Goats give best bang for buck at Surat

Nanny goat breeding enterprise stacks up at Surat

Goats
Family business: Katie and Greg Honor and their children Samuel, Abigail and Isabelle. Photos: Sally Gall.

Family business: Katie and Greg Honor and their children Samuel, Abigail and Isabelle. Photos: Sally Gall.

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After doing their sums, Surat's Honor family is convinced that goat breeding will give them their best bang for buck.

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An analytical mind, guided always by budgets, is what led Greg and Katie Honor to stock their 7280 hectare property south of Surat with rangeland goats.

An electrician by trade who pivoted to project management for Energex and the resources industry, Mr Honor and his wife purchased Glenmore in July 2017 after doing their sums and deciding that the price point was right.

It was a move he had long wanted to make, with good memories of working in the bush as a child, but was not able to make add up financially before then.

His grandfather had secured Dooloogarah north of Mitchell in a land ballot and it's where he learnt all about work ethics on school holidays.

"You could say I got a city education with a taste of country life," he said.

That city learning and and a self-employed project management business helped bankroll his dream of life on the land, which Mr Honor had always thought would involve cattle production.

"In 2013, country was $2000 a breeder area," he said.

"We're running goats purely because of economics.

"Glenmore can run 7500 dry sheep equivalents but with goats we can run 15,000 DSE - there's stuff they eat that cattle and Merinos don't."

As well as brigalow ridges, the property has belah hollows with a variety of grasses growing.

Related: Exclusion fence gives options for diversity at Bollon

Described by Mr Honor as a renovator's delight, more than 50pc of Glenmore is locked up under vegetation management maps, giving them only 3240ha they can develop, which further cemented their decision to run goats.

"In our 4000 acre paddock where we're flat out running 50 weaners, we run 2000 nannies," he said. "It just doesn't make sense not to run goats."

It just doesn't make sense not to run goats - Greg Honor, Glenmore, Surat

Profit share purchases of 500 nannies from a breeder at Bourke in 2018, plus another 2500 from Wilcannia the following year, gave the Honors their start and meant they had a cash flow to put into infrastructure improvements, namely fencing and water.

A set of old cattle yards has been meshed and a Proway goat handler installed, described by Ms Honor as a game-changer in the push and shove of animal husbandry interactions that goats demand.

Katie Honor speaks about installing a Proway handler.

Katie Honor speaks about installing a Proway handler.

"We would struggle to run 600 cows plus our off-farm business - the goat enterprise is much easier in terms of labour efficiency," Mr Honor said.

They currently run 4500 nannies and aim to meet their target of 6000 next year, after which they'll be able to start selling six to nine-month-old nannies to restockers, and start making money.

Young entire billies are already meeting the market for meat, either at Carey Bros at Warwick or with Western Meat Exporters at Charleville.

Sited around 400km from either, Mr Honor said Warwick had offered a slightly better price per kilogram, but Charleville offered greater scale.

They have been putting first cross Boer sires over their rangeland females, at 2pc, because they were confident they would handle the conditions, but recently purchased 16 straight Boers from near Wee Waa.

Some of the 4500 kidding rangeland nannies.

Some of the 4500 kidding rangeland nannies.

"We want to get to weight earlier, and have better carcase quality," Mr Honor explained. "Ideally, if we can get them to 15-20kg carcase weight at between nine and 15 months, then we can give a paddock a spell."

Drought got steadily worse following the purchase of Glenmore, which the Honors say was "good timing" before numbers built up.

One thing is for sure - with the rigour that Mr Honor applies to decisions, when drought hits again, the couple will have a plan to cope.

More reading: Surat goat field day draws wide interest

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