Home/Ontario dairy co-operative opens its doors to dairy goat producers

Ontario dairy co-operative opens its doors to dairy goat producers

Dairy goat producers can now become full members of Gay Lea Foods Co-operative in Ontario, Canada, since bylaw amendments that pave the way for the membership expansion have, in fact, been approved.
Founded in 1958, Gay Lea has 3,800 members and is not only the largest dairy co-operative in Ontario but a main player in the Canadian dairy industry. Suffice it to say that its 1,200 diary farmer members produce 35% of the cow’s milk of the entire province, the most populous in Canada and where Toronto and Ottawa are located.
Gay Lea produces cheese using fresh goat and sheep milk exclusively produced in the area. The cheeses are sold both in Canada and the United States.
Gay Lea’s change of course has been marked by several important steps. In November 2014, following its acquisition of Hewitt’s Dairy, which produces milk, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream and organic goat milk, Gay Lea started producing organic goat milk and gradually increased its milk supply to cover 40% of the goat milk produced in Ontario. The other main step it made was the purchase of a minority share in the goat cheese producer Mariposa Dairy, based in Lindsay, which, in addition to being a market leader in Canada, also has a strong presence in the USA.
The goat milk industry in Ontario is in good condition. There are roughly 200 manufacturers of goat milk products which produce between 600 and 1,000 litres of milk per goat per year. The sector is strictly regulated by the government so as to guarantee consumer product safety; the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is in charge of the raw goat milk quality program.
In conclusion, Gay Lea’s membership expansion represents a major step forward in guaranteeing long-term growth for goat milk products. Furthermore, as full-fledged members, by becoming shareholders they (the goat milk producers) will be able to have a say in how the organisation is run as well as receive dividends.