Goat’s cheese dishes are a staple of most restaurant menus these days and demand for the product has been growing steadily over the past few years. That’s good news for the goat dairy industry but it creates a waste stream that has been overlooked by most people.
Only she–goats are of any use to a dairy farmer – the billies (male goats) are slaughtered shortly after they’re born because it’s too costly, too labour–intensive, to rear them in most commercial enterprises. In the UK, that amounts to around 30,000 male goats despatched in this way every year.
Now, Charlie and Sandy Cole – the Kid Brothers of Broughgammon Farm– are tackling this challenge head–on.
The brothers returned to the 50–acre family farm above Ballycastle, having acquired complementary skills in rural management and catering during their college years.
Fuelled by the confidence of youth and a fierce determination to succeed, their first idea was to raise wild boar on the farm (and they still might, in a few years’ time) but eventually settled on raising goat kids for their meat.
However, the customers weren’t immediately queuing up to buy this cabrito, the much more elegant Spanishname for the goat–kid meat, so the boys went ‘on the road’.
Their fresh meat stall is now a familiar sight at farmers’ markets around the province – in Comber, Newtownbreda, Larne, Derry and beyond, with a regular slot at St George’s Market on Sundays.
Meanwhile, their catering operation features prominently at the many events organised by Food NI throughout the year. The charismatic brothers can be found cooking up their wonderfully–named Billy Burgers and Cabrito Burritos at festivals from Balmoral to Ballymaloe.
They’ve started growing their own vegetables for their catering and, to complete the local sourcing, they get their bread rolls from Donnelley’s bakery in Ballycastle, so you’ll be hard pressed to find a more sustainable offering than Broughgammon’s Billy Burger.
Goats may be mankind’s earliest domesticated animal and eaten all around the world but it has more or less disappeared from most Irish plates. Yet, there are lots of good reasons to choose cabrito – it’s lean, low–calorie and really tasty but it’s also local, sustainable and ethical.
Broughgammon’s barns are brimming with around 300 kids, with plans to expand the herd and the housing over the next year.
And it’s not just goats on the farm.
Applying the same principles that led them to the goats in the first place, they’ve also acquired a small herd of male calves from neighbouring dairy farms. As with goats, so it is with male calves – they’re of no commercial use, which condemns over 100,000 male dairy calves to slaughter within hours of their birth in the UK.
The calves are reared outdoors to produce free rangerose veal. It’s a niche market, one that hasn’t yet been able to overcome the reputation earned by the use of the now–banned veal crates. These calves are far removed from that notorious practice; they live longer and better lives than many farm animals.
They’ve also moved into supplying some seasonal wild game, including wild venison, duck, pheasant and are always on the lookout for wild rabbit, all sourced from responsible, licensed hunters. They’ve also added a series of dried locally–picked seaweeds to their suite of Broughgammon products.
The Coles’ ethical and sustainable stance on meat production informs every aspect of the farm’s operation. They’ve already won awards for their environmental improvement scheme, their water management and their use of renewable energy technologies but it’s their enthusiasm and innovation that leaves a lasting impression.
Charlie and Sandy Cole are an inspiration. With the considerable support of their family, they’re developing a great business on a small family farm with skill and passion. You’ll be hearing a lot more about them over the next few years. Count on it.