TEN years ago, goats were considered a pest in Australia – ranked alongside rabbits and foxes.
Today, on a kilo for kilo basis, they are one of the dearest meats going around.
Nearly all of Australia’s goat meat is exported – much of it sourced from Rangeland populations in New South Wales.
Despite this, Victoria has the highest slaughter numbers across Australia – almost 900,000 in 2018 – and as the market continues to hover at $10 a kilo, there are many considering a foray into the business.
One of those that has already exported goats is Jeff Washusen, who breeds Boers at his Boho South property.
Mr Washusen is also a director with the Boer Goat Breeders Association of Australia.
“The biggest difficulty for the Boer goat industry in Australia is it’s (the industry) relatively small – and has been ever since they were introduced,” he said.
Mr Washusen is currently in the process of organising a shipment to the Middle East, with his goats air freighted out as live breeding animals.
“There is none of this slow boat to China stuff,” he said.
“The air freight costs are horrendous, but the buyers that are buying these animals are typically using them in breeding programs – they want their goats in prime condition.”
Mr Washusen said most live animals were shipped out at 40kg, less than six months old, but were still commanding around $800 an animal.
The responsibility of freight and quarantine falls to the purchaser.
“Enquiries normally come through the Boer Goat Breeders Association of Australia, and we use exporters to help facilitate the process,” he said.
The industry has benefited from rising prices, but Mr Washusen said it was restricted by quality.
“One of the limitations of extending Boer goats in the Australian industry is that 90 per cent of Australia’s goats are feral or rangeland,” he said.
“There are people who say yep this is an opportunity to make a quick buck – but the buyers aren’t silly, they look at the quality of what you are supplying.”
Another breeder who got into goats before the boom is Luke Simeoni – from Melliodora Goat Stud.
Although he specialises in miniature goats, he also breeds Boers and works as a consultant across the industry.
As a professional, Mr Simeoni said Australia still had a long way to go to capitalise on its goat population.
“They are very popular as a table animal overseas, but here it is more as a pet market,” he said.
“Our meat goat producers are still very reliable on export – we haven’t yet grasped the value of them as a table animal; we are pretty much the only country that hasn’t.”
Despite this, Mr Simeoni said, as a registered breeder, he was often contacted on the internet by those trying to fly under the radar; something he considers to be threatening the future of sales in the country.
“We get approached all the time from those who want to take it away and kill it – but that legally just can’t happen; they come to us because they believe they’ll get the whole animal cheaper,” Mr Simeoni said.
Mr Simeoni said that although goat prices were at an all-time high, those that tried to dodge the laws could endanger the whole industry.
“You can’t take home a goat, for a pet or for meat, without a PIC number,” he said.
“The under the radar and backyard sales de-values the industry, but it also discredits the whole NLIS system that we farmers and breeders have to adhere to; it’s also a real potential threat to bio security.”
Goat over-the-hook indicators averaged 583¢ in January; 96.5¢/kg carcase weight (cwt) above year-ago levels.
The indicator reached 588¢ in February, the highest prices seen since the price correction in July 2017, where prices peaked at 683¢/kg cwt.
Over the course of 2018, prices rose 82¢/kg cwt as the persistent dry conditions saw supplies tighten, tracking above the five-year average.