Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Australian goat industry: High demand pushes prices up in 2017

NO KIDDING — Australian goats are raking in the big bucks and rolling in the doe.
Burgeoning world demand for goat meat pushed domestic prices to a record $7.50/kg carcass weight this year — up a whopping 25 per cent on the previous 12 months and almost four times the rates of a decade ago.

It’s not a bad feat for a meat once considered the poor man’s protein, and an animal long reviled by farmers as a pest in plague proportions across large swathes of outback Australia.

Goats are now trading above the near-record high rates for lamb. Goat prices averaged $6.50/kg carcass weight during the first six months of this year, slightly above the benchmark trade lamb indicator’s $6.42/kg.

“The good news is it hasn’t been an overnight thing either,” Meat and Livestock Australia goat industry project manager Julie Petty says.

“We’ve had steady growth in prices over the past two years and it’s really added some stability to the market.

“And, while I haven’t got a crystal ball, all the signs seem to be indicating that we are not going to see a massive drop off in price. We’ve just got such an overwhelming demand that we’re just not able to meet at the moment.”

Wild things: Goats roam wild throughout NSW, where it is estimated there are as many as 2.31 goats for each square kilometre.

Meat and Livestock Australia figures show the average goat price has more than tripled in the past five years and has increased an astounding $4.54/kg — or 232 per cent — over the past decade. At the end of June, MLA’s over-the-hooks goat indicator was at $6.82/kg.
For graziers in outback parts of Australia, who have relied heavily on wild goats in recent years to supplement their incomes in the face of tough seasons and fluctuating returns for other farmgate commodities, particularly wool, the spike in goat meat prices has been a godsend.
About 90 per cent of Australia’s goat meat is derived from wild or “rangeland” goats, which roam free on farms in outback Australia. Farmers muster and sell the goats to abattoirs or other producers, or incorporate them into a traditional farming program.
Goat Industry Council of Australia president Rick Gates describes the $7.50/kg on offer to goat producers as phenomenal. When he came into the industry 20 years ago, goats were flat out fetching $10 a head, or roughly $1/kg.
“Goats have really saved the skin of a lot of farmers out
here,” Gates says from his 56,656ha property near Wilcannia, in far west NSW. “A lot of guys really would have struggled without them.”
Goat meat is considered the most widely consumed meat in the world. It transcends religious boundaries and often forms the centrepiece of cultural observances within ethnic groups throughout North Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It is considered lean, and lower in fat and cholesterol than chicken and higher in iron than beef.
Australia is the world’s largest exporter of goat meat, accounting for about 50 per cent of global trade.
About 88 per cent of Australian goat meat is exported, with just 12 per cent consumed domestically. Australian goat meat exports last year totalled 26,794 tonnes, valued at almost $200.5 million. This represented a slight reduction on 2015, when shipments were worth $243.2 million.
The biggest market for Australian goat meat, the US, accounts for 66 per cent of exports and last year took 17,807 tonnes of product valued at $138.4 million.
MLA says demand in the US (which sources 98 per cent of its goat-meat imports from Australia) is growing at a rapid rate and underpinned by increasing number of consumers with Hispanic, Muslim and Caribbean backgrounds.
US imports of goat meat have more than doubled in the past 10 years, with increased consumption around Easter and the Muslim Ramadan and Eid festivals.
Within the US, the biggest centres for goat meat consumption are New York City (accounting for 21 per cent of the market) followed by Washington DC, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston.
Taiwan is Australia’s second-biggest export destination for goat meat, last year accounting for 3140 tonnes valued at $18.1 million. It is followed by Trinidad and Tobago, which acts as a major trading centre for the Caribbean and last year imported 1765 tonnes of Australian goat meat valued at $12.3 million, then South Korea (where goat meat is consumed for medicinal purposes rather than dietary purposes) and Canada (which last year took 1109 tonnes valued at $8.9 million).
Petty says the record goat meat prices are due to “a combination of things”, but centred on reduced supply. Last year, 1.93 million goats were slaughtered in Australia, down 10 per cent on 2015.

Good to go: Bagged goat carcasses ready for export hang at Western Meat Exporters at Charleville in Western Queensland.

She says the supply constraints are prompted by some producers “who aren’t interested in being in the goat industry in the long term … harvesting and selling everything” and others withholding stock from market in a bid to increase their numbers.
“They are retaining their pregnant does and holding back their underweight animals from slaughter, which is going to help us build up the numbers we need to keep pushing forward,” Petty says.
At Wilcannia, traditional Merino breeders, Gates and wife Jo moved into goat production out of “necessity” following the collapse of the wool reserve price scheme in 1991.
They already had a wild goat population on their property but added to this by buying stock from neighbours and upgrading their water points and fencing. The Gates now run
a herd of about 10,000 goats (down from 14,000 due to the tough season) and turn off about 120,000 goats a year.
“We had our hand forced a little bit, but we certainly haven’t looked back,” says Gates, who sells to processors at Cobram, Melbourne and Wodonga in Victoria and Charleville in Queensland. “You can’t argue with the prices at the moment.”
He admits the goat industry has become more professional in recent years as producers weigh up increased returns from goats against their existing enterprises.
More yards, loading facilities, water and fencing for goats have been built, “but there’s plenty of room for more”.
Gates says the biggest population of wild goats in Australia is in western NSW. The Queensland herd has taken a hit in recent years due to wild dog attacks and drought, but numbers are slowly building back up again as graziers erect wild dog-proof fencing so they can farm the goats.
He says a study under way in NSW, using the National Livestock Identification System database, slaughter figures and government kangaroo and goat counts, will get a better handle on numbers.
Estimates from kangaroo counts and aerial surveys indicate the biggest goat numbers are around Broken Hill, Coonabarabran, Cobar (where it is estimated that there is 2.31 goats per square kilometre), Tibooburra, the Lower Darling, Bourke and Griffith. In these regions, which cover a combined 4.6 million square kilometres, there are an estimated 5.8 million goats.
Gates says the NSW study is important so “we can come up with a kind of instrument of where the goats are, where they are moving to and where we’ve got problems, particularly wild dogs”.
“Wild dogs are a problem and goats are usually among the first things they kill,” Gates says. “Personally, I think exclusion fencing is the way to go. Twenty years ago when we were putting up goat fences, people looked at us funnily, and the same is happening with wild dog fences. But it is only a matter of time before it happens more in NSW.”
Campbell McPhee, of Western Meat Exporters at Charleville in western Queensland — Australia’s biggest goat meat processor — says while broader slaughter numbers have dropped in recent years he has noticed an increase in managed goat numbers from within wild dog-exclusion fencing coming through the processing system.

Western Meat Exporters kills up to 3000 goats a day, down to 2000-2500 during the winter lull, and employs as many as 160 people. “With people reclaiming their country (from wild dogs) and hanging on to their smaller stock, rather than slaughtering them, and hanging on to pregnant nannies in a semi-managed program, hopefully we’ll have some numbers into the future,” he says. “It’s not going to happen overnight. We won’t see the full extent of the results for a couple of years, but we are sitting here poised, ready to strike when the numbers do increase.”
McPhee says the abattoir’s goat supply is traditionally drawn from an area “1000km to the north and 1000km to the south” of Charleville with large numbers coming from around Blackall, Muttaburra and Longreach in western Queensland, and Broken Hill and Cobar in NSW.
Seventy per cent of goat meat processed at Charleville goes into the US (“you’ve got to remember, the Australian goat industry was born off the back of migrants in the US”) with the remainder split between Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Caribbean, Canada and Taiwan.
Two 12m containers of goat meat are sent from Charleville to the Port of Brisbane each day. From there it takes about three weeks to reach the US (which prefers boxed meat) and 14 days to reach South-East Asia (which takes whole carcasses).
When it comes to meeting global goat demand, Australia, he says, is in the box seat. “We’re in the unique position that we have goats but won’t eat them,” McPhee says.
In Australia, goat consumption lags well behind chicken, beef, lamb and pork, with MLA consumer data indicating only a third of Australians would consider adding goat to their diet.
From a producer perspective, Petty says “money certainly talks” and that had helped changed the mindset of farmers who would once dismiss goats as a pest. “It is helping get people thinking differently,” she says. “More and more people are now saying ‘This is one of the most sustainable options for us’ and depending on their circumstance … goats are a really good option.”
There could be plenty of boil in the old billy yet.
Goat Facts and Stats
Goatmeat is the most widely consumed meat in the world, mainly due to the few, if any, religious taboos limiting goatmeat consumption.
On a worldwide basis, more people drink the milk of goats than any other single animal.
Read on for more facts and stats around goats and their products...
  • Australia is a relatively small producer of goatmeat but is the world’s largest exporter of goatmeat.
  • Australian goat slaughter in 2011-12 was around 1.63 million head (ABS).
  • Traditionally, Australian bush goats (rangeland goats) and Boer goats are used for meat production. 
  • About 90% of goatmeat production is produced by rangeland goat enterprises.
  • Goatmeat is extremely low in fat and a good source of protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.
  • There are few, if any, religious taboos limiting goatmeat consumption. In fact, goatmeat is an important component of the traditions of the Hindu and Muslim faiths.
  • The largest producers of goatmeat are the largest consumers, but not the largest importers or exporters. These countries are China, India and Pakistan.
  • In 2011-12, Australia exported 24,478 tonnes swt of goatmeat (DAFF).
  • The two largest markets for Australian goatmeat exports are the US and Taiwan (DAFF 2011-12). Demand in the US is generated from the wide diversity of traditional goat eating cultures represented within the US population i.e. the Hispanics are the largest minority group in the US.
  • The value of Australian goatmeat exports in 2011-12 was around A$114 million FOB (ABS).
  • In 2011-12, Australia exported 71,895 head of live goats (ABS). 
  • The largest markets for Australian live goats are Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (ABS 2011-12).
  • Live goat exports were valued at A$9.65 million in 2011-12 (ABS)
  • Mohair comes from the Angora goat while Cashmere comes from the Cashmere goat.
  • World production of cashmere is about 8,000 tonnes annually of hair-in product from which the worlds cashmere processors extract around 3,600 tonnes of down. About half of this is produced in China and the Chinese Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia. Around 850 tonnes of down are produced annually by Iran and Afghanistan and 700 tonnes by the Republic of Mongolia. Australia and New Zealand between them produced just on 45 tonnes of down.
  • It is believed that Cashmere is eight times warmer than sheeps wool. Cashmere also absorbs water faster than wool.
  • The process for making a cashmere garment involves five processes: Collecting the fibre, sorting, de-hairing, spinning and then weaving/knitting.

  • First year cashmere kid fleece is the softest and finest but it is harder to de-hair because the goat hair is as soft as the cashmere fiber and is hard to separate. Second and third year fleece is considered the prime of fibre production.  The goat hair turns harsher and thicker with age making it easier to separate from the cashmere fibre.
  • Fine white fleece, between 35 and 100 mm, currently attracts the highest price.
  • Angora mohair is the closest you'll find to human hair as far as colours, and texture, and natural highlights. Many artists use mohair for rooting for dolls, fairies, horse models, animal sculpts, felting, and spinning.
  • Mohair is considered to be the most resilient natural textile fibre, and is often combined with other fibres in the production of apparel and home fashion items.
  • The finest grade of mohair is Kid Mohair, obtained from the first shearing of a young angora goat. Kid Mohair possesses the unique feature of natural wicking properties that takes perspiration away from the skin, preventing bacterial build up and odor.
  • As of 2009, world output of mohair was estimated at around 5 000 tonnes a year, down from a high of 25 000 tonnes in the 1990s. 
  • South Africa accounts for 60% of total production. South African mohair is generally exported raw or semi-processed to textile makers in Europe, the UK and the Far East.
  • The industry remains small; The fresh milk is mainly supplied as a health product to people intolerant of cow's milk and those suffering from bronchial and asthmatic conditions. It has also recently become more popular as a gourmet milk, as cheese, yoghurt, soap, moisturisers and in fine dining restaurants.
  • Goat milk has a more easily digestible fat and protein content than cow milk. The increased digestibility of protein is of importance to infant diets (both human and animal), as well as to invalid and convalescent diets. Furthermore, glycerol ethers are much higher in goat than in cow milk which appears to be important for the nutrition of the nursing newborn.
  • Goat milk tends to have a better buffering quality, which is good for the treatment of ulcers.
  • Goat milk can successfully replace cow milk in diets of those who are allergic to cow milk.
  • Goat milk is used for drinking, cooking and baking. It is used to make cheese, butter, ice cream, yoghurt, candy, soap and other body products. Due to its small fat globules and soft small curd, products made with goat milk are smooth and cream-like. 
  • Goat milk is whiter than whole cow milk. Butter and cheese made from goat milk are white, but may be coloured during processing. 
  • Chevre is the French word for goat. Domestically, it is a generic term that applies to all goat cheeses, and more specifically the mild fresh cheeses. 
  • Typically dairy goat lactation lasts for 300 days with an average of 2-3 litres of milk per doe per day. At peak lactation this can increase to 3.5-4 litres per day.

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