Knowledgebase > Goats

Goats

Last updated 26 February 2019

Goats (Capra hircus) are intelligent, inquisitive and highly social animals with a natural lifespan of 15 years.

Goats were brought to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788 and have since run wild across the continent, occurring in their highest densities in the arid and semi-arid rangelands.

Today, goats are exploited and farmed in Australia for their meat, milk and fibre.

 

Meat

Over 2 million goats are now slaughtered in Australia each year[1] and there are at least 16 slaughterhouses registered for killing these animals[2]. Around 88% of goat meat is exported[3]; known as ‘chevon’ if the goat was an adult or ‘capretto’ if the goat was young (a ‘kid’).

Some 90% of goats killed in Australia for meat are Rangeland goats, who typically have to be mustered or trapped from extensive, unfenced environments and moved to paddocks or depots, where they are held before being transported for slaughter or live export[4],[5]. All parts of this process represent significant stressors to Rangeland goats, who are essentially wild and unhandled. In addition, relocating goats into close confinement disrupts their social structures and again causes stress.

Prior to having their throat cut at an abattoir, goats are meant to be rendered unconscious with a captive bolt or through electrical stunning. Footage from Snowtown Abattoir in SA reveals goats subjected to horrific cruelty while being stunned and then cut open on the kill floor[6]. The goats are crammed into a tiny pen and cry out in distress as they are mechanically stunned in front of one another. The device used for stunning is extremely ineffective; many goats visibly regain consciousness or never appeared to lose it, and by the time they are on the kill floor, many are thrashing around and trying to right themselves.

There are also various facilities in Australia approved for religious slaughter, meaning they are not legally required to stun animals prior to bleeding. A Meat & Livestock Australia review found that goats whose necks are cut without effective stunning would suffer incomprehensible pain for a minimum of 3-7 seconds before losing consciousness[7].

 

Dairy

There are around 68 dairy goat farms across Australia, producing 16 million litres of milk each year[8].

Like every other mammal, female goats (‘does’) must give birth in order for their bodies to produce milk. Research shows that does and their kids quickly become attached to each other, with does being able to recognise their young through smell, visual and sound cues within 4 hours of giving birth[9]. It has also been shown that mother goats do not forget their kids’ calls, even after weaning and giving birth to another kid[10].

On dairy goat farms, kids are stressfully separated from their mothers so their milk can be harvested and sold to people. Male kids (bucks) are considered useless to the dairy industry, being unable to produce milk, and are therefore killed. Female kids will undergo an extremely painful disbudding procedure (removal of the horn bud before it attaches to the skull) at just 3-7 days of age[11].

There are a number of diseases that does suffer from on dairy goat farms, including mastitis (bacterial infection of the udder), hypocalcamia or milk fever and pregnancy toxaemia. Another disease associated with dairy goats is Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE), which is caused by a virus and spread via bodily fluids like milk. There is no treatment for this disease, so farmers will undertake regular testing of their goats and simply cull those who test positive[12]

 

Fibre / Fleece

The majority of goats used in Australia for their fibre are Angora goats, who produce ‘mohair’ and are shorn every six months. Cashmere goats are also used, producing ‘cashmere’, and are shorn once a year[13].

Shearing is an acutely stressful process for animals. Rough handling is common, with many animals suffering bruising, cuts and other injuries in the shearing process. Goat shearers are also paid per animal shorn instead of an hourly rate, which encourages workers to rush through shearing as many goats as possible. In addition, angora goats are reportedly very susceptible to cold stress after shearing, and the dramatic changes in temperature can lead to death[14].

Angora goats are unfortunately marketed by the goat industry as an animal that may be exploited for both their fibre and meat[15]. A producer can profit from shearing one or two highly valued kid fleeces and then profit from having them slaughtered at just 6-12 months of age.

One intensive Angora farm in Victoria explains, “Having a high weaning percentage allows a heavy culling program. The greatest intensity of culling occurs within the young goat flock, generating income from the sale of meat and leather products. Goats are culled based on fleece quality and physical traits. Most buck kids are culled along with the bottom 25% of doe kids. High selection pressure facilitates rapid genetic improvement within the flock”[16].

 

References

[1] Meat & Livestock Australia, ‘Give goats a go’, <https://www.mla.com.au/extension-training-and-tools/going-into-goats/> [accessed: January 2019].

[2] Goat Industry Council of Australia, Registered Meat Establishments: <www.gica.com.au/LiteratureRetrieve,aspx?ID=159390> [accessed: January 2019].

[3] James Wagstaff, 9 August 2017, ‘Australian goat industry: High demand pushes prices up in 2017’, The Weekly Times, <https://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/agribusiness/decisionag/australian-goat-industry-high-demand-pushes-prices-up-in-2017/news-story/b98609f27a44a9dc5a04d399a6bdf656>.

[4] Meat & Livestock Australia, ‘The Going into Goats Guide: Module 11 Depots’.

[5] Meat & Livestock Australia, ‘The Going into Goats Guide: Module 12 Rangeland Management’.

[6] See footage from the Snowtown Abattoir investigation: https://www.aussieabattoirs.com/slaughterhouses/snowtown/videos

[7] Meat & Livestock Australia, 2011, ‘Review of Stunning and Halal Slaughter’, <http://www.livecorp.com.au/LC/files/98/98780c7e-2e95-4e45-98d9-74ff85c50281.pdf>.

[8] AgriFutures Australia, Dairy goats, https://www.agrifutures.com.au/farm-diversity/dairy-goats/ [accessed: January 2019].

[9] Poindron, P. Terrazas, A. de Oca, M. Serafin, N. Hernandez, H. 2007. Sensory and physiciological determinants of maternal behaviour in the goat (Capra hircus). Hormones and Behaviour, 52(1): 99-105.

[10] Briefer, E. Padilla de la Torre, M. & McElligott, A. 2012.  Mother goats do not forget their kids’ calls. Proc R. Soc. B, 279: 3749-3755.

[11] RSPCA Australia Knowledgebase, ‘What are some of the animal welfare issues associated with dairy goat farming?’, https://kb.rspca.org.au/what-are-some-of-the-animal-welfare-issues-associated-with-dairy-goat-farming_734.html [accessed: January 2019].

[12] AgriFutures Australia, Dairy goats, https://www.agrifutures.com.au/farm-diversity/dairy-goats/ [accessed: January 2019].

[13] AgriFutures Australia, Goat fibre, < https://www.agrifutures.com.au/farm-diversity/goat-for-fibre/> [accessed: January 2019].

[14] Meat & Livestock Australia, ‘The Going into Goats Guide: Module 10 Mohair’, page 10.

[15] Australian Mohair Company, “Our Vision: To promote the financial returns and environmental benefits from farming Angora goats for both Mohair and Meat production.”, <https://australianmohaircompany.com.au/letter-of-introduction-from-the-australian-mohair-company/> [accessed: January 2019].

[16] Meat & Livestock Australia, ‘The Going into Goats Guide: Module 10 Mohair’, page 18.

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