Lifetime Members

Photo credit – Old Mountain Farm, Cheryle Moore Smith & Wyl Smith

In recognition of the work of Michael & Ulrike Garwood and to honour their dedication and success in introducing the Nigerian Dwarf breed to Australia, the NDGSA have awarded them a lifetime membership

Michael and Ulrike Garwood were the founders of the Nigerian Dwarf breed in Australia. 
In 2012, they were living in the Yarra Valley near Melbourne in a large old brick Victorian house, with a high brick wall along three sides. At one point Ulrike postulated that if she had a goat, she could make all sorts of interesting things with the goat’s milk. At that point they knew nothing about goats, breeding or farming. Ulrike pointed to a photo on the internet, and said that THAT was the kind of goat she wanted. It was a Nigerian Dwarf doe. 
Ulrike had researched the breed and learned about the wonderful characteristics of the Nigerian Dwarf milk (high butter fat content, high milk solid profile, and breed trait of Alpha casein gene variants for highest production of Alpha casein protein in the milk.) Unfortunately, there were no Nigerians in Australia, nor in New Zealand as they quickly discovered. They talked to dairy goat breeders and learned that importing live goats into Australia (other than from NZ where there were no Nigerians either) was forbidden.
They phoned the Department of Agriculture in Canberra. The person with whom they spoke then said that although the importation of live goats was forbidden, there was a provision for importing frozen fertilised goat embryos, providing a rather extensive list of conditions were met. They were told, “No one has ever done this, but if you are interested, I can send the conditions for import to you.” 
And so it started….
They learned that all the embryo work in the country where the embryos were to be developed (in this case, the U.S.A. which is where the Nigerian Dwarf breed was developed) needed to be done in a licensed, approved quarantine facility. Through family connections in Texas, they found such a facility, and their project started to take shape. They began acquiring donor does and bucks in late 2012 and sending them to the quarantine facility.

In 2013, it was suggested by someone in the Dairy Goat Society of Australia (DGSA) that they should get in contact with a man named Paul Hamilton who lived in Victoria. They spoke and he was most helpful, saying he was currently preparing to send goat genetics to Australia, and he was very encouraging when the Garwood’s said they were interested in acquiring Nigerian Dwarf goats. In the event, it turned out that Paul was working with the same quarantine facility in Texas that the Garwood’s had started to use.

In January 2014, they imported their first liquid nitrogen tank containing Nigerian genetics and in April 2014, the first embryos were transferred into surrogate does. In September 2014 the first Nigerian Dwarf goats in Australia were born (4 bucks and a single doe) and their herd officially started. That first doe was Chloe, and she is still with them.

The Garwoods settled on the herd name First Fleet, thinking that it represented the fact that their herd was the first in the antipodes, and it employed a moniker well recognised by most Australians, with the connotation of long distances having been travelled to reach Australia.

Over the subsequent four years, after repeated embryo transfers, 3 more bucks and 6 more does were added to their foundation of imported genetics.

By March 2017, they had outgrown their half acre urban block in the Yarra Valley and their does were pregnant. They clearly needed another location for their goat project. They found a 40-acre property on fox free French Island and moved their herd there.

In the nearly four years since they moved to the island, their First Fleet herd has grown and helped spread a breed of goats that are perfectly suited for families and small landholders, throughout Australia. In the process of obtaining these goats, they have demonstrated to others that it is possible to import new goat genetics into Australia, not just to introduce a new breed, but to improve the genetics of all the dairy breeds.

Regarding the original reason for obtaining Nigerians, they have had wonderful successes using the milk for cooking and making yoghurt and cheeses.

The NDGSA board & members thank Michael and Ulrike Garwood for their ingeniuty and dedication to introducing and establishing the Nigerian Dwarf breed.

All photos courtesy of Michael & Ulrike Garwood