Trials confirm goat growth weight gains

05 September 2018

Growing out young rangeland goats can be as profitable as Merino and Dorper self-replacing flocks on a per hectare basis, a research project supported by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has found.
The two-year project investigated what growth rates are achievable for underweight rangeland goats, with and without supplementation, through a series of trials commissioned by MLA and supported by the Goat Industry Council of Australia (GICA).
MLA Goat Industry Project Manager, Julie Petty, said findings from the project would assist goatmeat producers to make more informed decisions regarding growing out young rangeland goats and understanding expected growth rates.
“Most processors require animals with a minimum live weight of 24kg and anything under that is considered of no commercial value,” Ms Petty said.
“Dressing percentages can vary greatly depending on the condition of the animal, sex and breed.
“Among the key findings from the project were that rangeland goat growth rates approached 100 grams per day under good pastoral conditions with supplementary feed.
“It also showed that growth rates of more than 80g/day are possible in un-supplemented goats, when conditions are favourable.
“Both manufactured pellets and lupins were highly desirable to goats, consumed readily and led to weight gains.”
The project examined the growth rates of goats over two seasons, in 2016–2017 and 2017–2018.
In the first season, 638 goats were followed for three to six months across four sites at Dirranbandi, Eulo, Kingaroy and Warwick. In the second season, 450 goats were followed for four to six months, spread across three sites at Dirranbandi, Eulo and Warwick.
Project leader, Dr Brendan Cowled from Ausvet, said all goats were grazed normally, receiving normal pasture and browse, while goats in half the paddocks received supplementary feed of lupins or pellets.
“The response of lupin-fed goats was much greater than for pellet-fed goats. This is likely because the lupin trial was drought-affected,” Dr Cowled said. 
“The trial also showed that males grew faster than females under all scenarios for at least the first four months (120 days).
“Un-supplemented goats weighed less at the end of the trial than supplemented goats.”
Dr Cowled said a gross margin comparison between goats, Merinos and Dorpers found the results were comparable.
“Growing out underweight goats is as profitable as Merino and Dorper self-replacing flocks on a per hectare basis. In addition, goats have some additional benefits, such as weed control and utilisation of less optimal pasture,” Dr Cowled said. 
“On a per hectare basis, Merino sheep (self-replacing, wool and meat sales) had the highest gross margins at $12.21 per hectare. However, un-supplemented goats ($11.85/ha) and Dorpers ($10.54/ha) were close to Merinos in terms of gross margins.
“Lupin supplementation of goats in drought led to larger gross margins than un-supplemented goats, albeit at small gross margin of $1.70/hectare, or a profit of $6,792/1,000 goats, compared to $1.06/ha for un-supplemented goats.
“As gross margin analyses are narrowly focused, the relative benefit may even be greater, if, for example, goats can be produced as an additional enterprise on a property by using under-utilised lower quality paddocks that are suitable for goats, or to also control weeds.
“Mixed farming and Merino producers should consider incorporating a goat-growing enterprise to enhance whole farm profitability.”

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