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The Australian Rangeland Goat

Posted by Bestprac on Mar 13 2013

Christine Ferguson- 2010 Nuffield Scholar
Pushing goat meat to new levels
Producing rangeland goats in the far north-west of NSW is a tough business, so when Wanaaring pastoralist
Chris Ferguson tells you something was frustrating her; you sit up and take notice.

She successfully applied for a Nuffield scholarship in 2010 out of frustration after seeing the overgrazing occurring in western NSW
goat paddocks.

“We have a very limited market for goats outside processor specifications and when goats are held for too long in those paddocks, overgrazing occurs and there’s some severe land deterioration,” Chris observed. While a proactive approach to goat management on her own property was resulting in a positive impact on the landscape, Chris saw Nuffield as an opportunity to find new ways to manage goats easily and effectively.

“It’s been a very arduous but great fun journey - I spent 29 weeks travelling, visiting 19 countries and a lot of the time it was just about making contacts and asking questions,” she says.

One of her greatest experiences came from reading in the Australian Rangeland Journal about an Australian PhD student who was working in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. “I emailed her with a question and ended up joining her for a month in Mongolia, interviewing herders in the Gobi Desert. I also got to ride a horse across the Kenyan Mara in amongst the wildebeest migration and got a really good understanding of grazing there. I’ve been to China, India, so many places it’s just been an amazing experience,” Chris explains. In bringing all her investigations together into some solutions for her industry, Chris believes the answers to the challenges are pretty simple. “The key finding in goat grazing management, particularly in arid areas, is we need to provide effective rest for our rangelands, we need to understand the plant physiology, how it works, the dynamics that turn on each other and give us an end result so we can then manipulate our landscape through good grazing management,” she explains.

Another finding for Chris was the realisation that Australian goat meat is arguably the best goat meat in the world. “We’re held in very high regard, we’re the largest exporter of goat meat in the world and comparing

Australian goat carcasses with other carcasses of high goat producing countries around the world, ours are actually really good, despite the fact they are mostly feral animals,” she observed. Chris believes her industry can capitalise on that reputation with a marketing push around being a clean and green Australian product.

“More and more goats are being farmed in a semi-domesticated way in the arid-pastoral zone and so our consistency of supply is improving. With that I believe there’s opportunity in time to market perhaps branded quality products and even just to expand our market. I’d love to see a branded Australian rangeland goat product marketed to higher-end consumers, regardless of where they are. It would be wonderful if places like China and India were opened up to the Australian goat meat market - that would basically make our industry unstoppable,” Chris explained.

Chris’s scholarship was supported by Meat and Livestock Australia. Applications for the next round of Nuffield Scholarships will open on 1st April 2013, for travel in 2014. More details can be found here, on twitter @nuffieldaust or on Facebook.
You can watch Chris presenting her findings at the Nuffield Australia conference in Toowoomba here

Last changed: Mar 19 2013



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