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

Case Study: Ken Turner

Name of producer: Ken Turner
Property name: Boorungie
Property location: 130km north east of Broken Hill, New South Wales
Property size (in ha): 69,000ha
Avg. turn off annually: 4,000 goats
Rangeland enterprise type: Pure wild harvest with a small harvest and hold operation
Target market: Meat export, primarily to USA
Other farm enterprises: 10,000 sheep: 50% Merinos, 50% first cross SAM, 200 beef breeders

Modifying existing infrastructure for rangeland goat production

Ken Turner became interested in the potential returns from goats during the 1990s and decided to modify the infrastructure in one paddock as an experiment to see how the resident goat population could be managed to derive a return. The experiment worked and since then Ken has successfully modified much of the existing sheep and cattle infrastructure on 'Boorungie', New South Wales, to manage rangeland goats.

Ken’s now traps and sometimes musters rangeland goats from the wild. He delivers these to his handling facilities where they are drafted for sex and size. If necessary, they are then released into different holding paddocks until sufficient numbers are accumulated to truck to the processor, T&R Pastoral.

Fencing

Ken has modified over 100km of the existing sheep and cattle type fencing on Boorungie with 7/90/30 hinge joint fencing to contain his rangeland goats. Initially 6/70/30 and 8/90/30 standard hinge joint was trialled, some with barb on the bottom, but the 7/90/30 with barb on the top has proven to be the most effective.

Some of this was tied to existing fences and, where new fences were erected, star posts were hammered in at 7-12m intervals, depending on the terrain (closer together in more undulating areas). All fences have a barbed wire on top to contain cattle.

Good end assemblies are critical and the type varies with soil type, always remembering the more wires in a fence, the more pressure on the end assembly.

Ken explains that this method of re-fencing has “been an effective and practical way for me to goat-proof many of my fences.”

Yards and scales

Ken has modified existing cattle yards for goats by welding weldmesh to the bottom half of the yards to a height of 1.1m.

A three-way goat draft which was purchased off-the-shelf from a commercial yard supplier has been installed within the modified yards along with scales. Around 15,000 goats are handled through these yards each year.

Loading ramp

As with the yards, Ken has modified the cattle loading ramp by welding extra rails along the bottom to a height of 1.1m. This allows a four deck truck to be loaded in 40 minutes without the risk of escape.

Watering facilities

Ken has installed goat trap yards made from 1.1m weldmesh with a further 70cm strip of hinge joint along the top around many of his watering facilities. The yards are constructed to be round; eliminating the need for heavy end assemblies and meaning goats cannot pile up in the corners. The use of weld mesh provides a solid barrier and succeeds in limiting damage by kangaroos and emus.

At each trapped watering facility, Ken has installed a holding yard and uses a portable loading ramp to move goats back to the main yards where they are drafted.

Words of advice

Ken insists that, when installing or upgrading infrastructure, it is best to do it right the first time and not cut corners when it comes to effort or expense. Goats can exert a considerable amount of pressure on infrastructure and Ken’s advice is to “go heavier rather than lighter, it’s easier to do it right the first time than trying to fix it later.”

Ken advises using heavy weldmesh (with 20cm x 10cm holes) or sheep yard mesh in goat paddocks and trap yards and when reinforcing existing infrastructure. In high pressure areas, such as the draft, Ken recommends using highly durable materials such as K-rail or heavy weldmesh (7-9mm steel, not the standard 5mm weldmesh).

Any corners at watering trap yards should be reinforced with weldmesh although Ken believes it is best to make these trap yards circular if possible. Corners can be cut out using sheep yard mesh and posts in a semi circular fashion.

Key points
  • Existing infrastructure can be modified to suit low input harvest and hold goat operations.
  • Reinforcing existing infrastructure to work goats is best done using heavy duty material. This maximises effectiveness and minimises the need for maintenance.
  • Cattle yards can be converted to useful goat yards.
Yard designs
  • Diagram of new structural fence and placement of two top wires with barb, including corners rounded off with sheep mesh
  • Diagram of existing hinge joint fence with two barbs on top and two on bottom
  • Diagram of renovated structural fence showing placement of electric wire - 30cm out and 30cm off the ground
  • Diagrams of jump-down traps, spear gate traps and swinging one-way gate traps