The “Goat Wise” Project Presents:
Goat culture, a natural pharmacy in the woodland at Ramat Hanadiv and very healthy milk
Ten years after the goat pen was established at Ramat Hanadiv, an Alpine billy goat, whose parents were brought to Israel from France, was bought from an amateur goat breeder through the “Yad 2” website. The addition of this goat to the goat herd heralded the beginning of the applied research project “Goat Wise”, a partnership between the Volcani Center and Ramat Hanadiv, which is ending this year. The project, led by Dr. Tzach Glasser and Dr. Yan Landau – is producing very fascinating results: we’ve learnt that goats have a culture that is passed on from generation to generation, that the pasture at Ramat Hanadiv is a natural “pharmacy” for them and that the goat’s milk produced in the local goat pen is rich in protein and healthy for humans.
The goat pen at Ramat Hanadiv – from research to practice
The goat pen at Ramat Hanadiv was established in 2002 in the Nature Park, with the aim of studying how goats can be reared in Mediterranean woodland for the purpose of preventing fires and increasing the plant biodiversity in the park.
The study, which aimed to find the most suitable breed of goat for grazing in woodland, found that among three goat breeds – Damascus goat (Shami), Mamber goat (Baladi), and Boer goat – the Damascus goat is the one that copes best with the Mediterranean woodland plants and is the most effective in reducing fire risk.
In line with Ramat Hanadiv’s vision – that promotes integration of scientific research with practical application and strives to apply the knowledge gained through research in the field – the joint “Goat Wise” project was launched in 2012, headed by Dr. Tzach Glasser from Ramat Handiv and Dr. Yan Landau from the Volcani Center.
The aim of the project was to examine how the way the vegetation is eaten by the goats in the pasture affects their milk production, in order to find the most sustainable farming management. For this purpose, it turned out that an Alpine billy goat of French origin should be added to the goat herd because this goat breed is characterised by a higher milk yield than the local goats.
In parallel to the efforts to increase the herd’s diversity, a milking parlour was set up at Ramat Hanadiv to examine the productivity of four goat breeds: Baladi goat, Shami goat, and the crosses Shami-Alpine and Baladi-Alpine.
The goat herd at Ramat Hanadiv – that currently numbers about 160 milk goats – as well as 50 or so Merino sheep, sets out each day after the morning milking to browse in the woodland areas of the park, accompanied by a goatherd and equipped with a GPS device that records the location data of the herd at 5-minute intervals. The data are gathered and uploaded to a map that allows us to examine the effect of the grazing on the vegetation and landscape.
The herd produces about 80,000 litres of milk per year, which are sold as raw milk to the Shomron Dairy located in Binyamina. Milk samples from each goat are tested monthly and herd health, use of medications and economic data are recorded as well.
Cultured goats, a natural pharmacy and healthy milk for our plates
The joint project ended in late 2019, and even though more work is required to examine and analyse the data, a summary of the project produces some surprising results:
- The plants of the Mediterranean woodland (mainly the mastic tree) are used by the goats not only for food, but also for healing.
The researchers discovered that when the goats eat plants containing certain substances (tannins – plant defence compounds), the goats are healthier and immune to intestinal parasites. Thus the Nature Park at Ramat Hanadiv becomes not only a place to eat but also a “pharmacy” through healthy eating.
- The herd, which is experienced in “self-healing”, also knows how to create a “herd culture”: passing knowledge on from generation to generation.
The researchers found that the mothers, whether biological or adoptive, know how to rapidly transfer this important knowledge to the next generation: a kid in the pasture internalises the preference of his mother for grazing and eating the mastic tree within just one month!
- It was also found that the cross between the female Shami and the male Alpine leads to higher production of high-quality milk than the milk from goats of the other breeds, which are fed indoors with straw.
- The researchers, who at this point joined forces with the Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot, discovered that the nutritional quality of the fat in the goat’s milk produced in the goat farm at Ramat Hanadiv is better than that of other goat’s milk and contains a relatively high content of very healthy fatty acids (phospholipids, omega-3 and more).
The projected ended in late 2019, but we, at Ramat Hanadiv, go out to the pasture daily and continue to learn, study and produce high quality goat’s milk.
So, what’s in it for each and every one of us from the “Goat of wise” project?
The milk produced at Ramat Hanadiv will be sold to a dairy that will produce very high quality goat’s milk products, which we’ll be able to taste in the not-too-distant future when they make their way from the woodland pasture plants at Ramat Hanadiv to our plates.
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