When someone tells you that they are going out to New Zealand for college work placement, you assume that they will be destined for one of the islands' dairy farms or contracting businesses.

Gurteen Agricultural College Green Cert student Kelly Gorman is putting her own stamp on things, by milking 1,200 goats on DNC Goat Farms, which is located on New Zealand's North Island.

The interest

The Mountmellick native left school when she was 16 and worked for Farm Relief Services (FRS) for a number of years, as well as keeping a number of goats on her 14ac holding in Co Laois.

"I left school when I was 16 and [did] the FRS milking course. They employed me to milk with them for two years, then I said to myself sure I might as well try and get a qualification and I went to Gurteen to do my Green Cert."

Last year, while Kelly was on her Easter holidays, she took it upon herself to further her knowledge on goat farming and secured herself two weeks of work placement on one of Ireland's largest goat farms located in Westmeath.

"I was lucky a goat farm in Westmeath took me on. They were milking 500 goats and that’s when I decided I would love to milk goats somewhere on a big scale and learn more about them," Kelly explained.

Milking goats

After arriving in January for her four months of work placement, Kelly initially thought that milking goats would be an easier station than milking cows.

"At first, I thought it would be handy milking goats - I wouldn't say that now.

"Over time, their teats drop. When you put on the clusters, some of them might not milk out properly. So you have to hold up their milk bags to make sure that they are milking.

"With cows you put on the clusters and they milk out themselves."

"The main breeds of goats on this farm are Saanen goats, which originate from Switzerland. They are one of the most productive milking goats in the world.

"They give a good fat percentage, usually around 3.2%, and their protein is 2.7%. We also milk a few Alphine and Nubians, which are good for milk solids and butterfat."

Kelly said: "A good goat would give around four litres of milk per day. Cows are different, but that volume of milk is good for a goat.

"The milk price is paid per solid. If milk quality is very good, the farmer gets a bonus for having a low somatic cell count (SCC). All the goat milk from this farm is used for skimmed milk powder."

The parlour

The first milking starts at 5.30am and usually takes a team of three people three and a half hours.

"The milking parlour is an 80-unit rotary and it takes about three and a half hours to milk 1,200 goats. You can milk about 500 goats in the hour.

"There has to be three of us on for milking. There is one person cupping, one person de-cupping and another teat-spraying goats on the way out of the parlour. That person then goes and gets the next herd," Kelly explains.

"After milking, before we have breakfast, we would check the kids and make sure there are none with sore eyes or any problems. If they need treating, that would be done straight away."

Daily duties

When Kelly and her colleagues are not milking goats, they are carrying out other mandatory jobs on the farm.

"Feed has to be pushed up to the goats every two hours because they are indoors; you can't let them go hungry.

"Sheds and pens are cleaned out twice a week and bedded with fresh wood chip shavings.

"Water troughs in the sheds are scrubbed and cleaned twice a week to avoid a disease called listeria which builds up in troughs from the heat.

"I learned a lot about good time management here. On this farm, time is a major thing for everything to run smooth so nobody gets stressed out."


Kidding is due to kick off on the farm in three weeks' time.

The Laois woman is looking forward to working alongside her team, which will assist the kidding of 700 goats in the space of three weeks.

"We are getting the pens ready for kidding. The pens are just up the yard away from the goats, which helps for weaning."

Kelly explains that the kids are fed powdered colostrum. "All colostrum and milk is bought in powder form, which guarantees the quality of the milk."

Goats are dried off 40 days before kidding through a change of diet.

"In the last week or two, the goats that we wanted to dry off haven’t been getting any silage - we have been giving them hay and meal.

"The more hay they eat dries them up, then they go down to once-a-day milking before they kid."

New Zealand dairy careers

Kelly received her college work placement through New Zealand Dairy Careers.

"I came over here through New Zealand Dairy Careers. They came in to talk to us one day in the college for a careers fair. I put my name down there and then.

"When you arrive in New Zealand, you go to an orientation house for the first three days where we received basic training on how to work a milking parlour, how to use quad bikes, fencing and grass measuring."

Life in New Zealand

The Laois woman admits that her mother thought she would not last too long away from home, but she has proven her wrong.

"I love it out here. My mother thought I would be home straight away when my flights were due to come home because I am a home bird, but, to be honest, I could probably never see myself working in Ireland again.

"I might come home for Christmas, but I will come straight back out again.

Over here, you learn so much more

"The production over here is bigger and the herds are way bigger, so you learn a lot more because there is a lot more problems and there are bigger and better opportunities for people out here when you are young."

It is clear to see that Kelly is enjoying life in New Zealand.

"I would highly recommend coming out to New Zealand. You would be stupid to stay in your own country and your own town for the rest of your life and not learn anything new. Over here, you learn so much more."

"What I love about the New Zealand people is that they are so chilled and relaxed. They are willing to teach you, they have the time to teach you, because they have more workers on the farms over here.

"They employ more people to make sure that everyone isn’t being worked into the ground."

The land of opportunities

Spreading the word about working in New Zealand is something the Laois women is passionate about.

"I just want young students to know that there is so many opportunities in this country. Irish farmers are just so under pressure and so understaffed they don't have enough time to be able to teach young people enough of what they need to know.

"They don’t have time to always show them how to do things properly."

Plans for the future

When Kelly arrives home to lovely Laois, she plans on dabbling in the goat milking business.

"I would love to start milking goats. We don’t have that much land at home, we only have 14 acres and since I was 16, I always wanted to milk.

"I just think goats are a lot easier to handle than cows, anything to do with a goat I could probably do myself."

But for now, she is perfectly happy milking 1,200 goats in New Zealand.

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