No limit for young goat producer

Emily Watts takes on goat industry

Goats
Jack, Catherine, Lachlan and Emily Watts. Photo: Georgia Hoolihan Photography.

Jack, Catherine, Lachlan and Emily Watts. Photo: Georgia Hoolihan Photography.

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Emily Watts is on a mission to produce the ultimate cross-breed goat through her family stud, Catlok Goats.

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One young producer is taking the goat industry by the horns and giving it a good shake-up as she aims to breed the ultimate crossbred goat.

Emily Watts is a 22-year-old go-getter from South-West Queensland who runs a goat breeding operation on her family properties between Dirranbandi and Bollon.

Ms Watts runs her goat stud alongside her parents, Catherine and Lachlan, who are also the namesakes for her stud, Catlok goats.

The Watts family, who originally ran trade cattle prior to the recent drought, decided to focus on goats as their main operation in 2016 after the lack of rain forced them to look for a more sustainable option.

Catlok focusses on the cross-breeding of Boer bucks and Rangeland does, which the family currently operate across 17,000 ha on their two properties.

"We started just mustering Rangelands for whoever wanted us to muster them and then we bought some in as well, and just kept doing fences internally," Ms Watts said.

"We got to the point where we put a big exclusion fence around both of our places and then we started to introduce the crossing of the Boers to our Rangeland does."

Catlok focus on cross-breeding Boer bucks with their Rangeland does. Photo: Georgia Hoolihan Photography,

Catlok focus on cross-breeding Boer bucks with their Rangeland does. Photo: Georgia Hoolihan Photography,

Ms Watts said the Rangelands add invaluable traits to the genetics, something which is often overlooked by breeders looking to build weight in their meat animals.

"We definitely don't want to be going full Boer, we want to keep the Rangeland genetic in there," she said.

"I just think the Rangelands, the way they've adapted to the conditions, they've lived here with no help and no support for so long.

"And their fertility is a massive thing, they're re-breed is unbelievable; they'll come in with a weaner on them and then they'll be back in kid, in an uncontrolled environment as well.

"I think also, they have pretty good feet, so when you cross them you're adding the carcase but you're keeping the tough western durability."

However, she also believes that the introduction of a full or first-cross Boer buck to the herd goes a long way in adding meat value, and in a much shorter timeframe.

"The Boers, their growth rates are unreal and their meat, you can just pick them up, they put so much on and it's so much quicker."

"I just think sometimes that running all rangelands is not as profitable, whereas putting the Boers with them has been a lot more profitable and competitive."

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Ms Watts went to work on a cattle station in the Northern Territory during her first year out of school, before going to work at a Brahman stud near Cloncurry in Western Queensland.

Working for the stud gave Ms Watts an insight into the professionalism of a breeding operation and spurred her to "have a good crack" with her own goat stud.

"When I was working on the cattle stud, it was great just being introduced to the way a stud works, what they do, how they go about their herd and how they collect data," she said.

"Then when I came home last year I thought, we've got some really good animals and there is interest in people wanting to put, either a full Boer buck or a first-cross buck, into their herd just to make their operation a bit more profitable.

"So I thought well, we need to really make something of this, start distinguishing our best stock and really having a go at the genetics side of things."

This demand for reasonably-priced stud animals is where Catlok has found their niche, using paddock sales as a platform to market goats that thrive in the tough Western-Queensland conditions.

"I really want to keep producing paddock sales, especially for people who have large mobs of Rangelands out west and they want to be able to purchase say, 20 or 40 bucks at a time to cover their mob," Ms Watts said.

"The prices at the moment are just insane and it's pretty hard for them to go to a sale and just spend all that money.

"I think, it's a pretty niche market that I feel we can fill because our animals are born in western conditions and they're not fed to the hilt on grain, they've just adapted to the conditions."

Catlok Goats is a family run operation in South-West Queensland. Photo: Georgia Hoolihan Photography.

Catlok Goats is a family run operation in South-West Queensland. Photo: Georgia Hoolihan Photography.

Ms Watts will be furthering her education next year at Marcus Oldham College in Geelong, studying a degree in Agribusiness.

The young producer said she hopes to increase her knowledge in order to make her operation as profitable as possible, focusing on genetics and meat quality to achieve best market results.

"We just really want to focus on improving our genetics and start introducing the Myotonic breed, and purchasing genetics from Contender Meat Goats where they imported those genetics from America, their meat goat is very interesting.

"Meat quality and marbling, that really interests me and I hope that we can develop a product for that because there's going to have to be a time where people are putting more money into their genetics, so there needs to be a premium market.

"There's a really big gap in the market there so I'm pretty keen to improve the meat side of things."

It seems nothing will be slowing Ms Watts down as she plans to grow her business and continue making waves in the industry, saying her being a young woman only makes her work harder for success.

"What people have done in the cattle or sheep industry, that's what we want to do with goats," she said.

"We want to become a really good western goat meat stud, and I'm quite passionate about that.

"I think, especially being a younger person and a female, it's a good challenge because the industry can be a little male-dominated I suppose. I'm pretty keen to keep doing it for the long haul."

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