Going into Goats: A practical guide to producing goats in the rangelands

Case Study: Rick Howard

Name of producer: Rick Howard
Property name: Moonavale
Property location: 200km north east of Broken Hill, New South Wales
Property size (in ha): 42,500ha
Avg. turn off annually: 3,500 goats
Rangeland enterprise type: Harvest and hold
Target market: Abattoir for meat export to the USA and local depots
Other farm enterprises: 4,000 Merinos, 250 cattle

Goat selection, drafting and market specifications

Rick Howard is intent on decreasing the grazing pressure applied by transient rangeland goats on his country at 'Moonavale', north east of Broken Hill in New South Wales. He does this by drafting goats heavier than 25kg (dressed) and selling them directly to the abattoirs.

This has greatly decreased the grazing pressure and left us with a much younger goat population” he says. The young goats are then drafted into his goat paddock (3,200ha) until there are enough to make a full load of a consistent line that meets market specifications.

Drafting and growing out this way means we can minimise stress on the animals, minimise the need for large musters and maximise transport efficiencies by ensuring we make up a full truck load when the goats go. It’s better for the animals and better for us economically,” Rick explains.

Through understanding his market specifications and having a few lines of goats in the goat paddock, Rick is able to sell goats to take advantage of market peaks. “I know that in the cooler months the price I can get for my goats will rise so, through having the goats handy, I can take advantage of this and even-out my income across the year,” he says.

Managing different lines of goats

Rick maintains a goat paddock that is large enough to house several lines of goats. Holding mixed lines together offers several advantages including encouraging older goats to lead younger goats to water and larger animals knocking more established scrub down for the smaller goats to clean up.

Bucks will pressure does and this can be exacerbated if they are combined in a confined space. If bucks and does are combined in a goat paddock, the paddock should be large enough and contain enough scrub to allow the does to avoid the bucks but also small enough to allow for easy mustering so marketable lines can be drafted off as the opportunity presents.

Rick points out that when mixed mobs are yarded and held in the yards, they should be drafted into bucks and does to minimise dominance behaviour and thereby minimise stress.

I want the goats as stress-free as possible to maximise my bottom line,” Rick says.

Words of advice

Rick explains that while everyone’s circumstances are different, goats have proven themselves financially and that you should not be afraid of dedicating a decent amount of land to your goat enterprise.

As a guide, if you are looking at an annual turnoff of 1,000-1,500 goats set aside 2,000ha for a goat paddock. This will give you the option of growing and holding goats in good condition until you can draft off a consistent line that meets target market specifications.

Key points
  • Different classes of goats have different grazing habits and the affect of these habits become more obvious when goats are confined.
  • Observing and understanding grazing habits allows management decisions to be made that benefit both the goats and the environment.
  • Goats do display dominance behaviour, bucks over does, larger goats over smaller goats and horned goats over younger or polled goats, and this can be exacerbated in confinement.