September, 2017

While we live in a traditionally cattle farming area,  both dairy and beef herds, there has been an increased presence of goats. With their versatility as providers of meat, milk, fleece and companionship, goats are clearly popular animals. Goat meat is a valuable protein for a huge percentage of the world’s population. Still in the ‘niche’ category in Australia, goat flesh is gaining popularity.

Boer goat breeds are the recognized meat animals.  At Yarragon and Willow Grove the Lyons family breeds  two strains of Boers, one mainly white with a red head and the other red all over. The Boer was developed in South Africa in the early 1900s. The name is derived from the Afrikaans (Dutch) word boer, meaning farmer.

What a lot Women on Farms members learned about the husbandry and characteristics of these animals! Judy Lyons presented  her detailed knowledge, acquired from personal experience, of goat farming and marketing. The primary care includes worming, vaccination, hoof care and early castration of the males. The gestation period for does is five months, and if a multiple birth occurs hand feeding any rejected kids adds to the chores. Fortunately, fresh cow’s milk is usually adequate until the kids can graze.

These goats do better on pastures which re not too wet and where there is roughage such as shrubs to graze.  Minerals blocks are used to improve paddock nutrition. When it comes to slaughter the closure of the Giles abattoir presented a challenge. Halal slaughtering demanded by some customers can only be done at a Kyneton facility, adding to the time and expense.  Farmers markets in Pakenham and Dandenong have proven to be successful outlets due to the greater numbers of ethnic and Moslem customers. Regulations require that only live animals can be sold directly from the farm.

Interestingly, the Lyons’ biggest market at present is in young goats, sold as pets!  No wonder, as they are endearing, innocent youngsters. However, from the time of kidding, several wary alpacas guard the kids from fox and dog predation.