Boer Goats: Industry & Products

The Boer goat is a meat animal quite different in appearance to our present goats. Introduced to Australia from South Africa in 1994, it has already had a significant impact on the Australian goat meat industry. Goat meat is the most consumed meat in the world with consumption of about 3 million tonnes a year and rising. Australia is already the worlds largest exporter of goat meat based on a large feral goat population and the value is around $27 million a year. Most exports go to Asia especially Taiwan, Malaysia and Korea. Exports represent 90% of the product and there has been very little effort put into the local market. Taiwan demand is increasing 10% per year. Goat meat is consumed in Hindu, Moslem and Buddhist countries where there are no restrictions provided it is killed and handled according to religious procedures.

The importance of the Boer goat is its demonstrated ability to increase the growth rate and quality of the meat as compared to the feral goat population. By world standards Australian feral goats rate highly as meat producers. The use of Boer bucks or semen can give further significant gains.

Goat meat products fall into three categories. Capretto is meat from milk fed kids which dress out at between 6 and 10 kg. They are less then five months old. Chevon from goats which dress out between 14 and 16 kgs. Heavy grade from goats over 35 kg live weight. Dressed weight is about 50% of live weight.

2. Physical Requirements
As with goats in general the Boer goat is a very hardy animal. However while it has the ability to survive even in hot dry climates and on rough forms of fodder, good management and attention to feed needs will enhance meat production.

Good fencing of similar standard to cross bred sheep is important for control. They can readily be trained by the use of electric fences.
Maremma guardian dogs can be bonded to the goats to protect kids from foxes.

3. Production Methods
Australia's current goat meat industry comes mainly from wild harvesting of the feral population. There is community pressure to eradicate them because of damage to the fragile environments which they habitat. The Boer goat provides opportunity to develop a controlled or formalised goat farming industry.

A starting point is a herd of feral or commercial goats with a Boer goat buck to produce crosses and start the program. Other options available are the purchase of pure bred females. A pedigreed buck run with does will service up to 200, but to achieve a programmed kidding period one buck per 50 does will be needed. Embryo transplants are also used with between 15-25 embryo produced per doe.

For stocking purposes, goats are regarded as having similar dry sheep equivalent (D.S.E's) to merino wethers. Goats browse graze and will eat coarse grasses, weeds, shrubs and leaves of trees within their reach. For this reason up to 30% of normal can be run in conjunction with sheep without reducing the sheep numbers. There is also potential to use them as part of weed control programs.

Fencing, watering, shelter and loading facilities are as for sheep, as is general management. However goats do not need crutching or shearing.

Boer goat are very efficient feed to meat converters and are capable of weight gains of 200 grams daily under intensive conditions.

Does can be joined at 10 months of age but to avoid inhibiting growth common practice is to join at 19 months. They cycle every 18-21 days year round. A stocky sleek, robust animal, the Boer goat does not need shearing, and is not subject to fly strike. Twins are common and a kidding rate of 150% can be expected. Boer bucks can be fertile as early as 4 months, so must be weaned before this time.

The advent of a permanent water supply via the Murray River pipelines makes watering and so farming of Boer goats possible. Careful management could capitalise on stubble and stubble straws of various crops as a feed source, possibly adding to environmental sustainability. It is interesting to note that our very first generation farmers were stubble retainers because of the need to feed bullocks which was their power source. Stubble burning came in which bullocks were phased out, and was probably the first father/son conflict over changing technology.

Boer goats could open opportunities to develop organic farming systems in the Mallee, producing goat meat while managing stubbles, utilising pastures, supplementary feeding and contributing fertiliser through animal droppings.

4. Marketing
As with any new enterprise it is essential to investigate and be comfortable with market outlets and arrangements before proceeding. Successful marketing will require consistent supply and quality according to the demands of targeted markets. At this stage the main meat market is for capretto.

The market potential does seem to be large and processors can be expected to develop as production increases. There is a licensed export processor at Wycheproof while a company at Warracknabeal has established a live animal export market to Malaysia.

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