A major goat operation in western NSW is aiming to develop its own brand of goat meat to sell to the domestic market.
Mt Hope Station, Mt Hope, is owned by Jim Riordan and James Boland.
It's one of three neighbouring properties used in the operation, which totals about 60,700 hectares.
Station manager Katie Maher said the two southern stations, Mt Hope and Stanifords, housed about 24,000 Boer goats.
Ms Maher said the operation was in the process of moving all the Rangeland goats north to Thule Station.
Unlike the other two properties, Thule had a boundary fence but no internal fences.
About 6000 head had been moved so far, with about the same amount still to muster and tag.
There were about 7000 Rangeland/Boer crosses still to be moved too, Ms Maher said.
The plan was to have the Boers and Rangelands running separately, she said, although having some Rangeland genetics in the Boers helped in reducing the fattiness of the meat.
Their main market was live export to the Middle East, but the goal was to break into the domestic market.
"We want to have the Mt Hope Station brand of goats that Aussies eat," she said.
About 330 head were sold each month to abattoirs to supply butchers and Woolworths.
They had decided to retain their Rangeland goats for the time being given the drop in the market.
"The normal process is we would get a truckload of Rangeland and sell them but we would be selling them at a deficit at the moment," she said.
Encouraging domestic uptake of goat meat would require a lot of marketing to change the perception of the product. Changing eating habits was another challenge.
The operation is in the midst of implementing electronic identification tags (eID), which will be used during on-farm trials and to try and improve efficiencies.
"All our does this year will get an eID tag, then the plan is moving forward that all Boer kids that we mark moving forward will have eID," Ms Maher said.
They have also started to tag the billies and record their characteristics.
"When we put them out with the mob of goats we can identify which billies were with that mob and then see if it has any correlation with our pregnancy rates," she said.
Another project underway was to measure results from kids treated with analgesics at marking, she said.
"We had two mobs of goats with half the mobs injected with the analgesics, all have eID tags in. All were weighed, all were recorded.
"Then at weaning time we'll get them in and we'll weigh them again and see if there's any correlation between the analgesic and their growth rate.
"We put them all together in the one mob, so they'll be in the same paddock eating the same food - that's the control.
"If that gives us a glimmer of hope of better growth rates and less pain for the goats then we'll look into it further."
As well as focusing on stock improvements, the station is also building about 200 kilometres of biosecurity fencing.
The upgrade is part of a cluster with neighbouring properties and is partly funded by the NSW government.
Ms Maher said feral pigs were a growing issue for the operation.
Large amounts of time were dedicated to fixing pig holes.
"Someone is almost always doing that - and you'd fix one and then just 20 metres down the fence there'd be another hole," she said.
"They impact on our kidding rates and our goats get in and out which we don't necessarily want."
Ground baiting was carried out twice a year and the Local Land Services also carried out aerial shooting programs, she said.
The last aerial shoot, which covered an area from Wallanthery to Mt Hope, shot about 4000 in a week, she said.
Another project is developing laneways between the stations to assist with moving stock with as little stress on the goats as possible.
The laneway from Stanifords to Thule is about 25km long.
"There's a gate into each paddock from that lane and then there's blockers as well to stop them going into the next section of the lane," she said.
"There's going to be water points so we could leave them in there at the end of the day and come back to them the next morning."
Bores were being put in to better control grazing in the paddocks, as the goats tended to gather around the water points.
"You can turn those troughs off and then they start eating around the dam. It also makes them easier to muster," she said.
"We are in the process of putting fences around all our dams so if they get dry we can close them off.
"The same way we can turn the troughs off, we can shut the gates to force them to eat near the troughs to utilise all areas of the paddock."
The billies were on supplementary feed, which consisted of a mixture with oats, lupins and vetch hay.
Pasture was currently grown in three of the six available paddocks for additional feed, she said.
"We like to use a combination, we don't just sow a particular variety in there," she said.
"We have lucerne, rye grass and oats at the moment."
The operation has also adopted various agtech programs.
Ms Maher said FarmBot was used on troughs and fuel bowsers and all staff had Avenza maps on their phones.
AgriWebb was another important tool and the introduction of electric gates across the properties was another time saver.
All staff met in the mess area each morning to go through what everyone was doing for the day, which was important for both efficiency and safety, Mrs Maher said.
"We meet back there at night for dinner," she said.
"It is isolating out here - going to the pub and having a chat with the neighbours or the locals is also a really good way of, I think, retaining the kids that are out here.
"It is just a long way from anywhere."
The isolation could also make it difficult to find staff, she said.
"I think sometimes the blank canvas is almost better than someone who's set in their ways," she said.
"Especially with technology and things like that, if we're trying to do new things and someone is set in their ways it makes it really hard."
The current team included Ms Maher's father Dave as the stock manager, two jackaroos, a borerunner and general handyman, a cook/technical officer, and a plant operator.
Mustering involved two-wheelers, working dogs, and side-by-sides.
Goats could be harder to muster than sheep, but the challenge of working with them was what it made enjoyable, she said.
"Sheep will mob up whereas goats don't... they'll just be everywhere," she said.
"If they see a glimmer of an opportunity they'll go for it."