Written by Hugo Asti (IGA Country Representative, Uruguay), Gabriel Palou, and Aurora Ferreira
Dear members of International Goat Association,
First of all, we want to thank you for the opportunity to send a summary of goat breeding in Uruguay and our activity in this field. As you know, Uruguay belongs to MERCOSUR, an economic, custom, political and social project which also includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Venezuela, and attended also by Chile and Bolivia. In this region the total number of goats is about 20,000,000 with only 10,000 belonging to Uruguay.
Most breeders began with poor or no knowledge in small family farms of no more of 20 ha. in the early 1980s, with few animals, mostly saannen, anglo-nubian, pardo-alpines. As a family enterprise they have little or no profit, and the milk was sold raw with no sanitary control by authorities; the same with goat meat. Some developed small cheese factories. In 1992, the producers started to organize their work and they founded the Uruguayan Goat Breeders Association. Since then, there has been a slow but constant increase, both in breeders and brands of cheese, with the aim of bring new products to the market. At the same time began the teaching activities and courses to improve quality and innocuity of milk and cheese, from parlor to factory. There has been a constant increase since 2002 in all fields related with breeding plans, sanitary status, genetics, feeding reserves, market strategies, technology, parlor installation and animal care.
In Caprino Alto, we began our project in 2004, with a 10 ha. farm and 65 nubian goats. Our main goal and vision was to create an integral chain or system of management starting at the parlor and finishing at the client. This appeared to be a huge enterprise since we had such a small budget.
We love goats, and sometimes this was the only thought that kept us working hard with our families. This idea also implies the selling programs and distribution. It took 3 years to reach the supermarkets and gourmets little markets. As you know, some people think that goat milk and cheese has a hard and ugly flavor. Nothing is further from reality. It depends mostly on the milk quality and technique of processing milk and cheese making process. We have worked since 2007 in checking the preferences in organoleptic properties of cheese. This means smell, visual aspect, packing, flavor, palatability, final mouth taste. We conclude that Uruguayan consumers prefer a smooth smell, and smooth flavor. Not too acid and easy to eat. It depends also of what kind of cheese being made. It is not the same if you use genetic rennet and ferments or natural, also if it is powder or liquid. Another factor and no less important is the quality of milk, which must be premium. We process our milk and buy from others farmers with very tight controls in temperature, density and acidity. Also, we send samples to be cultured of each milk received. In the beginning, production was 2,000 L a month, in the last 3 years it raises to 15,000 L. The market in growing so well and we are very convinced that is going to keep in this way.
Another important principle is to have a business plan under permanent analysis, which requires teamwork and permanent study of reality and trends with innovation always in mind. At present we manage the only Uruguayan factory to process and make thermical treatment of goat milk and since 2012 we began to sell fresh milk. Starting with just 50 L a week, we now process bout 600 L. The budget is an important factor, since our investing power is low. Nevertheless, we are optimistic that sales will increase, and will bring economic stability and further profit.
We learned many important concepts in the last IGA meeting in Canarias, and another point is the exchange generation. In Uruguay, the migration to the cities also is a big problem to solve. We work together with governing agencies to bring better conditions and economic profit to producers in an effort to keep farmers on their land, unfortunately much more work is needed.
This is our first report and we will keep in touch with IGA members and goat farmers. Looking forward to see you soon, receive a big hug from Uruguay.
The International Goat Association promotes goat research and development for the benefit of humankind, to alleviate poverty, to promote prosperity and to improve the quality of life.