Goat farming in Southland. You must be kidding? Shawn McAvinue talks to two brothers saying see-you-later to sheep and gidday to goats.
When struggling sheep farmers were told to diversify in the 1980s, Norman Taylor, 69, and his brother, David, 70, electrified some fences on their Central Southland farms and bought angora goats. Other farmers got into deer, but that required high fences so goats seemed the easier option.
Norman farmed 1300 sheep at South Hillend, north of Winton, but when he retired to a five-hectare lifestyle block in Forest Hill, near Browns, he took the goats with him.
He and his wife, Pam, have 136 angora goats for meat and fibre – 10 bucks, 67 mixed-aged does, 18 doe kids and 41 mixed-aged wethers.
Norman shears all the goats himself because no sheep shearer will take the small job on. Curly sharp horns made bucks tricky to shear and Norman has been caught a few times.
Freshly shorn goats need shelter because they have few fat reserves and grease in their skin to ward off cold conditions.
Shelter in summer is just as important because the noses and ears of angora goats were sun-sensitive, he said.
During mating season, the bucks were kept in the back paddock, as far away from the passing public, because they reeked, Norman said.
Around March, bucks spray themselves with their own urine, turning their white leg fibre ginger. The pungent perfume attracts the on-heat does.
Norman lets his goats mate in March and with a 151-day gestation period kidding begins in September.
He finds it difficult sending the goats to the meatworks.
“It’s a bit personal for me.”
The goats are trucked to Silver Fern Farms Waitane, near Gore, when killing-space is available.
He said he got about $3.70/kg for the meat but farmers were not paid for the pelt. “Cunningly, they just pay for the carcass.”
The best way to cook the lean meat was slow roasting, he said.
Goats and sheep made good paddock-fellows because goats ate the top of the grass and sheep ate the bottom, Norman said.
David Taylor, Norman’s older brother, has 200 angora goats and 800 sheep on his 74-hectare farm in South Hillend.
“But I’m about to pull the pin on sheep.”
He didn’t mind lambing but found the follow on with sheep, like tailing and dagging, tiresome.
He lets his goats mate a little later than Norman so the kids arrive when lambing is out of the way.
He intended to sell most of his farmland, probably to a neighbouring dairy farm, and would keep his house and enough land for the goats.
Like his brother, he found it hard to kill any of the herd.
“See that old biddy, she’s a 1998 model,” David said. “I find it very hard to knock them on the head. That’s the hardest day’s work I ever do.”
GOT THE GOAT
Gravy from goats Goat exports were worth $6.8 million (excluding goat dairy products) for the year ended September 2011 – $400,000 from fibre, $600,000 from skins, and $5.8 million from bone-in meat.
From the 100,000 goats slaughtered at meatworks in New Zealand that year, 1200 tonnes of meat was produced and 798 tonne was exported. In 2010, 95,281 goats were farmed in New Zealand.
About two-thirds were on commercial sheep and beef farms. Source: Beef + Lamb compendium of farm facts – March 2012.
A hairy history Mohair is the fibre grown by angora goats. The angora goat flock was sent from Turkey to South Africa in the 1800s, which started the mohair industry.
Angora goats were introduced to New Zealand in the 1920s, now producing 45 tonnes of mohair.
During the mid-1980s the New Zealand goat industry boomed. Big investors seeking tax incentives pushed mohair production in New Zealand to a 500 tonne peak but the industry declined after the 1987 sharemarket crash.
Southland goat farmer David Taylor said “Queen St farmers,” the big city investors, partnered with Southland farmers, injecting money into goat farming for tax write-offs and pushing doe prices beyond $1000. “It just went loco. That’s what killed it.”
Goat go-to guy Mohair marketer John Woodward buys fibre and exports it from his Pukekohe warehouse in Auckland. He handles about 29 tonnes of mohair annually, dealing with 90 New Zealand farmers, 10 from the South Island.
Angora goats are shorn twice a year. A fleece shorn from a five-month-old kid weighs about 112 kilograms and fetches about $30/kg.
The coarser second shear weighs about 2.3kg and fetches about $22/kg.
Further shears weigh about 4kg and fetch about $14/kg.
- © Fairfax NZ News