Aussie goats climbing to the top

Nuffield scholar's vision for goat industry


Pieter van Jaarsveld plans to make the most of his Nuffield scholarship, travelling to a number of countries and researching productivity in the goat industry.

Peter van Jaarsveld runs a goat breeding operation at Gore, east of Inglewood. Photo: Nuffield Australia.

Peter van Jaarsveld runs a goat breeding operation at Gore, east of Inglewood. Photo: Nuffield Australia.

This Southern-Queensland producer has big plans for the Australian goat industry, and he's taking notes from the global market leaders one continent at a time.

Peter van Jaarsveld runs a Boer goat breeding operation, Sunset Hill Boer Goats, on his family's 1000 ha property at Gore, in the Goondiwindi region.

The 2021 Nuffield scholar said he hopes to begin international research in 2022 now that COVID travel restrictions are easing, starting with a trip to the United Kingdom in March next year with his fellow scholars.

Mr van Jaarsveld is also in the midst of making independent travel plans, where he will complete research for his investigation on how crossbreeding Boer and Rangeland goats can increase meat production and industry productivity.

"My independent travel will focus mostly on getting into South Africa if that's possible, where a lot of the Boer goat breeds originate from," he said.

"That'll be initially where I try to travel, and it will be looking at mostly large producers of goat, so I will try to get to the US as well, just because they import most of our goat.

"We'll have to tee it up and see how that's going, and see if we can at least get to those two and we'll leave space to see if we can get to some potential Middle Eastern countries if we can fit that in."

The Nuffield group also plan to head to Spain, Italy, Argentina and Chile in 2023.

Also read: Goats dictate major land management changes on Traprock

Mr van Jaarsveld, alongside his father, run just over 1000 animals, predominantly goats but also a mob of Dorper sheep.

The family originally ran cattle when they first moved to Australia from South Africa, but when the drought hit they decided to sell their herd and focus on goats.

"Coming to Australia was interesting because we came from a space where Boer goats originate from and there's a strong goat industry over there," he said.

"And then coming to Australia, for many years goats were seen as just a pest and people were either shooting them or they were selling them for nothing.

"But there have been people who have been working here in the industry for years, working really hard to get their genetics to a good level and now, for some reason, that last drought really got people thinking about diversification.

"That, along with the exclusion fences obviously, people saw another option for an income; they took the animals they already had behind wire and saw that they could get good cash flow from these animals and there's ways to improve their genetics, just like with any species."

Mr van Jaarsveld started his Boer goat stud in 2015 before diversifying across three main streams.

"We have the Boer stud animals, and we do commercial boers as well," he said, "then we also run a cross breeding operation with Rangelands.

"We sell breeding stock and bucks to people and we also sell meat direct to market.

"We also have a line of unique polled Boers and that's just something that we're developing on the sideline."

After completing a dual degree of sustainable agriculture and agribusiness at the University of Queensland (UQ), Mr van Jaarsveld furthered his studies, completing an Honours science degree this year looking at reproduction outcomes in Boers and cross-bred Rangelands.

The family often hosts UQ students on their property to conduct parasitology research, with the program currently looking into worm burdens and the future of anthelmintic drugs in the goat space.

As well as participating in the Nuffield program, Mr van Jaarsveld is also on the AgForce Young Producers Council as the sheep and goat representative, and on the board for the Boer Goat Breeders Association as a director.

Mr van Jaarsveld said the AgForce Young Producers Council has given him a platform to make headway in the goat industry, a space which he says hadn't seen much attention before this year.

"I'm busy working heavily in the goat space to represent members, especially at the moment more on a Queensland level, but we're working on a new potential goat commodity or at least goat research space for the industry on a national level.

"Mostly because the goats are growing really, really fast, you would have seen the price of the buck that sold for $21,000.

"People are spending the money but I think there's not a lot of support in the industry yet."

According to Mr van Jaarsveld, one of the major challenges facing the industry is the lack of clarity around which drugs and drenches are safe to use on goats, as there is currently a very limited range of products that include goats in their labelling.

But he says considering the rapid growth within the industry, AgForce will have a solid argument when appealing to drug companies to develop viable options for goat owners.

Also read: Inaugural Hendon Park Boer goat sale well received at Roma

While the industry has seen a period of increased interest and a climb in animal numbers, Mr van Jaarsveld believes that there is still a long way to go in terms of education and animal management skills.

"There's a lot of people getting into the industry now and they're spending big money, but they're not 100 per cent sure yet how to run goats properly, or how to select the best animals."

"There's not a lot of data to support decisions or backup why we do things if you compare it to the cattle or sheep industries, which have research done every year to improve farmers management and outputs.

"So there's probably a big gap there, a big knowledge gap that we still need to fill."

The popularity and rising prices of goats has not gone unnoticed, with many producers deciding to enter the market over the last two years, a trend which Mr van Jaarsveld said he expects to continue.

"It's growing really, really fast and there's a heap of investment going in, especially over the last two years.

"I think progression taking that forward, it wouldn't be much of an extrapolation to say that it's going to continue upwards.

"Twenty-one Thousand, that's probably almost more than they'd spend in South Africa for an animal, so we're getting pretty high up there.

"It's good to see and I think that's what the industry needs, because the more attention we get and the more money that gets spent in the industry, the more that comes out of it; more research, more investment from governing bodies and government, breeders and other farmers and producers.

"It is a good space to be in and I do think it's going to be on a steady incline for now."

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