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

Case Study: Colin and Kirsten Forrest

Name of producer: Colin and Kirsten Forrest
Property name: Oakley
Property location: 20km east of Longreach, Queensland
Property size (in ha): 6,500ha with 3,700ha fenced
Avg. turn off annually: 1,500 goats
Rangeland enterprise type: High input breeding system
Target market: Live export to Malaysia
Other farm enterprises: Beef and sheep

Supplying goats to the live export market

Colin (Col) and Kirsten Forrest initially brought goats to 'Oakley', 20km east of Longreach in Queensland, for the control of prickly acacia regrowth. They soon proved their worth and are now a major part of the Forrest's enterprise.

The Forrests run about 2,500 goats, turning of 1,500 per year, across 3,200ha of fenced country with their major target market being the Malaysian live export trade via a depot. This market requires young Boer or Boer cross does and anything that does not make the grade goes into the export goatmeat trade via an abattoir.

Not only are the economics of running goats proving worthwhile, but the Forrests are also seeing a positive influence on the environment with dense regrowth being replaced by native grasses.

Marketing goats

The Forrests market their live export goats through a depot who pays a price per head on-farm and looks after the quarantine and export requirements. While the exact specifications vary from order to order, the market is usually seeking young Boer and Boer cross does, generally 30kg live and up, with a white body, red head, good Boer characteristics and floppy ears. 

Preparing goats for market

Col drafts his goats based on the specifications provided by the depot. All suitable goats are weighed to ensure they meet the required liveweight specification.

The goats are then inspected by the depot operator and transported to the depot facility where the goats are then processed according to a protocol requested by the importing country and supervised by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).

Goat proof fences are an important part of the Forrest’s operation as these allow for controlled breeding and the exclusion of rangeland goats, as well as the segregation and management of lines of goats suitable for live export.

This is particularly important as there does not tend to be a specific time to sell goats into or target the live export market. Rather, this tends to be an opportunistic market where a producer needs to have goats on hand to take advantage of an order when the order comes through.

Col comments that “It is best to stay close to your depot and work with them as best you can. That way you’ll be at the top of their list of people to call when an order comes through.”

Words of advice

The importance of diversification
While the live export market has been profitable over recent years, the Forrests are only too aware of the risks of having 'all of your eggs in one basket'. Their secondary, but very important, target market is the local abattoir to which most wethers and out-of-specification females as well as all cast-for-age livestock are consigned.

Col is also experimenting with a semi finished, higher value article for the local domestic market. “Its early days and numbers are low but it’s going ok,” according to Col.

Col sums things up by saying “It’s important to diversify and communicate with those in your supply chain. The more feedback and communication that can occur the better the supply chain works and the greater the benefit to all members.

Col also maintains that goats are better for the country from an environmental perspective. “I’m seeing more grass and fewer rubbish species thanks to the goats.

Key points
  • High input breeding enterprises can be successful in the rangelands provided a target market is identified that justifies the additional expense.
  • Diversification is important in running a high input breeding enterprise as this allows a fallback position in case there is a problem with the primary market.