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

Mustering, trapping and holding

Mustering

Four key factors influence the effectiveness and efficiency of mustering rangeland goats in an unfenced environment:

  • Ruggedness of the terrain and density of vegetation
  • Operator experience
  • Vehicles
  • Mob size

Each of these should, as much as is possible, be managed to the enterprise’s advantage to ensure an efficient and effective muster. Furthermore, mustering during the heat of the day should be avoided as this will stress the animals and cause more vulnerable goats, such as pregnant does, will not keep up with the mob.

Depending on the terrain, goats can be mustered in the rangelands using motorbikes, well trained dogs and light aircraft. Motorbikes communicating with a light aircraft by radio can be a particularly effective combination.

It is important to work goats wider than you would sheep and cattle. This is particularly the case when using aircraft. Goats will move far more effectively if they feel that they are getting away, rather than being pressured.

Working goats along fence lines is an effective way to direct the mob and can reduce the labour requirement.

Goats should be handled during cool or mild conditions to avoid heat stress and should be moved steadily as a mob at the rate of the slowest animal.

Goats that fail to keep up with the mob should be allowed to drop back. Does that continually break may have left a kid behind and should be allowed to leave the mob.

The technique for aerial mustering is different for goats compared to sheep. Factors such as the engine noise of the plane and the height of the aircraft above the goats require careful consideration to avoid causing agitation in the mob.

Some pastoralists restrict the distance they plan to move their goats each day eg: less than 3km-5km per day.

Trapping

The trapping of rangeland goats is one of the most effective ways to accumulate goats from large paddocks or the wild. Trapping involves the construction of goat proof fences, typically around water sources, with a number of one-way gates or ramps. A key to the successful trapping of rangeland goats is 'trap training'.

Trap training involves allowing goats to enter the trap via the trap mechanism (the spear, one-way gate or ramp) and leave via another gate for a period of time. When the exit gates are then closed the trap is set. 

The Infrastructure section of this guide provides further information relating to the design and construction of traps.

Holding goats in paddocks or yards

With increased intensification comes not only the potential for increased revenue but also increased risk and an increased management requirement. Goats in a confined space require increased husbandry to ensure that they have adequate food and water and are not exposed to disease. Under some circumstances, vaccination to clostridial diseases and worm testing preceded by drenching may be required.

Goats captured by mustering and confined to yards or a goat paddock should be allowed a minimum of 48 hours rest with adequate shelter, food and water before they are transported long distances. It is important to ensure that all goats have the opportunity to fill their stomachs through the provision of feed, such as hay, and are fit to load prior to transportation.

Goats should be drafted to minimise dominance behaviour when confined to holding yards or goat paddocks. Where possible goats should be drafted and separated according to gender, age and weight.

When relocating goats, unload them at or push them to the watering point; do not assume they will find the water.