Milk is nature’s most complete foods in terms of humans’ diverse nutritional requirements. Milk for us is always Cow milk. Somehow we never think of goat’s milk. Maybe, because that’s how our brains are cultured. Seldom did we know that goat milk and goat milk products form a part of Indian revenue. India was ranked the number one producer of goat milk in 2017 by an estimated production of 50 Lakh metric tonnes.
Goat milk is extremely nutritious containing protein, carbohydrate, fat, minerals, and vitamins. Just like cow’s milk, goat milk is also used to make butter, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and various other products. Vistara farms is one such goat farm that produces goat milk and goat milk products in India. Located Malavalli, Mandya district, they started in 2012 with just 50 Beetal goats. Krishna, the founder of Vistara Farms also came up with Basta Goat Milk. I got to speak to Krishna and wanted to share a few interesting excerpts. So, here you go!
The world is full of cow’s milk. Why did you choose goat’s milk?
Goat milk was a staple in home requirements in the past (25-30 years ago) and the same is very useful for many purposes due to medicinal values. It is also considered as a substitute to mother’s milk. We are trying to turn back the wheel as people today are conscious of an organic and healthy lifestyle. Also, as Desi Cows have reduced after the white revolution, goat milk is many folds a better choice!
How difficult is it to convince people for goat’s milk because they are all used to cow’s milk?
Yes, it’s very difficult; hence our strategy for sales is educating the people about the goodness of goat milk. We are trying to make Goat Milk a part of people’s lifestyles with testimonials/anecdotes on health benefits with medium-term usage. On the other hand, we have found many consumers who were waiting for goat milk/product availability. These people know the benefits of goat milk from their parents/ grandparents. One of our customers told us how his sister’s childhood wheezing problem was cured by goat milk. Goat milk is easy to digest compared to cow milk. Less Alpha-S1-Casein and lactose, more protein, and essential minerals. Blood pressure friendly. Fast Dengue recovery.
The word Feta takes the urban human to the image of a salad, unlike the normal cow’s Milk Cheese. Wasn’t it a risk to do something that is not conventional?
Considering the cheese preference on a general basis, yes it might be a risk. But you can find much-imported feta cheese in the Indian market. Also, many restaurants buy imported goat cheeses for their cuisine. This niche market persuaded us to make Basta goat milk feta – in the original Greek recipe. Bangalore has large population globetrotters and well-heeled residents are inquisitive to try new cuisines. For instance, using Feta in pastries (Phyllo)!
Goat milk though considered healthy, in rural areas it isn’t consumed much because it produces heat in the body. What is your opinion on this?
The current rural population doesn’t consume goat milk because there is no supply. Also, they don’t know much about the benefits of goat milk. It is a pearl of lost wisdom! They consider goat only for meat, not milk. However, elderly people know the benefits. Yes, goat milk gives slight heat to the body compared to cow milk. But like most with those properties (ginger, turmeric) it can be used for health benefits.
Is Goat farming similar to Cow farming? What is the method you use?
Though many processes involved in cow farming is similar to goat farming, it’s a bit different from cow farming. Management and rearing practices are different. Goats need more space compared to their size with cows. In terms of feed we give to livestock it varies on the basis of the age and category/life stage of the animal. We can’t generalize and feed them anything as goats is very sensitive animals. That’s the reason we focus heavily on agriculture and grow a variety of feeds on our own. We are very particular about what we feed our goats. Basic necessities like a shed, feed, medical attention, and safety are top priorities. We have constructed scientifically built raised shed for modern goat farming.
Do they feed on Hay or what exactly do they feed on? Because there is a saying “there’s no green a goat has touched”?
Yes, goats are fed with hay. In addition to this, many varieties of feeds are given to them each day. It’s classified by us as concentrated feed, grass feed, legumes, hydroponic feed, dry feed, silages/maize, tree fodder. All mentioned above involves around 20 varieties of feed which we grow. Our goats are healthy and Basta milk is of the highest quality due to the feed regime we follow. Especially, for pregnant and lactating goats.
Do you give them any hormones? How many litres per day does a goat produce?
Do you mean, hormone injection to increase yield in milk? We don’t do that and we don’t recommend it to anyone. We started with our passion for doing something sustainable and ethical. Basta products are 100% natural, pure, and healthy. We even feed our goats naturally grown fodder. Today in cow dairy there is excess use of hormones and chemicals to increase milk yield, which has dangerous consequences to the animals, as well as to the milk users. If you do the same to goats, they can’t sustain and will die eventually. Unlike cows, goats are very sensitive animals and can’t sustain hormones/adulteration. A goat will produce 1 to 1.5 litres of milk per day during lactation.
What will happen to the boys?
The majority of males are sold for breeding. However, many people do come and purchase them for meat too. We keep Beetal goats which are milk yielding goats! Males are big compared to what you would have seen.
They are good for meat once the girls stop producing milk? What happens to them?
As per our experience, a female in the best health condition can give milk till 8-9 years. Post that, we will sell her for meat.
How do you choose to perfect a boy to mate with the girls? Or is it artificial insemination like the cows?
We choose to run our farm in a natural way and do not use artificial insemination. Mating in our goat farming is done in the traditional way. We see the body structure, parents, pedigree etc. to decide on the selection of breeding males.
Where does the goat dropping go? Manure?
We use the manure for feed development (agriculture) activities. The surplus we sell to farmers.
Do you grow your own hay?
Yes, we do, not only hay, we grow maize, legumes, tree fodder, hydroponic fodder, and a variety of medicines property leaves.
What does ‘a day in the life’ look at Vistara Farms?
Get up early, do your planned work, and rest in the midst of nature. To summarize, you can say it will be a day of discipline, challenges, joy and peace.
What is the most rewarding in all this you have been doing?
We are doing this without godfathers or the support of big names (funds). We have created a brand – Basta, competing with the imported products, preserving the best Indian goat breed. To see our Basta flavored goat milk sharing shelves with imported yogurts, to see 5-star chefs choosing our cheese our imported one – these instances bring a smile to us! We had around a 70% mortality rate when we started. We have learned so much in the past four years to reduce this to 2 percent now.
What are the challenges?
Every aspect of goat farming is a challenge because there is no proven example of a goat dairy farm in India for milk production. Right from procuring a loan from a bank, getting approvals from an authority, bringing best milking breeds, skillful manpower, branding, business development to sell products, creating awareness everything, digital marketing. Except for rearing and milking the goat, everything else is a challenge. We love our goats!
What do you wish people knew more about goat farming?
First thing, goat milk is widely used in Ayurveda and the original superfood for strong immunity and health. Basta brings this ancient wisdom to their doorstep every morning! Goat Farming is a socially beneficial and economically viable model. Many people are coming back to the agriculture and animal husbandry, many are visiting us for training to start a goat farm, we are in the process of making a co-operative goat farming model.
What is your favorite goat cheese dish?
Garlic coriander chevre soup, Goat cheese omelet, Chicken Feta, and Feta watermelon salad.
When it comes to cheese, yogurt and flavors do you have a cheesemaker or an affineur?
We had a cheese maker working for us as a consultant initially, now we have our team for product making, and for future products we are working with an expert.
What is sustainable goat farming and breeding for you? Do you believe in ‘Sustainability’?
Yes, I very much believe in ecological sustainability. There is zero waste in goat farming, a variety of fodder will be fed to animals and the goat manure is used for growing feed. On the product side, we do not use plastic bottles. We try to recycle the milk glass bottles. The feed for goats is also grown by us in a natural way without any chemicals.