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Goats: the comeback kid

Martinborough’s The Drunken Nanny owners Lindsey and Amanda Goodman. PHOTO/FILE

ERIN KAVANAGH-HALL

It was her children’s pet Nubian goats which helped transform a farm struggling under the glare of climate change into an award-winning dairy goat operation.

Martinborough native and co-founder of The Drunken Nanny Amanda Goodman will share her experiences at the sixth annual Farming for the Future conference, to be held at Carterton Events Centre tomorrow.

Goodman said she and her family turned to goat milking to help supplement their income from sheep farming. A shot in the dark which turned lucrative, with The Drunken Nanny raking in a haul of medals at the New Zealand Cheese Awards, and selling cheese, pasteurised milk and kefir nationwide.

She hopes to inspire other farmers to diversify their production, particularly as the environment changes and practices are forced to adapt.

“Hopefully, we can be an interesting case study for farmers who want to bring something new to their business,” she said.

“We say we need to be resilient as farmers, but water and the climate is a major problem here.

“We can be as resilient as we like, but if what we’ve been doing is no longer working then it may be time to explore an alternative.

“Sometimes, you need to take a gamble.”

She and her husband Lindsey previously ran a sheep and beef operation 16 kilometres outside Martinborough, on the farm they leased from her parents.

In 2012, they invested in their first herd of goats – pets and a source of milk for their three children, all of whom are intolerant to cow’s milk.

Three years later, after a drop in wool prices, and witnessing first-hand the effects of climate change on Martinborough farmland, the Goodmans founded The Drunken Nanny.

“Every season, we were bouncing from drought to drought,” Goodman said.

“Without the [grass] feed and without irrigation, the old sheep farming model my dad used to run isn’t financially viable anymore.”

The Farming for the Future Conference will be held at Carterton Events Centre on March 27. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Goodman, who did a course at the New Zealand Cheese School in Putaruru, first started making batches of cheese at the kitchen bench – with production eventually moving to a small 10-cup milking shed (converted from an old outhouse on the property) and a “maturing room” built alongside.

The Drunken Nanny received certification from the Ministry for Primary Industries at the end of 2015, and the Goodmans expanded their milking herd to over 100.

She said running a goat dairy operation has been a “learning curve” – presenting challenges such as health and safety costs, transporting chilled products out of Martinborough, and the basic care of their goats, which require high-quality feed and “lots of vitamins and minerals”.

But the Goodmans’ hard work has paid off – with their products earning positive reviews from previously sceptical customers.

“Goats’ milk can have a strong aroma.

“A lot of people haven’t grown up with goats’ milk – and get the idea that it tastes like old socks.

“So it’s a real thrill when people taste our cheese, and tell us they’ve been converted!”

At the conference, Goodman will be speaking on the benefits of “bringing new operations” into a farming business, as well as the health benefits of goats’ milk – a product beginning to gain traction in New Zealand, with major operations running in Waikato.

Last week The Drunken Nanny took out three gold, two silver and one bronze Outstanding NZ Food Producer awards for their lemony lush, black tie, dill lush and fresh lush cheeses, goat milk kefir and pasteurised goat milk.

Tickets and more information can be found online at, farmingforthefuture.org.nz

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