The Perkins family of Dirranbandi have reaped many benefits since diversifying into a semi-managed goat breeding herd, including security of stock numbers for sale by moving away from a total reliance on opportunistic harvesting.
Nic Perkins was the driving force behind the family business taking goats more seriously and making the transition to include the enterprise as a permanent fixture on their properties during the last eight years.
Rangeland harvesting originally formed only a small part of the business’s income as the local herds were small and inconsistent, making it difficult to pool large enough numbers of saleable animals to make it financially feasible to transport them to slaughter.
Nic could see the potential for the animal on their properties though and set about building two goat paddocks with a total area of 728ha.
Younger goats harvested from across the two properties near Dirranbandi were used as the base for the breeding herd.
“We had some scrubby country with lots of regrowth that we could only run low numbers of sheep and cattle on,” he said.
“When we crunched the numbers I felt we could use that land more productively and run higher stocking rates of goats and therefore generate more dollars per hectare. And we had the added benefit of the goats controlling the regrowth.”
Nic said having the breeding herd allows the family to keep a population on tap to sell as it suits the business.
“We’ve now got more kids coming through which we can grow out and sell once they reach our minimum target live weight of 25-26kg,” he said.
“Previously nannies in those wild herds would have kidded and perhaps moved on before we were ready to harvest the saleable animals, so we lost that income opportunity.”
“The goats were a great fit for us. They’re low maintenance, especially compared with the sheep, and at the moment we’re getting a return higher than the cattle for the goats and on par with the sheep.”
The steady pricing seen in the goat industry during the last 12 months has given the Perkins family the confidence to host a trial site monitoring rangeland goat growth rates.
“The trial is also going to help us decide if it’s worthwhile us including some supplementary feeding at our place and if we do, what kind of return and impact on growth rates that would have,” he said.
Depending on the season the Perkins’ would run between 300-1500 head of goats.
Nic said the importance of getting the most out of the stock and resources available and for this reason they’ve initiated a few standard practices on the property.
They harvest twice a year and sell as many animals over the 25kg minimum live weight as possible to help reduce the risk of over stocking.
A few animals are weighed at the beginning of drafting to help ‘get your eye in’ as it only costs money to send underweight goats to processing.
Any lactating does are retained with their kids and any young animals which can be weaned are separated.
The weaners are held in a small training yard for a week to get them used to the electric fencing before they are released back into the goat paddocks.
This practice, Nic says, helps reduce the animals wandering.
“Any new goats we’re bringing onto the place are held in the training yards,” he said.
“Our goat paddocks only have two offset electric wires on an existing six wire fence and without this training time, the goats don’t respect the fence and we would lose the lot. We find the training is enough to keep them in the goat paddocks and we try and do weekly fence checks to make sure there are no problems”.
In the future Nic sees the industry growing.
“There are more and more people backgrounding goats and keeping semi-managed herds. I’m hoping that on our own property we will be able to build another two goat paddocks in the near future so we can increase our production both in terms of goat numbers and carcase weights. The more room the goats have to roam and forage the happier they seem to be and they keep more kilograms on the carcase then those that are kept in more confined areas.”
More information on the growth rate trial the Perkins family is hosting can be found here.