With prices at market rivalling those of lamb, feral goats have been a saviour for many producers in western New South Wales. So are they a pest or a god-send?
Feral goats are considered by some to be a pest because they can have a negative impact on the land and compete with livestock and native animals for food.
However, according to this article from the ABC, there seems to be little danger of goats being targeted for control programs while prices are high and landholders are rounding them up and taking them to market.
Recent markets have seen goats fetch more than $5 per kilogram, similar to prices for prime lamb.
John Lawrence from nine-mile station near Broken Hill has mostly run sheep on his station in the past, but he said goats were providing a large part of his income now.
“Last year we took 8,300 goats off the place which is not too bad for being so close to town,” he said.
“When we first started you’d just be looking at a bit of beer money, but when you’re looking at a few hundred thousand dollars plus, that’s a bit more than beer money, even for me.”
Ken Turner form Boorungie station north-east of Broken Hill said goats were fast overtaking his cattle and sheep profits.
“As a time factor it’s probably 30 per cent of our business, as a profit factor it’s probably 70 per cent of our business,” he said.
“They’re just a great asset to the bush now because of the financial returns.”
The West Darling Pastoralists Association recently made a submission to the Natural Resources Commission, emphasising how valuable feral goats were to producers in the area.
President of the association, Chris Wilhelm, said it was important for landholders to be able to continue to profit from feral goats.
“Over many years there’s been a lot of money spent on goat fencing and trap yards… enabling us to harvest them and turn them in to a profitable resource,” he said.
“We agree goats have a grazing impact, in general we wouldn’t agree with them being a pest.
“They’re a red meat protein and that’s the way they should be treated.”
However not everyone is pleased with the numbers of goats populating the region.
A group of graziers around Anabranch in south-west New South Wales have proposed a 1.7 metre-high cluster fence be built, surrounding multiple properties, crossing in to Victoria and South Australia.
Phil Baird, an Anabranch grazier, is one of the driving forces behind the proposal.
“A lot of people see a lot more value in domestic stock than they do in goats,” he said.
“Yes there’s money in goats and particularly at the moment the market’s very good.
“Whether it’s ‘roo numbers or goat numbers… without the fencing you simply can’t control the grazing pressure on your country and you can’t get rest on your country and the plants unless you’ve got control over those animals.”