QUEENSLAND'S goat industry has matured a lot in the past 20 years and is bringing excellent returns, but there are still issues to be addressed before a greater number of producers adopt managed herds as part of their operations.
A forum organised by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and the Goat Industry Council of Australia (GICA) in Charleville recently heard that producers wanted stable financial returns, while processors want a continuous supply to meet strong overseas demand.
Last year's export market was worth $180 million and demand from China alone has risen from 370 shipped weight in 2012 to 4700swt in 2013, which should mean that prices continue to send out strong signals. Despite this, droughts, wild dogs and lax NLIS compliance could threaten development.
MLA goat industry development manager Julie Petty told the audience of 20 that many of the price peaks and troughs currently experienced were due to seasonal conditions.
Western Meat Exporters goat abattoir director Campbell McPhee emphasised the need for more people to go into production to iron out supply issues.
He thought the trend towards fencing country provided people with the opportunity to bring goats in and address environmental issues on properties, such as prickly acacia control, at the same time.
Charleville is Queensland's main goat hotspot thanks to the abattoir, and Mr McPhee acknowledged supply had dropped dramatically in recent years due to wild dog predation.
Despite the supply squeeze brought about by wild dogs and drought, GICA chairman Rick Gates said he thought the slaughter rate for export and domestic markets this year would hit 2.5 million head, which would be a new record.
He put up an optimistic target of doubling the processing number to four million head in five years, which he felt could be done by sustaining high prices now on offer and thereby showing red meat producers that goat is the meat they should be running on their country.
Mr McPhee agreed money was the best incentive and said he would encourage a comparison of cost of production figures between sheep and goats to encourage more people to run them.
While there was a small amount of representation from Boer goat producers at the forum, it was generally agreed there was not a good enough premium for western producers to invest in them at present.
Mr McPhee described himself as "a big fan" of rangeland goats.
"They are perfect for what we want," he said. "There's a bit of weight gain if you have 40 per cent Boer but you've got to make sure they're working, or it affects your cost of production."
On the subject of wild dogs, state government senior trade and investment officer Morgan Gronold pointed out that goats were part of the national action plan.
"It demonstrates that people are putting a value on them now," he said.
Their effect was the other big topic at the forum. Mr Gates said he had noticed a difference himself, driving north from his home at Broken Hill.
"They were scattered alongside the roadways in NSW but as you passed Barringun, there were no more goats.
"The fencing work going on up in Queensland was quite inspirational.
"I took home the message that we're probably only five years behind this point."