How It All Started

Goats didn’t feature in Shaun Thomson’s initial plans for dairy farming but a bright idea from his wife planted the seed that goats could be worth looking at. And that’s what he did. With a passion for farming and an interest in the pasture to plate to export model, Shaun started researching options that could be achieved without the burden of a large debt. Milking goats came out on top, so after much discussion he teamed up with a mate to start Goat Island Dairy.

“Me and a mate had talked for six months that milking goats would be a great idea. I got sick of talking and went out and bought our first goats. At that stage, we had no land or no dairy shed to milk them in but buying the goats put us under a lot of pressure to do some problem solving”, elaborates Shaun.

The Business Today

Three years down the track and Goat Island Dairy now milks 130 goats on their farm on the outskirts of the picturesque Otago Coast in a little place called Purakanui, a 25-minute drive north of Dunedin. The land has a fairly steep contour and the annual rainfall is relatively low, at 800mm. The farm includes a 16-hectare milking platform plus a 24-hectare run-off that is used to rear young stock and winter milkers.

Once the goats are finished in the shed, their great tasting milk is sent to a pasteuriser on site to be heat-treated, then either bottled into a recyclable glass bottle or used for making one of six varieties of cheese.  The milk and cheese are then sold under the Goat Island Dairy brand to cafés and loyal customers at the local farmers market. The products will also soon be available in supermarkets. Building a consumer brand is an integral part of Goat Island Dairy’s farm to plate vision with their mission being to create the best milk products possible and doing this in the most sustainable way. Although not certified organic yet, this is on the agenda for the future.

Goat Island Dairy can feel proud of what it has achieved to date, as it is no mean feat establishing a vertically integrated business and acquiring the wide range of knowledge and skills required to farm a new species, manufacture a range of dairy products and develop and sell a consumer brand. Renovating the dairy, adding a manufacturing room, getting regulatory sign-off, filling and selling the first bottle of milk, making beautiful cheese and getting products into cafés and now supermarkets, are some of the business’ highlights. But with any small business, scaling to increase revenue and profit is key to longevity.

Next Steps

“Any new step creates new challenges that just need to be worked through, but this keeps it exciting and you become very good at problem solving”, explains Shaun. Once we have established ourselves in the New Zealand market, we will start building a value-added exporting company. To start working towards this aspiration, Goat Island Dairy is raising capital to fund the acquisition of an established quality dairy farm to milk goats and cows with the possibility of adding sheep at a later date. Shaun and his team are also interested in investing in a spray drier to process their milk and is looking for other doers who are keen to join forces and get the industry moving in the South Island.

For more information on investment options in Goat Island Dairy  please contact Shaun Thomson via email  thomsonholdings@yahoo.co.nz or phone Shaun Thomson on 0274168015

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