Department of Agriculture and Food Systems
Agribusiness Review - Vol. 6 - 1998
Industry opinions and development issues relating to feral goats
Terry K. Elliott and Keith B. Woodford
Feral goats are the major source of Australian-produced goat meat and associated by-products. Commercial harvesting is also the main method of controlling Australia's feral goat populations. A qualitative survey of seven major processor/exporters found that these organisations believe that there are insufficient goats available to meet strong overseas demand, that Australia should manage its feral goats as a resource as well as a pest, and that Asian markets have the greatest potential. Subsequent in-market investigations in Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore indicated that feral goat meat sells in these markets at a premium over mutton and at similar prices to lamb, but at a major discount compared to local goat products. Importers believe that failure to meet product specifications is a contributing factor. The paper discusses the effects on industry development of a perceived lack of industry legitimacy that stems from feral goats being regarded as a pest rather than a resource. The study also identifies some commercially focused R&D priorities.
In this paper we discuss aspects of the Australian feral goat industry. Our aim is to present the opinions of some key industry participants, to identify and discuss biological, social and economic issues influencing the potential of the feral goat industry, and to identify possible industry development strategies.
The framework for the study was drawn from the concepts of strategic planning (see, for example Steiner (1979) , Pfeiffer et al. (1989) , Mintzberg (1994 )). Initial investigations based on published information and informal interviews were aimed at providing an understanding of the internal and external situation (or industry environment) and identifying the problem statements (problem definition, stakeholders, objectives). Perceived information deficiencies identified during this phase led into two investigations requiring primary data collection and analysis. These investigations then led into a phase of strategy development.
Goats were introduced to Australia in 1788 with the first European settlers who used them as a source of meat, fibre and skins. Some animals from these herds escaped to become feral and, on occasion, drought and low goat fibre prices led to the abandonment of whole herds ( Ramsay 1994 ). Feral goats are now widely distributed throughout mainland Australia, with the largest populations being in the arid and semi-arid zones of Western Australia, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. Isolated populations and lower densities occur throughout many other parts of Eastern Australia and on coastal islands ( Wilson et al. 1992 ). The size of the total population is unknown and probably fluctuates considerably depending on rainfall and control strategies. One recent estimate is four million ( Pestana 1993 ).
Pastoral zone fences are typically not goat proof and hence feral goats can move freely from property to property. In general, ownership is created when goats are captured by the landholder or by a person who has been granted rightful access by the landholder.
Feral goats are widely believed to represent an ecological threat to some areas of the Australian rangelands ( Pickles 1992 ; Henzell 1993 ). Feral goats compete with other herbivores and in some circumstances directly reduce grazier returns from sheep and cattle. In addition, feral goats have the potential to act as a disease reservoir in the event of an exotic disease outbreak such as foot and mouth ( Johnston 1982 ). Although eradication of feral goats is generally considered to be both economically and technically unachievable over most of the rangelands ( Bomford and O'Brien 1993 ), it remains as the stated goal of some land management agencies ( Pickles 1993 ; Henzell 1993 ).
The Vertebrate Pest Committee, which acts as a sub-committee of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Resource Management (SCARM), has classified feral goats in Category 5 ( Braysher 1993 ). This category contains pests that are considered to be ‘common and widespread'. However, the administration of the national pest guidelines is a state responsibility and there are differences between the states. In some regions of Western Australia and South Australia feral goats are a ‘declared pest' or ‘declared vermin'. Private landholders in these areas have a legal obligation to control them. In other regions of the rangelands control is encouraged but not obligatory. Control of goats on public lands is coordinated by the public land agencies.
The harvest of feral goat populations for meat commenced in 1953 and has continued sporadically ever since ( Holst and McGregor 1992 ). Components of the commercial harvest include field shot animals, live exports, and abattoir slaughterings, with the abattoir-slaughtered component being predominant. It is only the field shot animals that are classified as game meat. Abattoir-slaughtered feral goats are subject to the same meat regulations as farm-raised animals. In recent years the commercial harvest has stabilised at about one million animals per annum (Figure 1). In general, on account of size or condition, only 80-90% of animals mustered have commercial value. The non-commercial animals are usually culled at the point of harvest. When these plus other goats shot for sport or in non-commercial culling operations are included, the total offtake in recent years has probably been about 1.3 million animals.
Farm gate prices vary considerably depending on location and size of shipment. In early 1994 these prices varied from $4.50 to $16 per head. Goats are often transported up to 1000 km for slaughter. Harvesting occurs throughout the year but there is a tendency for harvesting to be greater in summer than in winter. This seasonality of harvest appears to be a function of when goats are easiest to muster rather than being market driven.
The number of export licensed works processing goat meat was 26 in 1995-96 (Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation (AMLC) 1996) . The major processing state is New South Wales (54% of slaughter numbers in 1992-93) followed by Western Australia (19%), Queensland (13%), South Australia (13%), and Victoria (1%) ( Australian Quarantine & Inspection Service (AQIS) 1994 ).
More than 90% of Australian produced goat meat comes from feral goats and more than 90% of all Australian goat meat is exported ( Holst 1990 ). These exports, which in volume have been trending upwards, went to at least 24 countries in 1993-94 and 28 in 1994/-95. Goat meat exports were worth AUD$22 million in both 1993-94 and 1994-95. The largest markets are Taiwan, USA, Malaysia, South Korea, the Caribbean and Canada ( ABS 1996 ). Australian exporters of chilled and frozen goat meat totalled 68 in 1993-94 and 74 in 1994-95. ( AMLC 1996 )
Nearly all of the export meat is frozen. About 85% is in carcass form, with the remainder bone-in and bone-out cuts. The FOB prices achieved for goat meat exports have been consistently lower than for beef but higher than for mutton (Table 1).
ABS commodity code: (a) 02021010; (b) 02044100; (c) 02044220; (d) 02045000
Source: ABS (1996)
Abattoirs sell goat skins for about $2 per skin wet salted. Goat skin exports were worth $2.2 million in 1992-93 and exports of goat leather were worth $1.7 million in the same year ( ABS 1993 ). However Australia is a net importer of goat leather, mainly from India.
The world population of goats in 1992 was approximately 574 million ( FAO 1993 ) with about 75% in developing countries, kept mostly by small family units. Recorded world production of goat meat exceeded 2.8 million tonnes in both 1991 and 1992 (FAO 1994), with more than 90% of this occurring in Africa and Asia. There are no religious barriers to the use of goat meat and it is often used on social occasions such as weddings and religious festivals. Accordingly, some of the markets tend to exhibit seasonality. International trade in goat meat is less than 1% of total goat meat consumption and Australia has a dominant share - in most countries more than 90% - of this trade (Source: Department of Statistic Malaysia 1992 , Korean Customs Administration 1992 , U.S Department of Commerce Economic and Statistic Administration 1992 , Statistical Department Directorate General of Customs Ministry of Finance The Republic of China 1992 ). The most important competitor is New Zealand.
Game goat meat markets (i.e. markets for products from field-slaughtered goats) are restricted to those countries that do not require an ante-mortem certificate and which do not require halal slaughter. The major game goat meat market is Europe. Game meat is also imported into the Caribbean and some Pacific Islands, where it is favoured on the basis of low price rather than because of any game meat characteristics. Countries which exclude game meat include Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, Italy and Canada.
Feral goats are also exported live for slaughter and breeding. However, this trade has been affected by changes in international airflight patterns associated with extended distance capacity and the subsequent tendency to overfly the Middle East countries. This trade is now very small and conducted using sea transport in association with the live sheep trade. The live trade has declined to only 12500 in 1994-95from over 200,000 in 1989-90 ( ABS 1996 ).
We identified ten funded research projects on feral goats undertaken in 1994-95. Most research funding came from conservation budgets and the research objectives related to control. However, some research expenditure was for exotic disease control and animal welfare related to exports. Some of the research projects included extension components and many were integrated with ongoing control programs. In some cases the research funding was used for operational control purposes on the justification that control was an essential part of the research. At least four programs included research on harvesting methods. Total funding for these research and control projects in 1994-95 was $680,000.
There are four goat levies collected by the Department of Primary Industries and Energy under the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991, the Livestock Slaughter Act 1964, the Livestock Export Charge Act 1977 and the National Residue Survey Act 1992. Total levies collected in 1992-93 exceeded $475,000. Most of these funds are potentially available for industry research and development. However there has been no evidence of research in relation to goat processing and marketing.
Feral goat industry stakeholders include property holders who control access to feral goats, existing goat producers and harvesters, processors, exporters, overseas importers and marketers, goat product consumers, and land management and conservation agencies. Informal discussions with both industry stakeholders and land management agency stakeholders suggested that these two groups tended to see each other as enemies. The goat industry was seen by land management agency personnel as being, at best, a necessary short-term evil and, at worst, a threat to the prospect of ever being able to eradicate goats. The industry tended to perceive the land management agencies as being ignorant of the realities of goat control. The commercial operators tended to view the agencies as the ‘talkers' and themselves as the ‘people of action'.
It became evident in the early stages of this study that there was a reasonable although incomplete understanding of the ecology of feral goats. However it was also apparent that there was only limited information in the public domain in relation to commercial aspects of the industry. The available information was largely restricted to statistics collected by various government organisations and the AMLC. There was no substantial information on the market opportunities and product requirements for feral goats. The issues and problems faced by processors and exporters were not documented. As a consequence, it was decided to undertake two primary inquiries of key decision making groups, these being the processor/exporters and the overseas importers. In effect this meant following the marketing channels towards the final consumers.
The choice of research methods was influenced by insights gained during the initial situation analysis. It became apparent that the commercial industry in Australia was shaped by a small number of processors and exporters who acted as commodity processors and marketers. It was evident that most of these organisations were managed by individualistic entrepreneurs, who saw their fellow processor/exporters as competitors. It was obvious from initial discussions that the processors were not prepared to share information with fellow processors and they were not receptive to a formal questionnaire. However, as informal discussions continued it became apparent that they would respond to a personal approach. The study therefore evolved naturally into an exploratory analysis within a qualitative framework. Any generality of findings in relation to the industry arises not from any suggestion that the sample was representative of other industry participants but from the fact that the surveyed organisations were the dominant force within the industry.
Qualitative research methodologies have been used extensively within the human behaviour disciplines such as sociology, education and anthropology ( Denzin and Lincoln 1994 ). Their use within the marketing discipline has been more limited, although examples include Bellinger et a.l (1975) and Malhotra (1993) . Typically these methodologies are used to explore situations where the research questions take the form of ‘what' or ‘why' ( Yin 1989 ). The findings from these studies relate to the specific individuals, firms or situations that are investigated. It is therefore unusual to test hypotheses within this framework. On occasions, exploratory studies are used to generate hypotheses which are then tested using quantitative methodologies.
The techniques and processes of qualitative research are discussed in detail in Patton (1990) . Typically, the emphasis is on in-depth investigation of a limited number of people, firms or situations. Information-gathering techniques include interviews, observations and document reviews. The data that are collected are then organised into descriptions that have patterns, themes, categories and illustrative case examples extracted through content analysis. Qualitative research implies an emphasis on process and meaning. Whereas the validity in a quantitative study depends on the measuring instrument, its design, and use according to prescribed procedures, in a qualitative inquiry the researcher is part of the instrument and the validity of the methods relies on the skill, competence and rigour of the researcher. As Patton (1990) points out, qualitative research methods allow the researcher to examine real world phenomena in real world situations and understand the world as seen by the respondents.
The objective of this investigation was to identify and describe the strengths of, weaknesses of, opportunities for and threats to the Australian feral goat industry from the perspective of commercial processor and marketing organisations. The importance of these perceptions is that they belong to the people who are making many of the decisions that collectively determine the structure and size of the feral goat industry. The approach undertaken was to conduct in-depth interviews with seven commercial processor/exporters from New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. The selection of interviewees was based on their level of product throughput, and in all cases interviews were conducted with senior management. The seven respondent organisations processed over 80% of Australian feral goats slaughtered in 1993.
Data were collected using a standardised open-ended elite interview approach Patton (1990) . A single interviewer conducted each interview. All interviews were conducted at a location determined by the respondent (usually the respondent's place of business). Six of the interviews were conducted face-to-face and one was by telephone. Interviews were documented by note taking, cassette tape recording, or both. All cassette recordings were transcribed.
Each interview commenced with an explanation of the context in which the research was being undertaken, and the objective of the inquiry. All interviews used the same series of open-ended questions which were asked in the same order. The initial questions were to provide focus, and the remaining questions were designed to elicit responses without the interviewer leading the respondent. These questions are listed in Appendix A. This was followed by a discussion covering the general business activities of the organisation using the general interview guide approach Patton (1990) .
The data were analysed using a cross-interview framework in preference to an individual case approach. This reflected that the focus of the inquiry was on feral goat issues rather than the respondents per se . The categories for cross-case analysis were derived from the four strategic analysis categories of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. A fifth explicit category was included to obtain respondents' beliefs about the potential markets for feral goat products.
The objective of this inquiry was to examine selected markets for Australian feral goat products, and to identify the characteristics, requirements and potential of these markets.
The choice of markets to be investigated was determined from a combination of desk research and information obtained from the processor/exporters. The exporter/processors held clear views that the markets with most potential were in Asia and that Taiwan was the most important of these. Malaysia, as the second largest of the Asian markets, was also important. Moreover, Malaysia had a cultural and religious setting different from that of the northern Asian markets. Singapore was chosen as the third market to be investigated on account of both its traditional importance as a goat meat market and also its proximity to Malaysia. In 1993-94 these three countries imported over 40% of Australian goat meat exports, and over 30% of Australian live goat exports.
Respondents in each country were selected on the recommendation of goat meat processors in Australia, and government organisations in both Australia and the respective overseas countries. Clearly such an approach does not produce a random sample, but it is consistent with a qualitative inquiry that explicitly seeks out key participants in the industry. Interviews were conducted with 16 commercial meat importers and four government organisations. Nine interviews were conducted in both Malaysia and Taiwan, and two in Singapore. In addition, two wet markets and two supermarkets were visited in both Taiwan and Malaysia. Two restaurants in Taiwan and one in Malaysia were also visited.
Eighteen of the interviews were conducted face to face and two by telephone. For two of the interviews a Chinese interpreter was used. At seven of the interviews more than one person was present and all the people present contributed information during the interview. Interview duration ranged from 30 minutes (for the telephone interviews) to three hours. Three of the importers provided a guided tour of their premises, including a retail outlet.
Given the cross-cultural situation and the potential for misinterpretation and mis-communication, most of the questions were designed to invite descriptions of specific aspects of the four categories of the marketing mix, namely product specifications, distribution, price and promotion (Appendix B) . The final four questions were less specific and were designed to lead into a more general discussion. The results of the interviews are presented as a descriptive narrative.
Results of the cross-case analysis of the processor/exporter surveys are summarised in Tables 2 and 3 . An example of the interpretation of these results is that six of the seven interviewees responded in some way, without being led, that the industry is a valuable export earner, but the remaining respondent failed to comment on this issue. These results indicate the frequency with which an issue was raised, but provide no indication of either the intensity of the belief or the reasoning behind the belief. However, this type of information was available within the interview transcripts, and key issues are presented below.
The inability to source sufficient goats was a serious problem for some operators. A component of this problem was the disruption to harvesting and transport associated with wet weather, particularly during the winter months in western New South Wales.
‘Farming feral goats' is an apparently contradictory phrase used by the commercial processor/exporters to describe a concept which they believe can improve supply. Essentially, the term refers to a change in attitude whereby goats are no longer considered a pest or sideline operation, but a resource that can be incorporated into mainstream farm business operations. Implementation of the concept could include establishing criteria for the most appropriate time of harvesting, outlaying capital for the erection of goat fencing to facilitate harvesting and rangeland management, and supplementary feeding in the period prior to slaughter. At least some of these options are already being implemented by some traditional woolgrowers in the Mulga region of Queensland and New South Wales.
Most of the processor/exporters believed that ‘unrealistic attitudes' of government agencies advocating eradication of feral goats are a major impediment to industry development. Another problem is the attitude of industry stakeholders who fail to invest resources into the marketing or quality control of feral goat products (typically ‘fly -by-nighters' who consider the feral goat industry to be an ‘opportunistic industry').
All the processor/exporters interviewed referred to the lucrative USA market and its stringent quality regulations. These responses may have been influenced by a recent rejection due to contamination of a goat meat consignment to the USA, and the subsequent suspension of a commercial processor's export licence.
The major cause of contamination for both skin-on and skin-off goat meat is goat hair residue. Although the development of ‘inverted' and ‘horizontal' dressing has improved the processing of skin-off goat meat, there has been no development in relation to skin-on technology. Processors commonly use pig processing chains to de-hair feral goats and produce a skin-on carcass. Due to the difference in body shape between pigs and goats, this process, in addition to causing contamination, can cause direct damage to the carcass. Carcass damage and hair residue were observed during examination of two processing plants.
It could be inferred from Table 3 that processors/exporters consider the USA to be the market with most potential, given that this is the only country specifically mentioned by all respondents. However, most of the respondents indicated that various Asian countries provided greater opportunities than the USA on account of strong economic growth and less stringent hygiene operations. The processor/exporters believed that better market intelligence, including packaging requirements, is required to support the specialised marketing of feral goat products.
There are three alternative sources of statistics on goat meat trade between Australia and Taiwan, these being the ABS, the China External Trade and Development Council (CETRA) and the AMLC. The three sources provide somewhat different pictures of the historical growth trend. All that can be said with confidence is that there has been long-term growth in the market, although tonnages may have stabilised and even reduced slightly between 1991-92 and 1993-94. Australian exports to Taiwan in 1993-94 were about 4400 tonnes and this gave Australia close to a 98% market share of goat meat imported into Taiwan. Importers expect the market to grow at about 10% per annum. All goat meat imported into Taiwan attracts an import duty of NT$15/kg (about AUD$0.75) or 20%, whichever is higher.
Goat meat is traditionally consumed in the winter time from September to February (Chinese new year), although in southern and rural Taiwan there is significant consumption on a year- round basis. Most of the Taiwanese people interviewed believe that ‘goat meat gives special energy' and when cooked with Chinese herbs in a traditional hot pot dish is ‘good for health'. Goat meat cooked in this way is cubed with the skin-on and bone in. When the Taiwanese people interviewed were questioned as to why the skin is left on, typical responses were ‘it tastes nice' and ‘the older people like to chew the skin' due to its rubbery texture.
All importers indicated that the largest outlet is the wet markets. These markets supply restaurants, street vendors and housewives. Some importers have arrangements with processing plants to value-add to the product by cubing, boning or portioning into cuts. Most of the importers believe that this value-adding can be carried out more efficiently and at lower cost in Taiwan than in Australia.
Taiwanese importers have a predominant requirement for frozen skin-on whole carcasses wrapped for protection in a cheese cloth material known as a ‘stockinet'. The two largest importers require 20-30% of their imports as frozen skin-off carcasses. There are generally two weight ranges for skin-on product, 6-16 kg and 16-24 kg, and one category for skin-off carcasses, 18-30 kg. Most importers prefer the smaller carcasses because the larger carcasses have a distinct odour during cooking.
Taiwanese importers quoted Australian goat meat in October 1994 at AUD $4/kg FOB compared to AUD $1.80/kg for equivalent mutton. Wet market prices for bone in product were AUD $5.35-6.15. (Note: NT$ have been converted to AUD at NT $18.71/AUD $1). Equivalent local goat meat in the market was selling for AUD $10.70.
Given the price difference between the local fresh product and the imported product, there is strong incentive for market substitution to occur. Importers reported that this substitution does occur, and it was suggested that this is the reason that the wet market requires whole carcasses wrapped in ‘stockinet' which can be thawed prior to selling as local product.
Interviewees reported that there had been no market promotion of goat meat. Two importers expressed interest in undertaking promotion in conjunction with Australian processor/exporters, or with the AMLC, or both. AMLC representatives indicated there were no plans to commence goat meat promotion.
Australian exports of goat meat to Malaysia increased at about 7% per annum between 1990-91 and 1993-94 to reach 1339 tonnes. Australia appears to have about a 90% market share of imported product. There are no import duties but all product must be certified as halal-slaughtered to meet the requirements of Islam.
The market has two main categories. The major segment is for frozen skin-off carcasses wrapped in ‘stockinet' in three weight categories, these being less than 12 kg, 12-18 kg, and greater than 18 kg. This skin-off product is sold to the Malay and Indian communities. There is also a small trade in boneless goat legs and goat trunks to this market sector. The second market sector, representing about 20% of the market, is for frozen skin-on carcasses of less than 12 kg wrapped in ‘stockinet'. This skin-on goat meat is traditionally prepared with Chinese herbs in hotpot dishes by Chinese consumers.
All interviewees emphasised the need for a grading system and quality control standards for Australian goat meat. They believe the inconsistency between shipments can be rectified with the implementation of a grading system that incorporates Malaysian carcass weight, leanness and meat yield requirements. Generally, goat meat is preferred to be 85-95% chemical lean although at times product with chemical lean down to 80% is accepted. Most interviewees indicated strong consumer resistance to goat meat that was not lean.
All interviewees indicated that the wet market was the major distribution channel supplying housewives and street vendors. Only small quantities are sold through supermarkets and restaurants.
FOB prices of Australian goat meat in October 1994 as quoted by Malaysian importers ranged from AUD $2.36 for carcasses weighing less than 10 kg down to $1.85 for 18-23 kg carcasses. Equivalent mutton prices were $1.75/kg for carcasses of 16-25 kg. Local goat meat was selling in the wet markets at a premium of 20-40% over imported product. Most importers reported the substitution of imported product for local product
Australian exports of live goats have fluctuated between about 6000 and 10,000 animals between 1990 and 1994, and Australia has a dominant share of the market. (Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and ABS). Most of these live shipments are of slaughter animals. Most interviewees believe there are good prospects for increasing the trade in live slaughter goats on account of the premium for locally slaughtered product. Local processing costs for a service abattoir visited as part of an interview were AUD $2.70/head for slaughtering and AUD $1.35/head for veterinary services. Interviewees reported that there has been no market promotion of goat meat in Malaysia.
Two Singapore importers were interviewed and one wet market was visited. Interviewees said that the market prefers a skin-off carcass ranging from 22-32 kg. The major consumers are the Indian community, and both interviewees emphasised the need for lean goat meat and the implementation of a grading system. Prices obtained from three meat stalls in the Kandang Kerbau wet market indicated bone in goat meat at AUD $12.4/kg, bone-in lamb at AUD $10.50/kg, and bone in frozen mutton at AUD $6.65/kg. (Note: S$1.05 = AUD $1 in October 1994.)
The feral goat industry has existed for over four decades. It contributes to the economic well-being of many individuals, and is a significant earner of export income. However, it could also be described as an assemblage of hunter-gatherers rather than as a sophisticated industry. Marketers sell the product as a commodity after minimal processing. Investment in industry infrastructure is low and investment in commercially-focused research is minimal. Marketers are price takers rather than price makers. Processors and marketers can exit rapidly from the industry and then return when prices improve.
Industries have traditionally been viewed within the economic literature as groups of naturally selected firms producing products that are close substitutes in the marketplace ( Porter 1980, p.370 ). However, Van de Ven and Garud (1989) criticise this concept as a basis for developing a theory on industry emergence, on account of its failure to recognise the complexities inherent within industry structure. They consider that an industry is more appropriately considered a social system consisting of three loosely coupled hierarchical subsystems. These are an instrumental subsystem, a resource procurement subsystem, and an institutional subsystem. The instrumental subsystem is the competing firms that in aggregate make up an industry as traditionally defined. The resource procurement system comprises the basic scientific and technical knowledge that underpins an industry, together with the debt and equity finance used by the system, and the pool of competent human resources. The institutional subsystem is the legislative framework and system of industry governance. Nelson (1995) provides a recent and comprehensive review supporting the notion that both the development of R&D programs and the development of governance structures relating to industry standards are fundamental to industry evolution.
When considered within this framework, it is apparent that the feral goat industry has failed to develop strong resource procurement and institutional subsystems. We suggest that this has occurred at least in part as a consequence of a perceived lack of industry legitimacy, and that this has been associated with feral goats being considered as pests to be eradicated rather than as a resource to be controlled and used. This raises the question as to whether the current lack of market research, market development and investment in industry infrastructure is appropriate.
Wood et al . (1994) reviewed 35 new crop industries in Australia and concluded (vol. 1, p. v) that a large number of factors can contribute or constrain the development of new industries [and] the most critical factors…differ from industry to industry'. They emphasised the importance of production research and development, the use of technology developed overseas, the need to identify, pursue and develop market opportunities, the importance of product quality, and the need to be aware of competitors. In regard to feral goats the important factors would seem to be industry research and development, the need to identify, pursue and develop market opportunities, and the importance of product quality.
A commonly expressed viewpoint of the processor/exporters was that Australia should be moving towards farming its feral goats. The concept has apparent oxymoronic connotations , but it may well be possible, by a combination of fencing, mustering, trapping and supplementary feeding, to change from a simple but often ineffective harvest operation to one of greater managerial control.
A commercially focused research and development program may have the potential to raise the price that farmers receive for feral goats. If prices were to increase to the level where goats are considered economically competitive to other livestock alternatives such as sheep and cattle - and the market prices for goat meat as documented in this study suggest that this prospect is not unrealistic - then farmers may decide to retain female goats for breeding. This would be a cause for concern amongst some conservationists.
However, as long as property fences are not goat proof, and as long as property holders lack the capacity to be confident of subsequently harvesting those animals that are retained, then there is little incentive to withhold goats from harvest. Accordingly, if the price of goat products ever became sufficiently high to encourage property holders to retain breeding females, they would have to implement management systems that included infrastructure such as fencing and control of water points. This increase in management would change the goats from uncontrolled to controlled herbivores. This highlights that the land management problem with these animals is not that they are goats per se , but that they are uncontrolled herbivores.
This research has been exploratory in nature. It appears to be the first time that opinions and concerns of the people who make the major industry decisions have been documented. Moreover, it would appear to be the first occasion on which overseas markets for feral goat products have been investigated systematically. However, these market investigations were restricted to three countries and this provides only a limited basis for making overall market assessments. Accordingly, there is a need for further market research to confirm and extend the results of this study.
This study has focused primarily on only one group of Australian stakeholders, being the existing exporter/processors. Although published views of some other stakeholder groups have been documented within the study, it would be presumptuous to assume that these other stakeholders would regard this documentation to be comprehensive. This issue of inclusion of all legitimate stakeholders when industry development decisions are being made is taken up within the following section.
A major constraint to industry development is that there is no organisation, representative of all stakeholders, responsible for, and capable of advancing, the interests of the feral goat industry. The AMLC has some responsibilities for the promotion of the goat meat industry, but the prime responsibilities of this organisation are to the large and established livestock industries, and feral goats tend to be ignored. Moreover, the characteristics and needs of the feral goat industry have little in common with these much larger industries.
Given the diversity of the stakeholders, who include landholders, harvesters, processors, exporters and land management agencies, there is no obvious party with responsibility for bringing these groups together for the purpose of establishing such an organisation, which would then work towards developing industry goals and the necessary plans as to how these goals can be achieved. Given that the feral goat industry is spread across several states this may be an appropriate issue for consideration by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Resource Management (SCARM).
The Australian feral goat industry is a significant rural industry and is also the major means by which feral goat populations are controlled. There is an ongoing and probably increasing market demand for feral goat products, but there are also current problems in meeting market specifications. There has been a lack of commercially focused research and this appears to be associated with feral goats being considered a pest rather than a resource. Formation of an industry body representative of all stakeholders may facilitate industry development. There is a need for further market research to provide direction for industry research and industry development.
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Date Created: 04 June 2005