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

Case Study: Tim and Mary Perrottet

Name of producer: Tim and Mary Perrottet
Property name: Dongan Plains
Property location: 100km south west of Dirranbandi, Queensland
Property size (in ha): 28,000ha
Avg. turn off annually: 7,000-20,000 goats
Rangeland enterprise type: Low input goat breeding system
Target market: Meat market
Other farm enterprises: Dorpers and Angus cattle

Handling rangeland goats

Tim and Mary Perrottet went into goats to try and clean up the regrowth on ‘Dongan Plains’, south west of Dirranbandi, Queensland, around 15 years ago. In that time Tim has learned a thing or two about handling Boer and rangeland goats.

As far as husbandry procedures with rangeland goats goes, Tim suggests doing only the bare minimum and restricting this to essential activities. This means keeping handling and disturbance to a minimum.

Tagging and marking

Marking on Donga Plains now involves only ear marking and tagging. Tim ear tags and marks everything that is yarded and will be released. Tim no longer castrates as he feels that when he did the animals didn’t grow out as quickly, so he stopped the practice.

Tim’s preferred method of restraint for goats for ear marking and tagging involves holding them between your legs.  While this is harder work than using a VE machine it is much quicker with four to five staff being able to process 500-1,000 goats per hour once the system is up and running.

Tim equips each worker with a nail bag to hold the tags and a set of marking pliers. He also recommends wearing horse shoeing chaps whilst marking to minimise the affect of horns on the handler.

Mustering

Mustering on Dongan involves having one person in a light plane in the air and between one and three people on motorbikes below. The average paddock size on Dongan is about 4,000ha and while the mustering is fairly easy, the goats do become cunning and hide from the person in the air under trees. 

The role of those on the ground is to flush out the goats hiding under trees and keep the tail moving while the main mob is brought together and moved along by the person in the air.

Fences

Most of Tim’s goats are born in a fenced environment and respect fences. Six wire electric fencing is used and, according to Tim, these work well provided the installation is done well. Keeping power up to the fences in wet years can be challenging and fence lines are sometimes sprayed with herbicide to keep the grass down and minimise shortages.

      
Examples of fencing on Dongan Plains

Tim stresses that this fence works for him because his goats are used to electric fences. In high pressure areas such as holding paddocks, Tim opts for a hinge joint fence with an electric outrigger on both sides of the fence.

Weed control

Tim has found goats to be very useful in cleaning up regrowth country and this is what initially led him to actively manage goats on Dongan. Tim does, however, highlight the need to carefully monitor goat condition when they are being stocked at high densities to manage regrowth and weeds.

Word of advice

When handling goats in the yards, especially rangeland goats, Tim suggests that the yards be only half filled as the goats will pack-up and potentially smother. “I don't use dogs in the yard as the goats run better without them. My goats generally don't need dogs in the paddock either as most were bred there and are relatively used to being handled but I always have them with me in case they are needed. Paddock dogs can cause a lot of problems if they get too close to the goats.”

The regrowth on Dongan Plains has been reduced to the extent that much of the country has been restored to very productive and more valuable grassland country, more suited to sheep and cattle. Tim notes that with the lack of browse; “If I wish to keep running goats it will have to be at a lower stocking rate than I am used to.

Key points
  • Identifying and adapting efficient and cost effective handling and husbandry techniques is important to running a profitable low input breeding operation.
  • Tagging and marking goats identifies the producer as the rightful owner of the goats and facilitates management and marketing opportunities.
  • Goats are better worked wider than sheep when mustering by air and on the ground.
  • When well managed, goats can reduce the impact of woody weeds on the grazing environment and, in some cases, restore grasslands invaded by woody weeds back to their original condition.