Queensland graziers celebrate success after switching from cattle to goats

Queensland graziers celebrate success after switching from cattle to goats
  • PublishedDecember 20, 2023

During the last drought, a family of Queensland beef producers did something radical to survive — they sold their cattle and used the money to buy goats. Lots of goats. 

“When we sold our cows we actually bought more goats in the middle of a raging drought,” grazier Brian Allport said.

“It was quite a bizarre thing, and I think Keeleigh thought I was raving mad.

“We invested in more goats and more fencing, and we just kept opening paddocks up.”

Mr Allport and his wife Keeleigh now own 30,000 goats and truck as many as 600 a week to a local abattoir from their property at Moonie, about 400 kilometres west of Brisbane.

A pair of goats grazing in a yard.
Boer goats have distinctive brown and white colouring.(ABC Landline: Pip Courtney)

They have set up a processing facility, own their own transport and refrigeration trucks, and recently purchased a second property that will allow them to almost double their stock.

“We have a vertically integrated supply chain, so we’re really involved with every step and process, right from the farm through to the customer,” Ms Allport said.

Mr Allport said he never would have predicted such a successful outcome.

“I didn’t think it would come to where it is now,” he said.

“It’s just blown our mind, what’s happened.”

A man chops up meat on a stainless steel bench.
The Allports bought a butcher shop near Warwick to process their meat.(ABC Landline: Pip Courtney)

‘We never planned it’

The couple doubt they would be in business today if it were not for the hardy, drought-tolerant feral goats they sourced from Western Queensland.

“It was a huge risk and it’s paid off — we never planned it, but we actually became accidental goat farmers,” Ms Allport said.

They bought rangeland feral goats five years ago to keep weeds down, but the animals’ ability to cope with dry conditions prompted the shift away from cattle.

Ninety-seven per cent of Australia’s goat meat is exported, but the Allports took another radical decision and targeted what they felt was the under-served domestic market.

Image of goat meat.
Goat meat is a niche protein in Australia.(ABC: Cam Lang)

Goat meat is a niche protein in Australia, but the Allports banked on demand from the country’s multicultural population.

They established the Grassland Goats brand and now sell to butchers in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

“We mainly service the Middle Eastern Afghani community, but we’ve got a massive Nepalese community and they are very fussy about their goats, and then we’ve got the Indian, Chinese and Asian markets,” sales manager Les Pearson said.

‘Not just a skinny goat’

By raising goats the way they raised cattle, the Allports believed they could ensure the availability of high-quality produce every single week.

“We can guarantee if you want a thousand, we can give you a thousand on that day as we have the stock,” Mr Allport said.

A person cubes bone meat in an industrial facility.
The Allport family’s processing facility produces cubed bone-in meat for butchers.(ABC Landline: Pip Courtney)

They sought out the best genetics they could when running cattle and have done the same with goats, buying Boer and Kalahari stud goats from the country’s best breeders.

Like cattle, the goats are fed grain, hay, and grass to supplement the weeds, shrubs, and trees they browse on.

“We’ve all at some stage in our childhood had experiences of goat and it was tough but with genetics and nutrition, we are producing a really nice little article now, not just a skinny goat,” Mr Allport said.

A bearded man in a dark polo shirt stands in a butcher's shop.
Butcher Mabrouk Houadchia owns three shops in Brisbane.(ABC Landline: Cam Lang)

New buyers

Brisbane butcher Mabrouk Houadchia used to find it difficult to reliably source goat, but now he gets deliveries to his three shops once a week from the Allports.

“We used to sell between 20 goats a week, now we are doing up to 130 a week,” Mr Houadchia said.

“Our customers are from a few ethnic groups in the Muslim community and they can tell the difference of the consistency of the Grassland Goats compared to the other goats.”

Having bought a second property at the start of this year, the Allports are looking to nearly double their flock to 50,000 so they can target the Sydney and Melbourne markets.

And as for the recently declared El Nino?

“We’re not worried at all because goats excel in a dry climate — that’s their natural environment, so we’re not too worried,” Ms Allport said.

“We’ll keep growing.”

SOURCE: ABCNEWS

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