Farming and Agriculture

Kick-off meeting of the Gentle Dairy project: Inducing natural lactation in non-gestating goats

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08 June 2023, France: In April 2023, FiBL France kicked off the Gentle Dairy project with an event at a goat farm in the Auvergne-Rhône Alpes region of France.

The 3-year research project aims to study the factors favouring inducing lactation in non-gestating goats. For this purpose, about 150 goats from 10 to 12 different farms will be kept non-gestating this summer. The goats, together with the same number of gestating goats serving as a control group, will be monitored in terms of hormones and lactation in 2024. The project also includes workshops in France, Switzerland, Germany and Austria in order to discuss the practice of inducing lactation on a larger scale. The project is supported by the Four Paws Foundation.

The kick-off event was an opportunity to bring together the teams of FiBL France and FiBL Switzerland as project partners, members of Four Paws as project support, farmers participating in the project as well as journalists, and other stakeholders. The goal of the event was to present the Gentle Dairy project as well as the partners that support it, and to discuss this innovative practice. The event took place on the farm of Anne-Laure Vautrin, the project ambassador, since this year half of her goats are induced into lactation without gestation.

Producing goat cheese without offspring

Farmers have noticed that some non-gestating goats are able to induce lactation after being dried off and without hormonal treatment. This is interesting especially because kids are often poorly valued and the longevity of goats is reduced due to repeated gestations. These two issues have a direct impact on the economy of the goat industry, but are also very important in terms of animal welfare.

A first pilot project with promising results

FiBL France conducted a first pilot project called Lactodouce in 2021 and 2022 on six farms to test whether it was possible to induce lactation in non-gestating goats. The teats of about 30 non-gestating goats were manually stimulated as soon as the farmers started milking all their goats. The results of the Lactodouce project showed that about 60 % of the non-gestating goats induced lactation, with a level of milk production only 30 % lower than that of the gestating goats. These first encouraging scientific results gave a strong impetus to study the factors that drive lactation induction in non-gestating goats in more detail.

Gentle Dairy project

The Gentle Dairy project is a collaboration between FiBL France, FiBL Switzerland and Four Paws. There are three main objectives:

The project also aims to evaluate whether the welfare of the goats is improved when lactation is induced without prior gestation.

  1. A study carried out on ten to twelve goat farms in the French Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region to investigate the factors favouring the induced lactation in non-gestating goats. In particular, the trial will determine whether induced lactation is dependent on:
    • Breed (Saane vs Alpine),
    • The milk production level of the goats (medium vs. high),
    • The number of previous gestations (primiparous vs. multiparous),
    • Kids being present with the goats.
    The project also aims to evaluate whether the welfare of the goats is improved when lactation is induced without prior gestation.
  2. Workshops in France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany will be organised in order to disseminate the first research results on the subject, and to allow an exchange of experiences and opinions between farmers on the subject and its economic, technical, societal and political dimensions.
  3. The results will be disseminated through professional conferences at national and international level (France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany), in order to communicate on induced lactation and the factors linked to it.

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