Future bright for goats

EW
By Edwina Watson
November 4 2021 - 9:00pm
Joanna Gall, Coogee Lake, Broken Hill, bringing in rangeland goats for sale while husband, Lachlan, drafts them out at the back. (Photo by Rachael Webb).

WHILE DROUGHT conditions once dampened goat supply and slaughter, recent data suggests the herd rebuild has quickened, and so too has the market pace.

Weekly goat slaughter is well above 2019 and 2020 levels, according to figures released by Meat and Livestock Australia. In September, NSW slaughtered almost 200 per cent of its goat volumes processed at the same time last year.

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And despite the increase in throughput, goat over-the-hook (OTH) prices are not slowing down.

PT Lord, Dakin and Associates agent, Joe Portelli, Dubbo, said the market was the strongest he'd ever seen it.

"Our OTH prices range from $9.50 to $10 a kilo dressed weight, which is in front of lamb and mutton," Mr Portelli said. "We're also seeing a lot of restocker activity with the good season and high commodity prices in the beef and lamb sectors.

"With high cattle prices, high Merino ewe and first-cross ewe prices, we're seeing people buying lighter restocker goats, fattening and selling them as they would a store lamb."

Mr Portelli said graziers could purchase goats at $70 to $90 a head and turn them off at $150 to $200. He said that restocker goats were also gaining traction via the online selling platform, AuctionsPlus.

"The goat fellow was once seen as the poor cousin of the sheep fellow, but I think they're on par now," Mr Portelli said. "There are no (flystrike) dramas and kidding rates are in front of lambing rates at 140 to 160 per cent.

"People can see money in goats and are willing to put money into them."

And the future remains bright for the industry, as it evolves from more opportunistic harvesting to semi-managed and managed enterprises.

Reaping rewards

"The market is certainly very buoyant, and producers are reaping the rewards of what they've been doing," said Nutrien Walsh Hughes agent, Greg Seiler, Bourke.

"There are probably more goats behind wire now than there ever have been.

"Rather than just harvesting goats from the wild, it's become a bit more of a business. Enterprises are upgrading their flocks with better-type billies and really focusing on how they can drive improvement there."

Pastoralists' Association of West Darling president, Lachlan Gall, said that he had built his first goat paddock at home in 1986.

Mr Gall said rangeland harvesting had always been a big generator of cashflow and helped a number of families through dry times. Now he's finishing a further 10 kilometres of fencing, putting more country behind wire.

"We sold 10 decks back in April and were left with residual breeding nanny goats. Most of those have kidded since then and that's bought numbers back up," Mr Gall said.

"We retained a big, solid white, billy goat that came in with a mob of feral goats 12 or more years ago. As a result, probably in excess of 50pc of my better nanny goats are polled with a smattering of Boer blood."

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In the most recent drought, Mr Gall said stock numbers across his Far Western NSW properties had dropped to 40pc of their average, and they'd embarked on a handfeeding program lasting almost three years.

"For a long period we were using a road train or more of hay a week, and also getting B-double loads of cottonseed, molasses and pellets," he said. "It was difficult to make up a full B-double load of goats that met specifications for the abattoirs, but John and Airlie Blore's Silverton goats depot offered competitive rates.

"That, coupled with variable load sizes and variable specifications for sale goats, means we can just grab the goats where we can and then Silverton has the opportunity to draft them into the lines best suited for different abattoirs.

"Our goats end up at the Game Meats Company in Eurobin, Victoria, and heavier goats that don't suit the skin-on job are drafted off."

Mr Gall said prices had been strong and consistent, but that drought and overharvesting had decimated feral goat populations.

"On account of the good prices, anyone and everyone has been mustering or trapping goats," he said. "And with the increasing popularity of helicopters in the Far West, they've facilitated effective mustering in all types of country, even in the toughest of rough, stony hills."

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According to Meat and Livestock Australia, the country's export volumes have seen a 25pc uptick year-to-date. Australia remains the biggest player in the global goatmeat trade, despite accounting for less than one per cent of global production and sitting well behind the goatmeat producing super powers of China, India and Pakistan.

While the United States takes 67pc of Australia's goatmeat exports, it's demand from South Korea that has made a real difference this year, with exports rising by 97pc.

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