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

Case Study: Ian and Sharon Elliott

Name of producer: Ian and Sharon Elliott
Property name: Eskdale
Property location: 120km north east of Winton, Queensland
Property size (in ha): 13,000ha
Avg. turn off annually: 8,000 goats
Rangeland enterprise type: Low input breeding system
Target market: Slaughter for meat export and domestic markets, some live export
Other farm enterprises: Beef and sheep

Selling goats for the commodity market

Ian and Sharon Elliott from 'Eskdale' north east of Winton, Queensland, first tried their hand at goat production around 2003 and goats now play a large part in their business. The Elliotts not only breed goats, but also consolidate and transport them for the commodity export and domestic abattoir markets. Last year they sold around 8,000 goats with approximately 800 heading overseas as part of export shipments.

Consigning goats to market specifications

Ian receives a market specification from the abattoir and consigns goats according to that specification. “The orders are rarely very complicated," according to Ian. “The most definite guideline that generally applies is a minimum dressed weight of 10kg. Anything under that is considered to have no commercial value (NCV) and is condemned as an NCV. Producers don’t get paid for NCVs.

Ian suggests that selling goats to a depot is a good option for producers who are just starting out in the goat industry, have irregular volumes of goats or are not interested in the marketing side of things. By selling to a depot, they get paid for what they produce on a $/kg liveweight basis. Throughout 2011, this has averaged around $0.90 - $1 per kg liveweight - about $35 per head.

Assessing goats prior to consignment

Ian is paid a liveweight rate upon arrival for the goats that he sends to the abattoir. The most important issue here is avoiding consigning goats that are likely to be NCVs as there are significant costs in transport that must be paid regardless of whether the abattoir pays or not.

To avoid rejection, Ian weighs all goats and does not send anything weighing less than 24kg liveweight.

Ian recommends that even though you get paid on what they weigh at the abattoir, producers should use their own scales on their property before they are loaded so that they know what to expect and don’t send any goats that will go as NCVs. A kill sheet is supplied by the abattoir which summarises the weights of each consignment.

Along with the abattoir, Ian also supplies goats to ethnic butchers but suggests that this requires a significant commitment in time and effort. “My preference is the abattoir market as this is reliable, can handle volume and is less hassle.”

Words of advice

If it won't 'make the grade', don't send it
When selling goats, Ian feels that the most important consideration, along with weighing goats and only sending those that meet the buyer’s specifications, is animal welfare. All goats should be assessed prior to transport and as Ian says; “If you don’t think it's going to make it; don’t send it.”

Key points
  • Central to running a low input breeding enterprise is breeding and delivering the kind of goat the identified market wants.
  • Scales are important in ensuring that goats of the correct weight are consigned to market.