INTEGRATING goats into mixed farming systems could be a means to not only diversifying but utilising rougher paddocks, improving weed management and much more.
Boorowa farmer Roger Clark, who runs Angora goats alongside his primb lamb, cropping and vineyard operation, spoke at the Woodstock Improve your Productivity Field Day on May 8 about how he has diversified and what needs to be considered in terms of management.
Mr Clarke said goats tend to fill a niche in almost every farm, especially if there is some native country or areas full of weeds, and importantly they do not compete with the other livestock components of the system.
"They are actually not competing because you are running them on different country. Nearly every farm has a thistly hill or a problem paddock where you generally have weeds of some description," he said.
"We have been running goats for a long time, and the only weed we still have on the farm are Scotch thistles. No Paterson's Curse, no Saffron thistles, no Black thistles, it is just Scotch thistles that have the ability to keep going as their seeds stay viable for so long."
Mr Clark said there is the option to produce and market mohair, and their are several options to this.
"There is the group Australian Mohair Marketing Organisation, who will sell your mohair for you through auction, or the other option is to send your mohair direct to South Africa which I have done," he said.
"The world supply of mohair is still going down I believe, so long term demand for mohair is looking good. For the last five or so years, mohair has been stable and if anything it has been sneaking up. Kid mohair is making $58 to $60 per kilogram, adult mohair is making $20/kg, but as I said it is averaging about $25/kg."
Weather and predators such as foxes and wedge tail eagles, pose management issues that Mr Clarke controls to an extent by baiting with 1080 and putting alpacas out.
"Our lambing percentage is always good but goats are a little bit more inclined to attract predators," he said.
Does at Mr Clark's property are joined from May 1 for an October/November kid.
"It is important to kid in the warmer months," he said. "If you kid in the colder months you get no kids."
"I am totally commercial, I put the mob out in the paddock and that's where they stay until they come in for marking. I don't even go near them when they are kidding.
"They need to be in sheltered country, or you need to provide sheds at least but I do no intensive kidding. I haven't done that since around 1998.
"If you get a real bad run of weather at kidding you can get down to 60 to 70 per cent kids, but you can get up to 110 to 120pc if you get the right run of weather, and the predators don't get them."
Shearing takes place in September before kidding, and in March, which is rigid according to Mr Clark, as otherwise you would get into all different management problems.
When shearing he simply cleans the shed between shearing of the sheep and goats.
"Six months you shear and crutch, next three months you crutch, next three you shear and crutch. You end up crutching all the time because the stuff (mohair) grows so quick," he said.
"Mohair is a fibre that really bangs out the length. Sometimes you can get seven inches in six months which can be hard. I try and get 120 to 150 millimetres in length which you can generally do in six months."
Another issue that may arise is the added costs to shear and crutch.
"I pay $3.80 per head to shear them, and that is after they are crutched, so that is over $5/head by the time you crutch and shear them," he said.
"If you can crutch them just before you shear them, there is hardly any contaminate in the fleece you are actually trying to prepare for sale. I started doing it about five years ago, and I have never looked back.
Mr Clark said they are also using a spray on product called Thermoskin which is only a few dollars per head.
"You run them through a spray race and it squirts on. It is a lanolin base, spray on treatment that last about six weeks and by then they are weather proof," he said.
"You can have it pouring rain and the ones you have done will be out walking about, while the ones you haven't will be under a tree somewhere, so it is a handy tool for goats in particular."
Having the right management routine where you are doing everything at the right time helps you work with the seasons, Mr Clark said.
The predation and weather problems that face goats, are the same as what sheep producers face, therefore it is important to know the system and how to manage it correctly.
Mr Clark said despite the drought, he is not feeding his goats but instead they are running in a few big, rough hills.