Goats – Meat
Farming pastoral goats for meat production is an increasingly profitable enterprise which can add value to pastoral farming. The main meat goat breed in New Zealand is the Boer goat, although the New Zealand breed Kikonui™ is becoming important.
Boer goats were first imported into New Zealand by Landcorp, in 1987. The Boer goat is a larger goat, suitable for a wide range of pastoral conditions. It is the main meat breed, with a national estimate of 7175 Boer goats on 29 farms. Boers under good management will reach carcass weights of 14–18 kg at eight months of age, and are also in demand for breeding stock, both within New Zealand and overseas.
Farming of Kikonui™ pastoral goats began in New Zealand in 2003, from a base of Kiko, which was purpose-bred in New Zealand specifically for hill country pastoral purposes. There are much smaller numbers of this breed; bucks are supplied to cross with feral origin and other goats, and have been developed through a policy of continually adding the best genetics for demanding New Zealand hill country conditions, using population genetics to increase survivability and reduce foot and parasite problems.
Although there is large international demand for goat meat, New Zealand is currently not well-placed to take advantage of this opportunity. The New Zealand goat meat supply chain is under-developed and suffers from a small and inconsistent supply, and farmers can face difficulties finding processers that kill goats when required.
The 2016 goat kill was 121,000 – less than 1 percent of New Zealand’s lamb kill of 19.5 million lambs. The small quantity of goat meat produced in New Zealand is exported, with 90 percent being from feral goats.
To strengthen the supply of goat meat so New Zealand processor/exporters can maximise export market opportunities, a coordinated effort is required to increase both the number of goats on suitable farms in New Zealand, and the size of goat herds.
 New Zealand Goat Industry Report to Federated Farmers NZ – Massey University, March 2017
Worldwide demand for goat meat is driven by a variety of ethnicities, including Hispanic, Muslim, Caribbean and Chinese consumers. There is fast-growing demand in countries with growing ethnic populations, e.g. the United States and Canada.
World production of goat meat is an estimated 5.7 million tonnes (2015), with China being the largest global producer, at 40 percent of total global goat meat production (2.2 million tonnes). India is ranked second with 9 percent, then Pakistan and Nigeria with 5 percent each respectively, and finally Sudan, with 4 percent.
Globally, from 2007–2015, the average annual rate of growth in prices for goat meat was 16.5 percent. This varied from country to country. China recorded the most marked growth in terms of price trends – in 2015, prices reached US$9.60/kg. In 2016, Australia set a new record of A$7.70/kg with a previous 5-year average (2011–2015) of $5.92.
The largest importers of sheep and goat meat in 2013 were the United States, China, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar.
In terms of exports, global goat meat exports reached 62,600 tonnes in 2015 (1 percent of global production ) with Australia the largest exporter (51 percent of global exports), followed by Ethiopia (25 percent) and Pakistan (5 percent).
In New Zealand, just under 1000 tonnes, worth $8.1 million, was exported to 27 markets in 2016. Twenty-seven percent of that export value was earned from the top market, the United States (27 percent), with the Reunion Islands (19.4 percent), Canada (13.8 percent), Trinidad and Tobago (9.4 percent) and Martinique (8.4 percent) also in the top five.
Despite the large number of meat processors throughout New Zealand, only a limited number will process goats. These include Auckland Meat Processors, Crusader Meats, Te Kuiti Meat Processors, Taylor Preston, Lean Meats and Blue Sky Meats.
For meat goat farmers, there is also the option to develop a branded goat meat product and sell to a local market. Either way, whether supplying export or local markets, cooperation between local suppliers will help provide volume required for processor engagement.
 FAOSTAT, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
 Statistics NZ, retrieved April 2017
Although in New Zealand goats are often farmed on small lifestyle blocks, commercial pastoral goat farming can often be more effective for a farmer when incorporated into existing livestock farming systems with sheep, beef, dairy cattle or deer, where they can provide a number of benefits to the overall farm system including:
- increased revenue and profitability from the sale of meat and fibre;
- improved productivity from the livestock presently farmed;
- improved pasture quality and lower-cost weed control
- a non-chemical alternative for weed control.
Ideally, goats introduced into an existing system should make up 10–25 percent of stock units. Pastoral goats can handle a property of steeper contour, with some weeds.
In terms of farming, firstly ensure boundary fences are secure, then the property can be broken into ‘blocks’. Each block can contain several paddocks, with these blocks being goat proof to enable some rotation through the farm, enabling some control and management.
Goats have high mineral requirements, and therefore seek and need a varied diet. A diet that contains hay, tree fodder, grass, mineral blocks, straw and pellets will help to meet these needs. Trees like willow, tree lucerne and poplar, as well as pine needles, will help with overall digestive health. Herbs like fat hen, plantain, chicory and others aid digestion and give vitamins. However, typical hill country with grasses, clovers, pasture and scrub weeds will usually be adequate if there is enough.
Be aware of the plants on the property and know how to recognise visually what is poisonous. Some poisonous plants are: rhododendron, yew, azaleas, hydrangeas, bay trees and all flowers and bulbs, and to be safe, anything that is sprayed.
The overriding message on infrastructure is that it needs to be secure and practical. The main infrastructure associated with a goat enterprise is:
- handling equipment
Secure fencing is a must, as goats are one of nature’s great escape artists. Fences are generally 7–8 wire (9-wire for boundary fences). Best practice is a bulldozed line with a post and batten fence and a bottom wire no higher than 75 mm from the ground. Barbed wire can be used on the bottom if erosion is a problem. Netting should be avoided, as goats with large horns can become entangled. An electric wire on an outrigger is useful but optional.
Access to sufficient quantities of high-quality fresh water is beneficial. Goats drink 4–10 litres per day. If possible, water should be supplied through a reticulated water system.
Handling facilities are always good to have for routine animal health jobs. For an existing farming operation, there may be existing stock yards or something similar already available. Yards can be as simple as a race leading to a small pen, which will make animal handling safer and easier.
Shelter is less of an issue for pastoral goats, although it is crucial for goats at kidding and in cold, wet environments.
If natural shelter is not available, A-frame shelters or similar can be made from bits and pieces lying around the farm. Small shelters made from corrugated iron and plywood will suffice. Shelter made from pallets and plywood can be added on to make the shelter accommodate more goats as required. Untreated material should be used in construction, as the goats may try to eat them. Portable shelters can also be purchased from rural supply stores, if the budget allows.
Goats are browsers, which means they eat a variety of plants and weeds. Broom, gorse, thistles and most kinds of weeds are a delicacy to a goat. Goats will improve pasture by eating the weeds and allowing grass and desired pasture to grow. There is less need for herbicide use, so this makes for sustainable for farming.
Goats are infected by the same internal parasites as sheep. However, they are different for cattle, therefore farming goats with complementary stock such as cattle helps to reduce the parasite problem for goats.
Foot infections such as scald and footrot are less of a problem for pastoral goats, as problematic animals have been culled from herds. For animals that aren’t culled, trimming hooves and foot baths/spray can help overcome these problems.
Good grazing management is about having enough of the right quality feed to allow stock to achieve their target performance, and doing this in a way that enhances the natural ability of pasture to grow while at the same time minimising feed wastage.
By farming meat goats alongside existing farming systems, e.g. cattle, the investment can be held to low levels with perhaps improvements to fencing being the most significant factor.
The related benefits that goats provide to the farming system, i.e. improved pasture quality and reduced weed costs, can help bolster the case for pastoral goat farming for meat.
Goat meat pricing in New Zealand currently varies between $3.50–4.50/kg, somewhat below the Australian five-year average of A$5.92 (or NZ$6.58 @ A$0.92).
However, for the New Zealand goat meat industry, growth in supply is required to overcome supply shortages and the inability to fulfil orders. This will help the industry attain better pricing and participate more fully in the opportunities of a relatively buoyant export market.
Caprinex Enterprises Ltd
PO Box 102, Brightwater 7051
T: 03 542 3740
NZ Boer Goat Breeders Association
T: 07 829 3110
Farming Goats for Meat, Meat & Wool NZ, 2008 (http://maxa.mpi.govt.nz/sff/about-projects/search/04-059/farming-goats-for-meat.pdf)
Going into Goats, Meat & Livestock Australia (https://www.mla.com.au/Extension-training-and-tools/Going-into-goats)