SOUTH Australia may be lacking in goat farms these days but this has not stopped Merino and grain farmer Peter Lauterbach, Peake, from running a profitable goat enterprise.
The Goat Industry Council of Australia member for South Australia bought about 200 domesticated feral goats in 1990, in a period when sheep and wool prices collapsed.
He introduced them partially as a weed management tool but was keen to see how the goats would fare as an income.
"The aim was to produce cashmere because it was selling well and in demand at that time," Peter said. "The wethers and cull does went into the export goatmeat trade.
"We set them up in paddocks with electric fencing, gradually increasing the area available to goats as we went along. The goats were shorn and the fibre classed, packaged and sent interstate for marketing. Does were mated to pure cashmere bucks each year to improve their fibre."
But in more recent years it became increasingly difficult to sell the cashmere. Active members of the Australian Cashmere Growers Association are predominantly from the eastern States, and fibre is processed by Cashmere Connections in Victoria.
So Peter decided to concentrate on meat production.
"We currently maintain a herd of 160 does and with an average kidding-rate at about 150 per cent, we turn-off up to 250 kids annually," he said.
"They are averaging around $40 to $45 a head at 12 kilograms to 15kg dressed weight.
"If you compare this to the price received for prime lambs it might seem low, but goats are an easier-care animal as they don't suffer from flystrike, don't pick up grass seeds and don't have to have their tails removed. They are an ideal animal to run in conjunction with sheep or cattle."
Other benefits include woody weed control and a lesser impact on sandy soils.
"They don't bare-out big areas like sheep and they're better at eating some things than sheep are," he said.
"There is huge potential for the farmed goat industry to expand as there are untapped markets because of the lack of consistent, year-round supply.
"But encouraging farmers to branch out and add goats to their farms seems to be difficult.
"I think there are a lot of people who still believe that goats eat everything and anything in sight and that they can't be contained. In my experience this isn't true as our goats have adapted to living in the same environment as the sheep."
Goats have a preference to browse among trees and shrubs and Peter has fenced-off these areas to control access.
The animals must be kept within strong fencing, but Peter says that if a farm has fencing suitable to contain crossbred lambs or the newer breeds of shedding sheep, then it will be good enough for goats. And if there is ample feed and water available in the paddock, then there is even less of an issue.
"Predators can be a significant problem," Peter said. "Kids are very small when they are born, which means they are easily taken by foxes and in some areas also by eagles. A fox control program is carried out on our property during spring when kids and lambs are born."