Looking to License your Goat Dairy? Start Here

Published on Wed, 09/15/2021 - 2:19pm

Looking to License your Goat Dairy? Start Here.

 By Jaclyn Krymowski.

 There is certainly a demand and market for goat milk, cheeses and other specialty dairy products. (Be sure to investigate the phenomena of goat gelato!)

Fortunately, there is no shortage of goats, especially dairy breeds, here in the U.S. Very unfortunately, there is very little industry-wide infrastructure and support for commercialization compared to the other livestock industries that dominate the American supply chain.

This has left goat producers large and small in a bit of a predicament when it comes to turning a part-time endeavor into a profitable production system. The world of commercial dairying is complicated and intricate. While we have a first-world advantage in terms of technology and management, there are still relatively few experts and resources that are goat-specific.

It takes tireless research and a true entrepreneurial spirit. But, with the right investments and management, opportunities abound for goat dairies of all sizes.

The basics of licensing
Keep in mind that the specific rules and restrictions for dairying vary greatly from state to state, as do processors, retailers and the demand for types of products.

Many smaller and startup goat operations have found it most economical to opt for a grade B license as opposed to grade A – grade B is typically all that is required for many goat cheese processors and one of the simplest licenses to obtain.

However, if there is a legal raw milk market or you’re in a region capable to capitalize on value-added products, it may be necessary to look at the grade A route.

Again, while there are a lot of variances from state to state, the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) of the Food and Drug Administration is the general basis throughout the land regarding Grade A certification.

Essentially, this covers the basics of required surfaces, approved equipment, parlor requirements, and milk safety. Not only does this outline the work expected regarding cleaning and organization, but it also provides a very detailed picture of what resources, space and storage are required.

Note that the marketability for raw milk varies greatly from state to state. Even if the laws in a particular area are more relaxed, dairies need to be extremely cautious when producing and selling raw milk intend for human consumption. While the demand for raw goat milk is usually very high, producers entering this market need to be very well educated about health, safety and legalities. It is highly recommended to speak with agriculture-specific legal counsel to ensure all liabilities are covered.

Anyone who wants to certify their goat dairy will need to consider what will be required for them to become compliant. Some facilities are already in a great position to do this with few upgrades and others may require an entire overhaul.

Another aspect to bear in mind is exactly how milk will be handled, stored and transported if need be. Other lesser-considered factors such as water, runoff, plumbing and chemicals also need to be accounted for in designing a compliant dairy.

Specialty certifications
Because goats are already such a unique niche, producers often find themselves in a prime position to further capitalize on additional third-party certification and labels.

USDA Certified Organic is often the first that comes to mind, but there are other alternatives as well. A Greener World is one sustainability-based certification that has a specific platform for dairy goats under their Certified Animal Welfare Approved and Certified Grassfed badges.

Langston University also has its own web-based training and certification program for goat producers. With a set of 18 complete core modules and 10 electives, those pursuing commercial goat dairying are able to learn the ins and outs of the whole operation starting with practical management aspects of the lactating goat herd through milk production, facilities, legalities and value-added products. Not only does this supply another accredited certification, but it also walks producers through the realities and needs necessary to have a productive herd.

To date, the university reports having given out 173 “Quality Dairy Producer” certificates.

Other resources
In addition to the financing and legalities required to start dairying, producers need to also have an understanding of where and how they will market and distribute their milk.

Goat cheese is one of the most demanded dairy products. But novelties including soap, fudge and other candies are also growing niches that are proving to be much more viable. Some of these have lesser demands for milk safety and handling and may pose a more economic point of entry.

Besides the financial aspect, one of the major challenges dairy goat producers may face is finding a commercial processor who might be interested in buying their milk.

But as goat cheese processors are few and far in-between in many regions (bottled milk facilities are even more so), some producers have sought to get licensing for themselves so they can milk and process all their own products on-farm. These will require their own infrastructure and equipment, but even on a small scale they are possible, especially when it comes to grants who may find favor in small and more obscure business ventures.

Keep in mind that if you are looking at processing or making your own products, you will likely need additional licensing and permits. You may also want to consider how you will want to legally register these as separate businesses.

Finally, become familiar with your state’s Department of Agriculture and FDA office. A lot of resources are available online and offices are usually happy to help by providing additional information.  

Goat dairying is one full of its own unique rewards, but the road to get there has been tread by only a select few here in the United States making it particularly daunting. Certain states have allowed for alternative measures such as herd sharing or selling milk not labeled for human consumption.

With limited markets and a special situation, goat breeders have found financial success in a lot of creative ways. But that doesn’t mean that pursuing the traditional route of commercial dairying should be discounted. In fact, the more producers who spearhead this sector the greater the infrastructure and opportunities there will be in the future.