Goat returns complement sheep and cattle

15 September 2016

Goats have the potential to complement the financial returns of cattle and sheep when integrated into existing livestock operations across a range of environments, an economic analysis of the benefits of mixed grazing with goats has found.

The economic analysis, commissioned by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and undertaken by agribusiness consultants, Agripath, examined the outcomes of introducing goats into six existing sheep and/or cattle businesses in both the pastoral/rangeland and high rainfall/farmland zones in eastern and south eastern Australia.

It found that, based on bottom line figures, producers should be considering goats in both environments, particularly where there were rough or unimproved feed sources. 

MLA’s Goat Industry Project Manager Julie Petty said with over-the-hook goat indicators still sitting at 600c/kg carcase weight since hitting the new record high in July, there were many incentives for producers to consider introducing managed goat herds, not just opportunistic rangeland harvesting.

“Market price is a key driver in the profitability of the goat enterprises studied in this analysis,” Ms Petty said.
  
“While producers have very little control over the market price, they can still influence their profitability and productivity by focusing on things within their control such as careful evaluation of their marketing options, ensuring animals supplied consistently meet market specifications, and evaluating their business and land to best match the enterprise type. 

“For example goats may be a more profitable stocking choice for some rougher paddocks with woody weed issues.

“Slaughter is not the only option for captured goats. There is currently strong demand for breeding stock, and therefore there are opportunities to sell underweight animals, pregnant nannies and other breeding stock to other producers or retain to further build their own herds.

“With more intensive management to maintain a high kidding rate and survival, returns are competitive with traditional high performing enterprises such as prime lambs and trading cattle.

“The evidence from the case studies also suggests that these competitive returns can be achieved on lower quality pastures and browse.”

The introduction of goats in five of the six businesses analysed was found to have provided an economic benefit to the landholder. 

Returns on the extra capital ranged from 16 to 49 per cent, indicating the introduction of goats was more profitable than prior enterprise use and land utilisation. 

In one case study in the NSW tablelands, goats were used to control weeds as an alternative to chemicals. Previous control of blackberry and nodding thistle infestations in one paddock using a helicopter had cost the landowner $9500.

However, the landowner found the strategic grazing of goats was cutting reliance on herbicides and helicopter spraying and increasing the property’s profitability and carrying capacity. 

The analysis also found there are few economic barriers to entry, with the capital cost of breeding does relatively inexpensive when compared to other livestock enterprises. 

“While fencing may be perceived to be a barrier, the producers in the case studies all pointed to other improvements as a result of the investment, such as management of grazing pressure, ease of handling and mustering, and exclusion of competing wildlife,” Ms Petty said.

The analysis found that, while there are currently no price premiums in the industry to reflect carcase quality differences, goat producers should focus on maximising returns through management and maximisation of turn-off weights and condition scores to meet market specifications and sending consistent lines of animals for processing. 

“The high prices we’re seeing at the moment are being driven in part by strong overseas demand for Australian goatmeat,” Ms Petty said.

“This isn’t an overnight fad either, prices have been steadily increasing for over 18 months now. 

“It’s a fantastic time to get into the goat industry and MLA and the Goat Industry of Australia (GICA) are committed to assisting people through the diversification process. Many of the levy funded programs, such as this one are designed to help us build up a sustainable supply base.”

To read a full copy of the analysis, click here.

MLA currently provides a range of market information services including for the goat industry. 

Producers who want regular market information delivered into their e-mail inbox should subscribe to MLA’s Goats on the Move Market Report e-newsletter. To subscribe, email info@mla.com.au.

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