Australia’s first millionaires might have bankrolled their ambitions with Merino wool, and Sid Kidman and his ilk used cattle as their stepping stone to wealth, but Blackall teenagers Clay and Zac Armstrong are hoping that goats will make their fortunes.
The pair began their Barcoo Boer Goats enterprise close to four years ago when they were nine and seven years old respectively, purchasing a billy and 20 nannies from the Elliott family at Eskdale, Winton.
Since then they’ve weathered drought and wild dogs alongside much older compatriots, to now have 70 breeding does and a number of billies, selling meat through the local butcher shop and young billies to people wanting to commercialise feral goats running on their properties.
Parents Scott and Nina Armstrong have paid for the infrastructure on the family property – 1600mm external fencing with two barbs and standard internal fencing on the 80 hectare buffel grass block – and the boys operate their own account to pay for husbandry needs, such as worming, lice treatment, lick blocks and ear tags, and to bank their income.
So far they’ve experienced all the pain of running out of money as well as the exhilaration of healthy animals reproducing beyond expectations.
“We used just about all our money in the drought, feeding,” Clay said. “We only had $90 left so it was just as well we had some rain.”
Kid losses were experienced last year through the winter rain, which was too cold for the young goats to manage.
Clay’s mother Nina said goats had been a perfect animal for he and Zac to start off with, because of their youth when they began, and because of the limited land they had to run them on.
“They are so easy to train too,” she said. “When they were running on a smaller block of land that was unfenced, they’d bring themselves in to be locked up at night.”
The herd has reached its maximum capacity on the land available and while Clay’s dream is to start agisting, that might have to wait until the bank balance builds up a bit.
At present they’re joining their does all through the year, and are recording a weaning rate of 2.8 kids per nanny.
Goats have been reaching 45kg in seven months, and the local Barcoo Butchery has been marketing them through social media for the boys.
“I wasn’t sure how it would go,” butcher Brian Davison said. “I advertised and was pleasantly surprised.
“The demand is about equal to their production so it’s working out nicely.
“It’s good to have goat to offer customers.”
Plenty of options
MLA’s Julie Petty said Clay was in a good position in the state’s central west.
“For the first time, cluster fence people have got options.
“Goats are attractive because they can be a low cost animal.”
Two weeks ago at Dubbo, processors and restockers alike were competing for very young animals, with prices reaching $34/head.
At the other end of the spectrum, goats have been bringing a top price of $7.30/kg, or an average of $6.55/kg.
“There’s a perfect storm of tight supply, good prices and a network of experienced people to mentor,” Julie said.
She first met Clay at a restocking workshop and said he was by far the youngest there.
Young families are becoming more of a feature in the goat industry, which Julie speculated may be partly due to rangelands producers setting aside stigmas and crunching numbers.
“Goats are the most interesting livestock,” she said. “They’re not as big as cattle, and you don’t need to shear them.”
While Clay’s schoolmates haven’t expressed an interest one way or another about his enterprise, Nina said most people she talked to were impressed to see two young boys having a go.
Clay has been invited to a goat industry conference in Adelaide shortly, and he’s planning a stand at the Blackall show to share his know-how.
Sid Kidman, step aside, these kids are on their way.