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

Background

The Australian goatmeat industry has experienced strong growth over the past 20 years and this growth has been largely supported by the sale of goats derived from rangeland or extensive production systems.

Of the 1.5 million goats now slaughtered annually, approximately 90 percent are rangeland goats. As such, any improvement in the productivity and profitability of this sector promises to deliver significant benefits to the broader goat industry, including higher rainfall goat producers, through the creation of a more robust and resilient industry.

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), as the research and development organisation associated with the goatmeat industry, has supported goat industry development through targeted research, development and extension (RD&E) activities. These activities have focused on improving the capacity of the industry to reliably supply goatmeat of a consistent quality to meet increasing global demand through the Going into Goats Program.

This guide to producing goats in the rangelands is intended to assist established and potential goat producers make the most out of their operation by drawing on the experiences of some of Australia’s best rangeland producers.

The guide highlights the factors that these producers have identified as critical to the successful operation of a goat enterprise in the rangelands and offers practical suggestions and anecdotes based on their experiences.

In developing this guide, one important characteristic of the rangeland goat production industry became apparent; not all states across Australia are equal. The research that supported the development of this guide identified that there is as much as 20 years difference in industry development between those states struggling to realise the full potential of the goat industry and the industry leaders. This guide aims to circumvent that 20 year knowledge gap through the sharing of ideas from around the country.

This development gap is best illustrated in two areas; the marketing options available to goat producers and the adoption of fencing to assist in grazing and business management.

Marketing options

The goat industry differs from the cattle and sheep industries from a marketing perspective in that there are relatively few buyers and even fewer livestock agents servicing goat producers.

This is the case across the country; however, what does differ from state to state is the way goats are purchased from producers and the level of carcase feedback made available to producers. Most states have now moved to a c/kg grid or value based marketing selling system whereby producers are paid specifically for what they produce, with premiums and discounts applying, thus encouraging industry development.

The alternative - the older business model - is marketing on a dollars per head basis where a price per head is offered across a mob. While this is a simple selling method, dollars per head provides little price guidance or incentive for producers to improve production and generally restricts the return of wealth to the producer, thus discouraging industry development.

The move to c/kg marketing has been one of the greatest driving influences behind industry development and improved productivity and profitability in states that have adopted the system. The higher revenues earned by virtue of this system provide the operator with more opportunity to re-invest in the infrastructure of the enterprise.

Fencing

What was discovered through discussions with producers around the country during the development of this guide, was that as rangeland goat production becomes more specialised, so too does the fencing which producers use in their enterprises.

As systems become more sophisticated, the type of fencing moves from being minimal with a focus on harvesting, to electric fencing retrofitted to old structural fences, to purpose built electric fences and finally on to purpose built structural fences – environment and land type permitting.

This reflects two production factors;

  • Producers moving to better control their goats to be able to fully respond to the c/kg signals from the market place and to take advantage of opportunities.
  • The increased profitability that comes from being able to respond to c/kg price signals allowing for increased investment in the enterprise which in turn leads to increased profitability.

This guide has been developed to facilitate the sharing of ideas and assist producers in overcoming the barriers that they may face in achieving a sustainable increase in productivity and profitability.