Killing the scapegoat
Sheriff John Brown always hated me, for what I do not know, every time I plant a seed he say, “Kill it before it grow”. – Bob Marley
WE HOADS DON’T LIKE PUBLICITY. And while serious underselling by the Government farm at Greenland has hit our goat’s milk business hard, it was never my idea to do that interview with THE NATION.
However, the response has been amazing. People have met us, phoned, emailed, written letters all voicing support and disgust at Government’s stance. Andrew Bynoe expressed concern. Jurgen Starck offered to help with marketing.
One Fraswell Canklyn, or some such name, is “prepared to make a small contribution if the Hoads decide to fight this”. Says he: “Some people take Viagra: I use goat’s milk instead for the same benefit . . . .”
Another happy stud suggests Crane & Equipment should use it in their machines: “They would achieve 100 per cent greater lift.”
I am touched and embarrassed by all this. But now I must reply to the Government side.
Our beef is that, despite successive increases in feed and other costs, Government has kept its milk prices way below all other goat farmers.
Here is their response: (1) “We do not compete with the Hoads”. Greenland is a mile or less away from us selling milk more than $4 a bottle cheaper. Their cheaper milk is also next to ours in Carlton and Big B supermarkets. Our sales fall dramatically whenever their milk is around. Not competing?
(2) “The Hoads should reduce their prices rather than dump excess milk”. Any business which tries to beat the competition by selling below cost inevitably goes bankrupt. Besides, you can’t compete with Government which has taxpayers’ money to spend. A Greenland officer says their milk sales do not even cover the cost of feed.
(3) “The Hoads should buy our milk and sell it”. Goat’s milk is a very sensitive product, its taste and quality easily affected by several factors.
Several mothers feed their babies on our raw milk; we take no chances. We use no antibiotics, hormones or other artificial aids on the farm. Our animals roam freely and people claim our milk doesn’t have the strong “goaty” flavour usually associated with penned goats. We pay strict attention to cooling and hygiene.
The Pine Hill Dairy lab checks every batch of cow’s milk from every farmer for antibiotics, added water, bacteria count and so on. We have no such facilities and would be taking an enormous risk to sell someone else’s product at supermarkets.
Furthermore, despite claims to the contrary, going through the backdoor isn’t nice at all. There are often long waits as large container trucks are unloaded. We would rather farm than spend time driving around.
If Government wants to get out of marketing milk, then turn it over to some aspiring farmers, not to us who already have our hands full. The goat milk industry needs a number of young, vibrant producers who can take it places, not a virtual monopoly situation.
The Greenland goat milk price issue could be resolved in five minutes by Government deciding to sell its milk on par with other commercial goat farmers. Simple so. (I understand the mutton from their Blackbelly herd is sold at current commercial prices.)
That the problem continues suggests that someone doesn’t want the goat milk industry to develop. Which is a pity.
We are only skimming the surface with fresh milk. Goat cheese, goat yogurt, and an amazing probiotic called “kefir”could be big sellers. (I get some from a Columbian who makes it with my milk and, boy, does it clean the “plaque” out of your intestines as one lady claims! I recognized two of the mother-in-law’s dumplings from back in January and some of Ann Gale’s sweet potato pie from Christmas before last).
We have exported small shipments to Antigua through the Pine Hill Dairy and a customer takes regular supplies back to New York. So there could be export potential.
Both Trinidad and Jamaica have sent in teams recently to see our goat milk industry. And goat’s milk is one product which we can produce far below the imported equivalent.
The goat farmers, ably inspired by president Wayne Smith, have invested their personal funds to bring in semen from improved bucks.
There is also talk of a shipment of goats from Canada which should boost local output.
If Sheriff John Brown kills the seed before it grows, Old Hoad’s Dairy won’t be the only casualty.
• Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator. Email [email protected]