Photo credit – Old Mountain Farm, Cheryle Moore Smith & Wyl Smith
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.
All photos courtesy of Michael & Ulrike Garwood