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

Managing people

What to do

Farm businesses compete with other industries for labour. To be successful in attracting and retaining good staff, farm enterprises must consider:

  • Attracting effective and skilled workers by effectively communicating the nature of the position, including the position's responsibilities and the monetary and non-monetary rewards associated with employment.
  • Ongoing management of the employee and working conditions to ensure job satisfaction and therefore retention.
  • Meeting legal obligations such as superannuation, wages, taxes and insurances.
  • Ensuring the continuation of the business through succession planning.

Attracting, employing, managing and retaining skilled and effective employees is essential for the growth and continued development of a business and the Australian agricultural industry overall.

How to do it

Attracting staff

With labour shortages facing the agricultural industry, producers should consider broadening the pool of potential employees. This may include considering transient workers, migrant workers, the under-employed and even job sharing arrangements or apprenticeships and traineeships.

Considerations for attracting potential employees include:

  • Clearly defining the role.
  • Effectively communicating what a position entails at the beginning of the recruitment process.
  • Ensuring candidates understand the remuneration package (cash and non-cash), the work hours and work-life balance being offered and the work environment.
  • Avoiding rushed recruitment, considering the long-term requirements of the position and aligning employee selection with future needs.

There are a number of factors that will influence potential employee interest in applying and accepting the position including:

  • Work conditions
  • Flexibility for work/life balance
  • Career development
  • Salary, job security and non-salary rewards
  • Projected image of the workforce and the employer
  • Alignment between personal values and company values
  • Location

It is the role of the employer to determine which factors will be emphasised when advertising a position. This will, in turn, influence the nature of the applicants that are attracted to the position.

Different rangeland goat enterprises and management alternatives carry with them different labour requirements. Consider the availability of labour and the seasonality of the enterprise and labour requirement when deciding which enterprise and what degree of infrastructure improvement suits your circumstances.

Family labour is a valuable resource but one which must be managed carefully and with reasonable expectations. More detail regarding succession planning is provided further in this section.

Ongoing management

Once employed, there are a number of crucial factors that will determine whether employees stay or leave. Every employer's approach to ongoing staff management will vary depending on the business and circumstances; however, factors to consider include:

  • Work place culture
    The culture of the work environment will directly affect an employee's level of satisfaction. Employers should ensure the workplace is as pleasant, fair and enjoyable as possible. This should extend to ensuring fairness and consistency in remuneration.

  • Nature of work
    The work an employee is required to do should match the description that was provided during the employment process.

  • Enterprise objectives
    Employees should be provided with an overview of the objectives of the enterprise so they can appreciate how their role contributes to the business.

  • Feedback
    Fair and effective performance feedback and recognition are important to ensuring job satisfaction. Employees should feel that the employer is approachable and accessible.

  • Two-way communication
    Maintain dialogue with employees to ensure that they are content with their work environment. Consider conducting a regular employee survey to determine satisfaction levels. Conduct skills audits to determine skills employees have and how they can and would like to be up-skilled.

  • Business reputation
    Wherever possible, employers should promote the enterprise’s reputation to build pride amongst employees and to attract new staff.

  • Protection
    Employees must be confident that they are protected through an effective occupational health and safety system and appropriate insurances.

Legal obligations

Employers have a number of legal obligations, including:

  • Offering equal opportunities to any job applicant and equal and fair treatment on-the-job.
  • Determining whether workers are contractors or employees.
  • Making accurate superannuation guarantee contributions for eligible employees into an approved superannuation fund at least four times a year.
  • Withholding the appropriate level of 'pay as you go' (PAYG) tax from employee earnings and remitting the amounts withheld to the Australian Tax Office.
  • Ensuring the appropriate types and levels of insurances are held to protect the safety of the business and the employees.
  • Providing a safe working environment that complies with occupational health and safety regulations and practices.

While these factors are legal obligations, they can also have an impact on employee satisfaction and tenure. Employers should refer to the relevant state and federal authorities for their specific legal obligations when employing people.

Workplace safety

Rangeland goat production is a very physical occupation and workers can injure themselves in a number of ways. There are also diseases that animal handlers can be exposed to.

Employers have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment for their employees, this includes providing:

  • Safe systems of work
  • Safe plant, equipment and substances
  • Adequate training, information and supervision
  • Adequate monitoring of work conditions
  • Reasonable safety policies and procedures

Not only does this contribute to job satisfaction and employee tenure, it is a legal obligation under individual state or territory legislation.

Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems

The foundation of a safe working environment rests on a well documented, communicated, understood and implemented Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Management System (OHSMS). An OHSMS is a set of plans, actions and procedures, actively endorsed by the employer, to systematically manage health and safety in the workplace.

Ultimately, if some mishap occurs due to an OH&S oversight, the property owner can be liable. In order to mitigate the risk of an injury, lawsuit or even a death, it is imperative that the property owner implements a comprehensive and effective OHSMS.

The development, review and maintenance of an OHSMS should be addressed in the property's overall business plan. All people involved, from employee to management, need to understand and fully support the OHSMS.

Employees must be trained and regularly monitored to ensure they have the knowledge and capability to make the system work effectively.

Staff training

Rangeland goat production enterprises are by definition conducted as extensive operations in relatively remote circumstances. Unskilled labour brought into such areas must be trained to fully appreciate the inherent risks and supervised accordingly.

Rangeland goats, especially mature bucks can be difficult to handle and pose a significant occupational health and safety risk when confined. Training should be provided to ensure that all staff are aware of these risks and the appropriate actions required when handling rangeland goats.

Handling rangeland goats

Rangeland goats that have not been handled are basically a wild animal and should be treated cautiously. Some animal husbandry practices, such as ear tagging, place the handler at particular risk and should only be attempted by experienced handlers assisted by appropriate handling facilities and equipment.

Q Fever

Q Fever is a disease that can be contracted by humans through contact with infected animals. Cattle, sheep, goats and even kangaroos have all been known to carry the disease. Human infection usually occurs via skin abrasion or the inhalation of the organism when in close quarters with infected animals or when slaughtering or processing infected animals.

The symptoms of Q Fever resemble those of influenza. Acute cases may persist for up to six weeks and on occasion require hospitalisation. Lifelong immunity generally follows infection.

A complication of Q Fever is Q Fever Syndrome which resembles chronic fatigue syndrome and follows infection in about 20 percent of cases. This may persist for five to ten years.

Vaccination to Q Fever is available and it is highly recommended for all those actively involved in handling goats on a regular basis.

Succession planning

Succession planning is an evolving process that ensures the continuation of a business through generations or through layers of management.

Not all businesses require a succession plan as the intention or opportunity to pass a business on may not exist, however, for those that do, succession planning is best addressed in the business planning process.

Developing a succession plan

A succession plan details how the property owner intends to leave or transfer the business ownership and management upon exiting. Factors underpinning the need for a well documented and clearly communicated plan include:

  • Tighter margins and higher land values.
  • The potential for conflicting expectations among family members.
  • The growing complexity of laws that impact on the transfer of assets.
Points to remember

A successful succession plan should consider the business as a whole and involve all stakeholders. This will reduce problems relating to inheritance, management and ownership. The process and acceptance of the final plan can be assisted by:

  • Making sure all involved have the opportunity to express their views.
  • Developing a collective future vision for the business to ensure all understand what is expected and how it will operate.
  • Separating family and business.
  • Establishing a process to resolve any family disputes.

Further information on succession planning is provided in the Toolkit: The succession planning process.