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ARTICLES >> Livestock Articles

Talking Goats in Ivanhoe

Posted by Bestprac on Sep 05 2012

By Allie Jones
Graduate Officer – Sheep and Wool
Orange Agricultural Institute, NSW DPI


Over 50 people travelled to John Vagg’s property, ‘Orana’ Station, 33 km north-west of Ivanhoe, in early August to participate in a goat information day organised by NSW DPI and supported by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).

The idea for the day came about after Allie Jones, a graduate student with NSW DPI, researched and wrote a report featuring seven successful case studies of goat producers from the Western
Division, each of whom demonstrated best practice in their respective enterprises.

Goat Information day at 'Orana' station The report was prepared to gain an insight into goat enterprises in western NSW and to highlight the success of the selected enterprises. The report also reviewed the current challenges and issues faced by western NSW goat production and the Australian goat meat industry. The goat information day was organised to answer some of the questions raised by producers in the report; John was one of the seven producers interviewed for the goat report.

John has been operating a Boer-cross rangeland breeding enterprise of 3000 breeding does for more than 15 years. He has been successful in establishing a thriving and profitable goat enterprise that is well suited to the semi-arid environment of western NSW. John produces goats for the export trade, and his objective is to breed a hardy and fertile animal with a high yielding carcass.

Producers attending the goat information day at ‘Orana’ heard a range of presentations and were given the opportunity to be involved in practical sessions that provided information on how they could improve production within their own herds.

Presentations included an overview by John Vagg of goat production on ‘Orana’. A talk on breeding and selection of goats by NSW DPI Sheep Breeding Specialist, Allan Casey, was complemented with a practical in-yards demonstration, looking at a selection of John’s breeding stock and assessing profit drivers such as structure and confirmation. NSW DPI Livestock Officer Trudie Atkinson clarified the finer points of goat National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) rules and regulations in NSW. This was followed by an in-depth discussion by Dr Stephen Love, veterinarian and State Worm Control Coordinator with NSW DPI, on managing internal parasites in goat herds in the Western Division. The day concluded with a marketing forum of industry representatives and marketing advisors being drawn together to discuss current and future marketing opportunities. This gave participants the chance to make comments and ask questions on where the industry is heading in the future.

Key points from the day were provided by each guest speaker. Allan Casey spoke about the importance of identifying profit drivers and establishing breeding objectives within herds to increase production and profitability. Profit drivers established from discussions among the attendees included locating markets; market access and distance from markets; reproduction rate of bucks and does; quality of Boer genetics; weight gains; survivability (environmental and genetic); health (internal parasites); and temperament (travel and stress).

Producers mentioned that the driving force behind their profitability within their herds was carcass weight, as payment is made on carcass weight and dressing percentage, not live weight. Producers said that they strive to breed a goat that rears kids that grow well and can be turned off quickly.

Allan spoke about concentrating on those profit drivers that producers can change to give a positive effect on their incomes. These included reproduction rate, quality of Boer genetics, weight gain, temperament and survival.

A practical component complemented Allan’s discussion. Producers and attendees viewed a small proportion of John’s breeding stock in the yards, including polled, horned and older does and young 2011-drop does. John was asked to discuss what he selects for in his mobs when it comes to culling. John places a lot of emphasis on structure (e.g. deep chest, big bones and heavy muscle), as this is related to weight, which is what he is paid on. John mentioned that he is not paid on colour; therefore, he doesn’t take coat colour into consideration when he is culling. However, producers commented that they believed the hairier goats don’t perform as well. Producers also commented that they culled the hairier goats; they considered hair to be a processing issue because it can contaminate the meat carcass. However, John mentioned that the coat is only a seasonal issue for him, as the goats tend to drop their long coats come summer.

Allan mentioned that focus must be placed on the performance of the progeny. Selection is a combination of traits with performance described by breeding values. Breeding values have been established for sheep, but unfortunately the goat industry is only just beginning to focus on this region. Ben Swain, a consultant contracted by MLA, commented that currently there are a select few Boer breeders who are starting to provide breeding values for their bucks. The producers can gain faster genetic progress with animals that have been assessed for their breeding values. In addition, MLA has work in the pipeline to look at buck evaluation (i.e. to assess the progeny of the bucks and not just the bucks themselves).

Allan told the crowd that you can move forward to improve the breeding progress of your herds by putting emphasis on traits that are heritable. Allan emphasised the three most important traits that put more dollars in the back pocket: weight, growth and reproduction.

Challenges for the future, associated with breeding and selection in the goat industry, include sourcing bucks with selection traits and breeding values and also studying the adaption issues the Boer buck faces in rangeland conditions.

Trudie Atkinson spoke about the importance of NLIS within the goat industry and abiding with the rules and regulations required to comply in NSW. Trudie mentioned that the goat harvesting industry is fortunate to have the only nationally agreed tag exemption. It is important that producers make the system work by completing their movement documents and making sure uploads to the database are done.

Trudie discussed the difference between managed and unmanaged goats and when a goat is classified as feral and not feral. ‘A feral goat is one that has been captured from a wild state, has not been born as a result of a managed breeding program, and has not been subjected to any animal husbandry procedure or treatment’, she said . Feral goats being consigned for slaughter, directly or via a depot, are exempt from tagging, but they must be accompanied by a movement document (e.g. a National Vendor Declaration) and the movement must be recorded on the NLIS database.

Lunch consisted of one of the largest smorgasbords of goat cuisine ever witnessed or laid out in the Western Division! Thank you to David and Mary Booth of Buronga Organics for providing delicious organic gluten and preservative-free goat sausages and gourmet chevon pies. John Vagg gave participants the opportunity to taste a perfectly roasted side of goat – skin on and with crackle to match.

Dr Stephen Love, NSW DPI Veterinarian and State Coordinator – Internal Parasites, spoke about managing internal parasites in the Western Division. Stephen began his discussion by pointing out how important it is to do a faecal worm egg count (WEC, ‘WormTest’) before drenching your goats. This prevents wasting money on drench and adding to the issues of drench-resistant worms in the Western Division. The bottom line is not to guess if your goats are carrying significant numbers of internal parasites. Instead, WormTest!

Goats carry the same worms as sheep, the most important being barber’s pole worm, small brown stomach worm, and black scour worm.

Stephen mentioned that there is little information on what worms cost the Western Division rangelands in dollars and production losses, as they occur sporadically.

Producers in the Western Division face the challenge of less-than-perfect postal services; if a producer sends a WormTest away it can be 3 or 4 days before it reaches the lab at Menangle. This time frame is less than optimal but OK if the samples don’t get too warm in transit. Stephen suggested that learning how to do your own on-farm WECs may be an alternative in future.

Also discussed was the importance of getting to know not just drench brand names, but the active ingredients in drenches and the families to which they belong. This is because, to manage drench resistance, it is important to rotate between different families, not just using drenches from the one family all the time.

Even better than rotating is to use combinations of unrelated drenches (i.e. from different families), although this can be more expensive. Although Stephen recommends using combinations of unrelated chemicals with broad-spectrum activity, unfortunately many of these are not registered for use in goats. Examples of two of the few drenches registered for use in goats are abamectin (Caprimec®) and benzimidazole (BZ) drenches such as Valbazen®.

Registered veterinarians can prescribe off-label use of sheep drenches in goats, but it can be difficult to accurately calculate the withholding period with a view to avoiding residue violations in goats at slaughter.

As well as efficacy and residue issues, safety has to be considered as well. Goats are more sensitive to toxicity than sheep when it comes to some of the drenches used for sheep. This is especially the case if, in order to achieve, more than that used in sheep is prescribed.

Drench resistance is a big issue and is not just a problem of sheep and goats in higher rainfall areas of eastern NSW, where resistance is very common. With the exception of the newest drench on the market, Zolvix® (monepantel), all currently available drenches are affected to some degree by resistance.

Stephen also emphasised the importance of giving an effective ‘quarantine drench’ to bucks or other goats or sheep on arrival and placing them in quarantine paddocks. Currently the best quarantine drench consists of four unrelated actives, one of which should be Zolvix®. In practice, this might mean drenching imported animals with Zolvix®, followed immediately by a triple-combination drench such as Pyrimide®, Hatrick®, Triguard® or similar.

Stephen’s key points are to effectively quarantine-drench imported stock, use a combination of drenches if possible, and rotate between drench families. Check the effectiveness of drenches by doing a worm egg count 10 to 14 days after drenching. Control exposure to internal parasites by avoiding set stocking, and monitor your stock’s worm egg count and body condition. Check for signs of worminess, such as anaemia and scours.

Blair Brice, MLA Goat Meat Industry Development Manager, gave producers a rundown of the prospects and projects in the pipeline for the 5-year Australian goat industry RD and E (Research, Development and Extension) strategy. Just a few of these projects include preparation of rangeland goats for live export, a nutritional analysis of goat meat, an evaluation of the genetic basis of horns and its relationship with intersex goats, and the efficacy of the goat drenches currently on the market. The program is funded by grower levies, and producers are encouraged to obtain a copy from MLA.

The final presentation consisted of an overview from a number of market representatives,
including Alick Scott (Goat Buyer and representative from T&R Pastoral Company),Ian Sanders (Export Advisor for NSW Trade & Investment), David Booth (a producer who supplies the domestic market), and Blair Brice from MLA. Each of the goat meat industry representatives were asked to ga-ive a brief, 10-minute presentation highlighting the market’s current situation, where the industry is heading, and the opportunities that exist.

Alick Scott commented that goat meat is trading quite nicely at the moment. Prices are good owing to low supplies of mutton. Alick also noted that there is room for the domestic market to grow, but that the inconsistent supply of Boer-cross carcasses makes it hard to sustain a market and a premium for the product. The Boer cross is placed in shipments mixed with rangeland carcasses. The biggest driver facing the domestic market is supply and demand.

Ian Sanders believed that the goat-meat market would increase owing to the current and future world demand for protein. He noted that several markets have plans to increase food security (e.g. Russia will invest $366 million in sheep and goat development to 2020).

David Booth of Buronga Organics supplies the domestic market with 70 Boer-cross carcasses a week into Canberra. David commented that the issue with goat meat is that it is not eaten on a regular basis. Moreover, the market requires a consistent product.

Blair Brice finished the day by giving an overview of what MLA is doing to improve and increase the capacity of the domestic industry. This includes trade-development events, food media promotion, and paddock-to-plate workshops. The single largest hurdle that the domestic market faces is the consumer’s perception of goat meat at the domestic level. Blair confirmed that MLA now has data on the nutritional composition of goat meat; this means that food labels can now be placed on the product when it is sold, thus displaying its beneficial health qualities. He concluded that there was significant room for the domestic market to grow, particularly in the food service industry. However, the biggest constraint facing the domestic market is consistent supply.

At the conclusion of the program, attendees were treated to a copy of the case studies written by NSW DPI graduate student Allie Jones.

To download the complete case study report click here.

Last changed: Sep 06 2012

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