Australia expects surge in goat production following drought

The decline of goat production in Aus- tralia is actually good news for the industry, ex- perts say, with the local slaughter predicted to start climbing to new heights in a year’s time. Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) reports national goat meat production is

down 37 per cent on the 10-year quarter aver- age. New South Wales and Western Australia have experienced falls in recent years. But those in the industry say it is im- portant for herds to rebuild in order to sur- vive after the drought, signaling a shift from

opportunistic harvesting to managed farming systems.

“Goat slaughter levels are down, but it’s on the back of drought-induced destocking and high goat prices,” MLA project manager Emily Litzow said. “We’re actually in a period of rebuild and industry transformational shift, which is really exciting. Instead of producers sending just anything that they wild harvest to slaugh- ter or to market, they’re keeping a lot more of the does and the kids and letting them grow up. The industry is in a good place and it will come back stronger than ever in prob- ably 12 months’ time.”

The industry is turning from opportun- istic wild goat harvesting to managed farm- ing.

Ms. Litzow said the significant de- creases in areas like western NSW should improve with better management systems. “These were traditional rangeland areas and with dog-proof fencing; exclusion fenc- ing and changes to the production system means we’re seeing numbers down at the moment,” she said.

“Production systems are changing, it will get better once those systems are up and running. Rangeland goats are being put be- hind fencing so they’ll be able to grow out and be looked after properly. The industry will bounce back very quickly.”

The reputation of goats had changed dramatically, she said.

“Producers in the past have seen goats as a pest, and they were almost a bit of a taboo topic quite a few years ago. But now in areas that aren’t typical goat-producing areas — big beef or sheep areas — you do a farmer field day there now, and there’s so much interest. More interest than we’ve ever seen before in people getting into goats and changing production systems. That’s because goat enterprises are so profitable, they’re slightly more drought resilient, and there’s a lot going for them.”

Many sheep and cattle farmers are add- ing goats to their enterprise. A new MLA benchmarking program found goats could be as profitable, if not more profitable, than sheep and cattle.

Farmer Joanne Stewart has been farm- ing goats for more than a decade. What was once an extremely niche market is becoming more mainstream.

She has been concerned about the high rates of rangeland goat harvesting and is re- lieved people are starting to work on rebuild- ing those numbers. n

20 Goat Rancher | September 2021

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