The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management
REVIEW

Incorporating farmed goats into sustainable rangeland grazing systems in southern Australia: a review

Ronald B. Hacker A and Yohannes Alemseged A B

A NSW Department of Primary Industries, PMB 19, Trangie, NSW 2823, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: yohannes.alemseged@dpi.nsw.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 36(1) 25-33 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RJ13035
Submitted: 16 April 2013  Accepted: 31 October 2013   Published: 6 December 2013

Abstract

The recent trend to farming or re-domestication of feral goats poses serious questions for the ecological sustainability of the semiarid and arid rangelands of southern Australia. This paper reviews aspects of the biology and grazing habits of goats, and aspects of the Australian goat industry, relevant to their sustainable management in livestock enterprises. Key factors identified include high fertility and fecundity even under low seasonal rainfall conditions and a generalist feeding strategy. Adverse consequences for rangeland condition can be expected if seasonal or market conditions result in an imbalance between population growth and turnoff, resulting in high grazing pressures. Given the limited control of the reproductive process at the current stage of the development of goat farming, strategies aimed at ensuring continuity of sale of goats (e.g. on-property feed lots or supply chain and market development) will be important in ensuring that imbalances are avoided. Conservative stocking rates and use of seasonal risk management tools are also particularly relevant. The major research and development needs identified by this review, from a resource management perspective, concern the appropriate dry sheep equivalent rating for goat classes based on age, sex and reproductive status, the extent and consequences of heterogeneity of grazing in space, time, and across forage species, and development of means of establishing sustainable stocking rates based on the use of all available forage sources, including browse.

Additional keywords: diet selection, grazing behaviour, growth, reproduction, shrubs.


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