Sleeping giant set to awaken

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman
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It’s the most widely consumed meat in the world and Australia is the biggest exporter, but generally the goat industry has flown under the radar.

Unlike the sheep meat and beef industries, there has been little work done on genetic, product or domestic market development, yet remarkably demand for goat meat regularly outstrips supply.

The biggest challenge for the goat industry is not creating markets, it’s simply satisfying demand.

According to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) goat meat industry manager Blair Brice, the goat industry is where the lamb industry was 30 years ago.

He said it needed development, but there was an opportunity to turn goat meat into what he described as “a premiership product”.

“There’s a huge opportunity — we can’t keep up with demand, ” Mr Brice said.

“In that perspective there’s a ready-made market for us to tap into, but ultimately it’s about getting that product into the butcher’s shopfront consistently.

“It’s very much a fledgling industry at the moment.”

Mr Brice said broadacre farmers had been slow to tap into the goat industry because of the myths surrounding goat production.

“Like any production system they’ve got their challenges, but they’ve also got their rewards, ” he said. “In most cases producers are blissfully ignorant of the opportunity that goat poses for their operations.

“They can quite easily be integrated into their current production systems.”

And with sheep prices at an all-time high, Mr Brice said it was the perfect time to consider whether restocking with goats might be more viable.

“Lamb and beef replacements are quite expensive, ” he said.

“If you were coming in from either a low or nil basis straight out of pure cropping, goats are a good opportunity to get into the livestock industry, certainly at an entry point that is far cheaper than the lamb industry, for instance.”

Some of the smaller goats are being sold for $40–$60 while rangeland remains affordable.

But while pastoralists have been capitalising on the rangeland goat population for decades, the domestic market is demanding a crossbred animal with more fat coverage.

“Ultimately, the product that comes from the rangeland is a very lean commodity that goes to our export markets, ” Mr Brice said.

“The challenge at the domestic level is certainly being able to get more of that crossbred supply into the market place.

“I think certainly the wild dog situation in WA is a major issue and it’s affecting not only goat producers, but sheep and cattle producers as well.

“Certainly in the rangeland area it’s the number one issue we need to look at.

“After that we can really look at introducing some managed herds into the rangelands effectively by putting some wire and fencing in.

“Potentially, Boer genetics could be introduced into some of the rangeland herds, the rangeland bucks taken out, rangeland does utilised and the crossbred animal bred up.

“If nothing else, over the next five years if we could just get more producers running goats, that in itself would be a huge platform for the industry.”

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