Choosing goats a healthy option

Location: Hillcrest, Victoria

Enterprise: Boer goat breeding

Producer: Kaylene and Bill Baird

Pasture type: Rye, clovers, Lucerne and cocksfoot

Why goats?

“As a critical care nurse I’ve seen the impact of poor diet choices on people’s health, primarily cardiac impacts. For this reason I wanted to be part of the solution and produce something healthy. Goats are a perfect fit for us – their meat is lean, healthy and nutritious,” said Kaylene.

“We are also able to easily manage the workload with our off-farm commitments which was another reason for choosing goats.

“Bill and I started back in 2002 and I undertook a goat husbandry course as my background was in sheep and dairy farming. We wanted to make sure we were doing this right and setting up the property to suit goat production”.

How the goats are managed

“Internal parasites can be an issue for our area. For this reason we do quarterly (or as needed) Faecal Worm Egg Counts (FWEC). We only drench if the FWEC results indicate we need to,” said Kaylene.

“We rotate the grazing of the paddocks with the cattle to help manage the worms. The cattle are moved through the paddocks first to eat the top layer of pasture before the goats are introduced”. 

Kaylene and Bill run a strict quarantine process for any new stock being introduced to the property.

Upon arrival they are given a full check-up and isolated for 10 days (or as needed) from the rest of the herd and treated to ensure their FWEC results are in line with the herd average.

“If the new animals don’t come up to scratch they are sold straight away. There’s no point introducing animals into the herd who will adversely affect the performance of the others, through internal parasite infection for example,” Kaylene said.

“I perform the FWEC and if I am concerned I will send samples to a Victorian laboratory for processing” said Kaylene. Kaylene completed an on-line FWEC course and since then conducts her own FWEC tests. “It’s quick and easy to do and can save you money in the long run”.

Pastures on the property include rye, clovers, Lucerne and woody plants such as cocksfoot. Native grasses like kangaroo grass are present. The goats grazing schedule compliments the property’s fire management plan by ensuring the paddocks on the west and south west of the family home are eaten out by end of December to mid-January. Gorse, which was in abundance when the property was initially purchased, is now all but cleared due to an initial physical removal followed by a grazing regime. “The goats love to eat the high protein weed just before it flowers thereby reducing the spread of seed,” Kaylene said. “You can learn a lot from watching your animals. Goats are browsers, and we know for example when they are chasing the Black Wattle their diet may be low in cobalt”.

“We conduct soil tests every three years or so knowing that in our area the soil is low in cobalt and selenium. When the goats begin to browse for Black Wattle we provide cobalt and selenium lick blocks. This way we know what and when to offer supplements,” said Kaylene.

“We average kidding percentages of about 180% with 95% of the does having twin or triplet pregnancies,” said Kaylene.

In the past predation has been an issue with foxes and eagles impacting significantly on kidding survival. For this reason alpacas and Maremma sheepdogs have been introduced and this has been successful.  

Where does the product go?

Breeding Boer does are exported live to agents in Malaysia and America. “Generally the does need to be under two years old and be a minimum of 35kg,” said Kaylene.

Cull animals and wethers are contract killed through Hardwicks and supplied to butchers in the Ballarat region. Generally dressing percentages average between 47-52%, skin off.

“We dabbled in production of some small goods with the goatmeat including sausages and smoked products, and while these were well received, we realised that our priority of effort was to focus on the on-farm activities,” said Kaylene.

“We still provide some small goods and meat to customers as needed and are in the process of finalising a cold storage facility”.

Where to from here?

Kaylene said that while they would not be looking to expand their own land and business, they would like to assist others get into the industry.

“The goat industry is a viable proposition which more people should look into,” said Kaylene. 

“Domestic and export demands for product is very strong and we would be interested in buying in other people’s stock to finish and match with orders within our established markets.” 

Key lessons and messages

Kaylene emphasised the importance of ensuring the property is set up for goats from the beginning in terms of protection options and yard and paddock structures.

“It saves a lot of time and effort in the long run,” Kaylene said.

“It’s also important to realise that goats are not sheep and their husbandry needs are different. Their ability to browse, for example, is such an asset and allows us to better control weeds like gorse on our property and know when to offer supplements. More people should look into goats as an option for their business”.

Kaylene believes internal parasites are definitely manageable.

“The combined efforts of rotational grazing, WECs, only drenching as needed, testing for resistance, culling sub-standard animals, and being careful when introducing new stock onto the property have worked for us”.

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