High costs of feed and supplements have resulted in fewer cattle and sheep in the region, and graziers like Anita Dennis, from Blackall, have moved to goats.
Seven years ago, Ms Dennis and her husband Joe decided to take advantage of the rangeland goats that were already on their property.
The trial was so successful the family decided to scale back their cattle herd and make more room to breed goats.
“We began by wild harvesting out of the channels on our property, and then we started purchasing some goats in,” Ms Dennis said.
“We had a good base ground of our harvested goats before we started buying others — that was important.”
The family has been crossbreeding rangeland and pedigree Kalahari goats for several years to produce an animal capable of carrying more weight.
“The crossbreds are a lot more of a meat goat, which is what we are after because we are looking for a quick turnover of our goats,” Ms Dennis said. “A higher yielding carcass is what’s important, we can turn over some young bucks in 12 months.”
Barcaldine farmer Scott Counsell said an opportunity to introduce goats to his property arose when he was considering whether to continue destocking his cattle and sheep.
Once cluster fencing was in place, Mr Counsell introduced the goats and said he became impressed by their resilience.
He is now looking to increase numbers and bring in more rangeland goats from Wilcannnia in far western New South Wales.
Growing demand from export and domestic markets
According to figures from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), 2–2.5 million goats were supplied for processing nationally in the 2017-2018 financial year.
Goat prices are holding strong in the market, and with the industry having lower production costs per animal than other livestock, returns are strong despite the drought.
Australian goat market 2017:
- 071 million slaughtered
- Average carcass weight: 15.2kg
- Export value: $257 million
- Production total: 31,414 (28,426 exported, 2,988 domestic)
- US dominates exports
Figures from Meat and Livestock Australia.
Goats are browsers and eat considerable tree and shrub leaves even when there is quality pasture on offer, which means they do not compete entirely for the same pasture as sheep and cattle.
Meat and Livestock Australia’s project manager for the goat industry Julie Petty said that despite the ongoing struggles in western Queensland, those turning to goats were seeing positive outcomes.
“We’re seeing record prices coming through to producers, it’s up above $5 a kilo carcass weight which is excellent returns,” Ms Petty said.
“For producers to get into the industry it can be a lot more cost effective than other breeds because there are rangeland animals easily available.”
Fencing could improve goat numbers
Western Meat Exporters managing director Campbell McPhee said that although the number of goats being processed had declined in western Queensland this year, mostly due to the conditions and wild dogs, more funding for cluster fencing would potentially see those numbers improve.
“With the Queensland investment into enclosed cluster fencing, and people looking to get small stock back into areas where small stock are suited, more people are looking into goats as an alternative,” Mr McPhee said.
“We are seeing a lot of encouraging signs of people restocking with goats so the future for goat presence in Queensland is quite strong.”
High demand for organic
Mr McPhee said there was also an opportunity for producers to move into the organic goat meat market.
With an increasing number of people wanting to know the origin of their food, there was a greater demand for organic meat.
“The emerging market for organic meat in goats is something that hasn’t been pushed strongly,” he said.
Mr McPhee said that goat prices should continue to remain high because they are not influenced by being tied to another market and are uniquely separate.
“We can definitely remain where we are pricewise — I think that’s what’s created the interest in the goat industry by more and more producers is our ability to hold those prices high and strong,” he said.
“The ability of the market to attract, and continue to attract, higher prices will remain. “As new markets come I can only see it going forward and [getting] stronger.”
Source: ABC Rural 2018-11