Kalanka hotelier wants to bring back the Maltese goat

An ambitious plan to reintroduce the Maltese goat, a breed which disappeared from the island after the discovery of Brucellosis in goats’ milk by Sir Temi Zammit

Goats at St George’s Bay with St George’s Barracks in the background (Courtesy MaltaRMC/QA Archives photo album 1914-1918)
Goats at St George’s Bay with St George’s Barracks in the background (Courtesy MaltaRMC/QA Archives photo album 1914-1918)

After securing a permit for the controversial reconstruction of a derelict hotel in the pristine Kalanka cove, hotelier Kenneth Abela, wants to erect a massive Nissen hut (230sqm.m) over his landholding of 23,000sq.m.

His aim? An ambitious plan to reintroduce the Maltese goat, a breed which disappeared from the island after the discovery of Brucellosis in goats’ milk by Sir Temi Zammit, which prompted the British authorities to encourage farmers to replace goats with cows.

Abela, himself a registered farmer, has always insisted that his plans for the surrounding area at the Delimara Hotel are purely agricultural.

Apart from the goat farm, the development on Abela’s estate foresees the development of a coop for the Maltese black chicken, an indigenous species reared for centuries in backyards, which survives up to this day. The British-era Nissen hut that will host his goat farm was itself previously located in the Tal-Handaq school.

The derelict Delimara hotel
The derelict Delimara hotel

“In this way, a no-go area previously frequented by hunters and trappers will be dedicated for a useful and innovative project,” Abela tells MaltaToday in defence of his project.

Abela insisted he has tried to keep the developable footprint as low as possible while ensuring that his business venture remains “feasible and sustainable”.

The Planning Authority has already approved three other applications presented by Abela in the same area. The first was to sanction a number of rural structures previously used by bird trappers. A few months later the PA approved another application to “consolidate” a series of old structures into a brand new agricultural store. Greenhouses on some 735sq.m of land were later approved, but against the advice of the Environment and Resources Authority which objected to the “piecemeal approach” to development in an area that is scheduled for its landscape value. 41 trees will be grown to minimise the visual impact of this development.

The hornless goat is now raised mainly in Sicily and Sardinia
The hornless goat is now raised mainly in Sicily and Sardinia

Goats from Sicily

Abela explains that the key to his project to reintroduce the Maltese goat is the survival of this breed in Sicily. Before the breed disappeared from Malta it was common for farmers from other countries such as Sardinia and Sicily to come and buy goats from Maltese farmers.

Abela traced the Maltese goats in Sicily by referring to the “libro geneologico caprino” – a genealogical book listing goat breeds in Italy and where these are bred. This led Abela to establish contact with an organic farm in the vicinity of San Cataldo owned by Luca Cammarata. The idea is to import the Maltese goat directly to Malta from this farm.

50 to 100 goats will be bred in a purposely-built farm in Delimara. The herd will eventually be used to produce milk products made from the goats’ milk, on the same lines as those which are already being successfully produced and marketed in Caltanissetta, where the goat’s milk is used to produce organic yoghurts, and a vast selection of typical cheeses made from Maltese goats’ milk.

“We believe that by marketing these highly artisanal products, we will indirectly create a demand for rearing the Maltese goat, which eventually will lead to the final phase of the project, that of breeding extra goats to supply local farmers who show interest in rearing this breed,” Abela told MaltaToday.

Abela also wants to collaborate with the Agribusiness department at MCAST and other educational institutions to offer hands-on experience at the farm to students wishing to pursue this line of business. The veterinary authorities have already approved the reintroduction of the Maltese goat from Azienda Cammarata after confirming the farm was free from disease, describing the reintroduction as one of “high value” due to its impact on the conservation of the species.

No 100% pure-bred goats have survived in Malta, mainly due to the discovery of Brucellosis in the goats’ milk by Sir Temi Zammit
No 100% pure-bred goats have survived in Malta, mainly due to the discovery of Brucellosis in the goats’ milk by Sir Temi Zammit

The Maltese goat story

The Maltese goat is a long-haired hornless white goat characterised by a raven-black area on the top and sides of the head and long pendulous black ears which turn outwards at the tip. It originates in Asia Minor, and takes its name from the island of Malta. It is raised mainly in southern Italy, and particularly in the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.

A report published in the Pacific Rural Press in 1905 describes the Maltese goat as “a very superior animal, not only on account of its milk, but as a breeder.”

The report provides some insights on how vital goats’ milk was to the nutrition of the Maltese describing them as “wholly dependent upon goats’ milk”.

“Only a few cows are kept here, but their milk is not regarded with favour, owing to lack of pasturage. In addition to the limited herbage, the sustenance of the goats is added to by feeding them with carob beans and mixed cotton seed and bran, the extra feed costing about 7 cents per day per goat.”

No 100% pure-bred goats have survived in Malta. The drastic decline of this breed from the Maltese Islands was due to the discovery of Brucellosis (Brucella melitensis) in the goats’ milk by Sir Temi Zammit. A mistaken belief that only goats’ milk contained the disease, led many Maltese farmers to look for other milk-producing farm animals.

The British government contributed to the eradication of the Maltese goat through a scheme through which a cow was given in exchange for five goats.​

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