20 Feb 2015

Gathering Goats

From Country Life, 9:18 pm on 20 February 2015


Gathering Goats

Six years ago, David Hutchings thought he might be able to make a decent living out of mustering goats part-time and selling them to processors.

He'd been a shepherd most of his working life and knew selling goats could be lucrative if you were good at it.

That first year he sold 1500 goats to meat processors. Last year he sold 20-thousand.

Ninety per cent of the goats David sells are feral but there's an emerging market for cull dairy goats.

Feral goats are processed on a sheep chain but the much bigger dairy goats need to be killed at a venison plant. 

David, who lives in Taumarunui and picks up goats across the North Island, says many of the feral goats he loads onto his truck have been mustered accidentally when sheep are brought into the yards.

He often gets calls from frustrated farmers.

"At the end of shearing they've got ten or 15 or 20 goats in their woolsheds bouncing off the walls and they just say 'Could you come and get these goats', so we zip out and grab the goats and that's the bulk of our work."

He also has men mustering for him.

David sends any feral goats that are up to scratch straight to the works but those lacking condition are taken to one of  three properties he leases to be farmed on until they make the grade for processing.

Feral goats can be worth up to $35 each to farmers. David buys dairy goat does for between $20 and $50. Bucks fetch a bit more. 

Until recently the only options for dairy goat farmers were to kill their unwanted goats and have them picked up for rendering or sell them for pet food.