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

Complementary grazing, trigger points and weed control

Complementary grazing

Goats possess a unique characteristic which separates them from almost all other types of livestock. Goats are browsers with browse contributing about 60 percent of their diet, whereas cattle and sheep are grazers with only 10-15 percent of their diets comprised from browse.

While there is significant overlap in the diets of sheep and goats, during periods of abundance of feed, goats tend to favour browse if grasses or more palatable herb species are depleted. This allows goats to remain in good condition for a sustained period after the onset of dry times.

Trigger points - Monitoring grazing effects

It is important to assess the general condition of your paddocks on a regular basis. This should include off-track or across paddock traverses to assess the degree of utilisation of preferred species, particularly near favoured campsites and watering points.

Goats introduced to new country may take some time before developing patterns of vegetation use and their preferential grazing plants. Once plant preferences have been established and identified, these should be monitored to see which preferential species have become depleted. It will be obvious as the goats will have moved on to less desirable plant species. When this occurs, stocking rates should be adjusted to relieve grazing pressure. 

Monitoring efforts should pay particular attention to the health of the canopy structure, in particular noting browse lines and regeneration of browsed tips of large shrubs and trees. Damage or lack of regrowth of new shoots of the canopy and under canopy shrubs is a critical sign that grazing pressure is resulting in long-term degradation to the plant community.

Goats grazing annual ground feed of declining quality will quickly become reliant on perennials and adjustments to stocking rates and distributions will need to be made rapidly.

Be aware of the effect of "outside" goats or unmanaged grazers such as kangaroos coming on to your property and implement measures to control stocking rate.

Weed control

Goats can be used to control weeds, such as prickly acacia; however, as high stocking rates are required to achieve control, careful management is required to ensure that other adverse effects do not follow. Weed control plans are best developed in consultation with your local government, natural resource management or catchment adviser and implemented on a trial basis covering a small area. If positive effects are observed, a wider weed control initiative may be implemented.

The left side of this image shows regrowth control through the use of goats