Tucked away in the rolling hill country of Patumahoe, south of Auckland, is New Zealand’s largest goat farm – Oete Farm - where Matt Bolton lavishes a lot of love and care on his inquisitive, friendly stock.

Oete Farm was originally a dairy cow property but over the past seven years Matt have turned this land into a productive and sustainable goat milk enterprise. In fact, he has expanded the original 273 hectare property to neighbouring Oakdale Farm, now run as a combined operation farming some 5,700 goats for milk production.

Goats are not just productive units to Matt, who sees his animals more like pets who deserve the highest standards of welfare and nutrition. His strong animal welfare focus, combined with a passion for reducing their environmental footprint, has established Oete Farm as an industry leader. Matt was named 2020 Regional Supreme Winners at the Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

As goats are more prone to pneumonia and worms than other animals, their animals are largely farmed in an open barn setting and fed through a cut and carry system. Good nutrition is of paramount importance. Grass is constantly tested for levels of protein, carbohydrates and sugar. Matt says when a wee nutritional boost is needed, he knows who to contact – Darren Edwards at GrainHub, a specialist manufacturer and supplier of top quality pelletized stock food.

“About 85 per cent of our goats’ feed is freshly cut grass but at different times of year they need more carbohydrate or more energy than grass alone can provide. Darren is really understanding of how our animals’ nutritional needs change throughout the season and how they vary depending on age. We need to manage the whole range from kids through to two- and three-year-olds and very mature goats. He is always ready to whip up a custom blend for us and is so flexible and accommodating.

“GrainHub is really great at making the right pellet for what we need, when we need it and their role in supporting animal nutrition on our farm is absolutely crucial.” As Matt observes, having a stock food specialist like Darren to call on has been invaluable. “His good reputation is well-deserved; GrainHub work really hard to get exactly what you need.”

In conjunction with NIG Nutritionals, Matt has developed his own brand of fresh A2 goat milk called Before Cow Goat’s Milk. As Matt observes, thousands of years ago people got their milk fix not from cows, but from goats, and in fact goat’s milk is much more similar to human milk. Matt has worked hard on perfecting a great tasting milk product with high nutritional value.

Exciting for Matt, too, are the environmental advantages of farming goats, as the animals are very good at turning dry matter into milk and consume less water than a conventional dairy farm. Significant environmental gains are also being achieved through extensive planting of natives to reduce carbon emissions and boost biodiversity. Matt’s inspiring farm story was recently showcased on Country Calendar (October 3).