Support for micro entrepreneurs in food of animal origin from rare breeds (goat dairy)

Start-ups in the short food supply chain are often small-scale producers who want to contribute to unique food products of animal origin, often with rare Dutch breeds and production methods, while at the same time taking sustainable care of the environment in which they farm. These new entrepreneurs have knowledge gaps of which this research aimed to help to answer some. Doetie’s Geiten and the Dutch Rare Breed Survival Trust initiated this project.

Together with the advisory group, research questions were formulated and executed. These two questions are relevant for small scale producers of food of animal origin.

The first research question is to make an updated and enlarged version of an user guide for small-scale producers of food of animal origin. This relates to the fact that new producers are not familiar with and experience hurdles with legislation and regulations for food safety, animal welfare, animal health monitoring and administrative burdens for small-scale producers of dairy and meat. Based on the results of an ACT student group, a platform has been formed with representatives of organizations surrounding small-scale producers who will jointly take care of the online handbook for small-scale producers. This will be done in the Dutch language.

The second research question was about what bacteria are present in the raw milk of dairy goats. This exploratory study looked at the diversity of bacteria in raw milk per farm and the variation between farms, and in specific the amount of lactic acid-producing bacteria. Fast growth of desired lactic acid-producing bacteria suppresses the growth of spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms. Morning milk samples were taken from the milk glass or milk line at ten farms for total bacteria count and microbiome analysis. At six of these ten farms, those who had tank milk, a tank milk sample from previous day was also taken.

The results of the milk microbiome samples clearly showed that the samples from the same day are very similar, with a clear “fingerprint” of the farm per sample moment. However, the samples repeated over time show that the composition of the milk microbiome can change very quickly, the microbiome is really a “snapshot”. The dominant microbial phyla found in goat milk are Firmicutes, Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria, which represent 95% of the milk microbiome.

For an follow up analysis we clustered the farms in regular and non-conventional farms. The non-regular farms process the milk themselves, have different farm management (many animals from this group go outside) and are smaller size (less than 200 goats). No difference in variation in the milk microbiome was found between the clusters, even not for the lactic acid-producing bacteria. We found that within the group non-regular farms there is a lot of variation.

The Science Shop of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) collaborates with non-profit organisations in society by organizing research projects that find answers to their questions. The goal is to empower groups in society by engaging them in scientific research and to create direct, positive change together and this project created a network for the organisations involved.