy goats.

So far the researchers have collected milk samples from individual goats on nearly 50 herds across the Waikato.

"Preliminary results show that, indeed, bacterial infection of the gland does increase the somatic cell count in milk in most cases," said Mr McDougall.

"However, there are some strains of bacteria that seem to coexist happily in the gland without provoking a big immune response, so that the somatic cell count stays low. Goats coming into heat during the seasonal breeding season tend to produce less milk for a few days around mating, and the cell count tends to go up at this stage."

"We took goats for a short ride around the country side in a trailer to slightly stress them. Then we milked them and showed that their somatic cell counts were no higher than if they stayed at home.

"We have asked herd owners how they milk their goats, what disinfectants they use after milking on goats' teats, what and when they use antibiotics on their goats and how their milking machine is set up."

The overall aim is to have happy healthy goats producing the best quality milk for the international customers of New Zealand dairy goat milk products and to provide herd owners with information about how to produce clean high quality milk.

For further information:

Scott McDougall, Animal Health Centre, Tel 07 889 0484

Madeleine Setchell Communications Adviser Foundation for Research, Science and Technology PO Box 12-240, Wellington Tel 04 9177806 Mobile 025 40 60 40

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