Rangeland goat numbers down 40 per cent in 2017, but industry leaders not surprised

The Land Alex Druce, 13 Dec 2017

The Department of Primary Industries report, based on figures from the Office of Environment and Heritage 2017 aerial survey of central and western NSW, confirms goat industry observations on the ground.

A NEW aerial survey has revealed the state’s record goat population has dropped by 40 per cent over the past year, though dry weather doesn’t tell the whole story.

Goat industry data shows numbers have declined from a record high of 5.7 million in 2016 to 3.4 million in 2017.

Industry leaders say while the drop was not unexpected, more work was needed to find out the exact cause.

The Department of Primary Industries report, based on figures from the Office of Environment and Heritage 2017 aerial survey of central and western NSW, confirms the on-ground observations.

Department of Primary Industries senior research scientist and report author, Dr Steve McLeod, has delivered the 2017 goat population figures, which show numbers are down 2.3 million.

“Dry seasonal conditions and the unprecedented high goat population in 2016 could help explain the population decline this year,” said DPI senior research scientist and report author, Steven McLeod.

“We had reports of poor reproduction in sheep and goat herds and the results may be influenced by goat paddock distribution, stocking rates and the timing of large, efficient goat harvesting operations in the survey zone.

Goat Industry Council of Australia president, Rick Gates, said the report reflected industry expectations.

“From my observations I expected numbers to be down by 20 or 30 percent, so I wasn’t surprised,” Mr Gates said.

“On a positive note, DPI is working closely with industry and these results build goat industry confidence in the data collection, which is used by the newly-formed Goat Industry Forecasting Committee.”

Created through a Meat and Livestock Australia and DPI co-funded project, the committee aims to improve industry’s understanding of projected goat populations and supply changes.

In 2018, a program of continuous improvement will boost operator safety by using blocks rather than long transects may also allow scientists to investigate goat management factors influencing aerial survey counts.

Mr McLeod, said updated survey techniques and modern technology have boosted the accuracy of results.

“Digital technology has replaced pen and paper – in 2016 we updated the system used since goats surveys began in 1992 with modern survey design,” he said.

“We are confident the new methods are reliable, OEH data collection is of a high standard and results are accurate with greater precision in indicating population changes.”

In 2018, a program of continuous improvement will boost operator safety by using blocks rather than long transects may also allow scientists to investigate goat management factors influencing aerial survey counts.

Earlier this year The Land reported construction of the region-changing $60m Bourke small livestock abattoir was underway with earthworks and the laying of concrete slabs confirming the developers are moving to a possible early 2018 start date.