Here at Madd House Hill, we are so proud of our products and the high-quality ingredients we create them with, including 100% farm fresh goat milk. Our herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats, who provide us with milk and make this whole thing possible, are a special fixture here on The Hill. We take great pride in giving them the best care possible, and okay, spoiling them at times! The care of our herd is an important part of our day-to-day life as we are outside feeding, milking, and caring for them twice a day. Because of our commitment to giving our goats a great life, in early 2021, we decided to take an additional step in furthering our goat knowledge by becoming a certified Quality Dairy Producer! In this post, we want to share more about the QDP program, the certification process, and how it has impacted our herd and future plans.
The Quality Dairy Producer certification is run by the American Institute for Goat Research and was created in collaboration with the USDA and several research universities, with the goal of educating dairy goat producers with the most recent, science-backed information available. Certified farms are able to promote well-being and the highest quality milk possible on their farms with the knowledge and research this program provides. Goats are a less common research subject compared to other livestock, such as cattle, so we were immediately interested in the research and detail that went into developing the course modules. Plus, you can never know too much when it comes to the care and management of your herd. So of course, we signed up!
The certification program, or “Goat School”, as we lovingly nicknamed it, included 18 required modules, and 7 electives, so it really was like a college course on dairy goats. Early topics included basic information on management, nutrition, and herd health, but then progressed into more complex discussions. Some of the most interesting and more advanced modules included legal issues facing dairy goat producers, milking systems, and genetics. After ten years raising goats, it could be easy to fall into the trap of feeling that you know everything there is to know…but this was definitely not the case for us! This program was a great reminder that as a farm or producer of any kind, it is so important to continue to advance your knowledge whenever possible.
There were so many modules in this course that were full of relevant, new information – and were still just scratching the surface of what one can learn. Genetics, especially, was a module we really enjoyed and a topic that we would love to investigate and learn more about as time goes on. Additionally, looking at dairy goats through a research lens was a great change of perspective, and a reminder that there is still so much that we have to learn about our little goats! Between new technology, research techniques, and findings that are coming out of the program’s university partners, there are near constant advancements in our knowledge of dairy goats, the diseases that affect them, and protocols to improve milk production and quality. It was exciting to see the growth that is expected in this area, since as the program noted, demand for goat cheeses and other products steadily going up. Increasingly, dairy goat farms are growing and becoming more specialized, using automated milking equipment, and becoming more efficient. It is an exciting time to be in this industry!
In terms of the elective options we chose, of course we focused on the items that are most important to our farm and business! Our electives included goat milk product safety, goat milk cheese, soap, and marketing, among others. A few of these topics gave us direct insight into improvements and adjustments we would like to make to our own operation here on The Hill. For instance, we were able to take some of our new knowledge on milking systems and apply it to the building plans for our new barn. Once our new barn is complete, the new and improved milking room will be larger, include more room for our automatic milking machines, and connect to a staging area where our girls will wait their turn to be milked. This will make our process more efficient and (hopefully) result in less chore time each day, giving us back some much-needed time to work on other areas of the business!
All in all, the certification took approximately four months to complete, between different modules, studying, and passing each required exam. Yes, there were tests involved, before and after each module! You can see now why we called it Goat School 😊 If you raise goats currently or are considering adding goats to your life in the future, we encourage you to look into this program. Since goats are considered a minor species in the livestock industry, accurate information and research can sometimes be hard to find, and, if you are new to goats, it can be hard to distinguish the good advice from the bad online. This program was definitely a great resource for us and we will continue to use it as a source of knowledge in the future. More information can never hurt!
We really enjoyed becoming 'goat nerds' over the course of the certification program and are now proud to be one of four QDP certified farms in the state of Kansas. Next time you see this logo on our products or website, you will know it means we are bringing you products made with only the highest quality goat milk!
Until next time,
Madd House Hill