BREEDING Boer goats initially began as a hobby for Nuriootpa farmers Owen and Tracy Bonython but has since expanded into award-winning food brand Bon Chevon.
Their herd began when Ms Bonython, an agriculture teacher with Faith College, Tanunda, was trying to find wethers for students to compete with at the Royal Adelaide Show.
They initially bought 10 Boer does from Balmarden Boer stud, Crafers, in 2014 to breed their own wethers.
Following on from the show competition, the school was allowed to bring the goats home, and they served goat meat during an event.
Ms Bonython said the push to build their own herd grew from there, with 80 breeding does in their present flock.
They supply whole chevon carcases – six to eight-month-old wethers – to local restaurant Fino Seppeltsfield, and recently started selling capretto – milkfed kids weighing about eight kilograms to 12kg – to Tanunda restaurant 1918.
In the past few weeks they have also forged a relationship with Thornby Fine Meats, Tanunda, supplying goat meat as a special offer.
Earlier this year, Fino executive chef David Swain nominated Bon Chevon for the delicious. Produce Awards, with the Bonythons named state winners in the ‘from the paddock’ section.
In the long-term, the Bonythons would like to set up their own on-site processing facility and sell through farmers’ markets.
Mr Bonython said they initially want to keep it within the Barossa Valley and eventually spread statewide.
While farming was always on the agenda, both say they had not really considered goats.
“Goats were never something we initially thought of, but we really enjoy working with them; they’re a really curious animal,” Ms Bonython said.
Mr Bonython said it helped diversify their operation, running them as part of a mixed farming operation in partnership with Ms Bonython’s parents.
The goats are run in paddocks in three herds as they work to build up their breeding numbers, with some supplementary hay and grain for roughage.
Ms Bonython said they eventually want to build to three kidding periods each year, while the tendency for the goats to have multiple births means they aim for a minimum birth rate of 200 per cent.
Older does are run with maidens in two breeding herds, while younger does, before joining, run with the wethers.
Ms Bonython said they had been on a steep learning curve, with few comparable businesses nearly.
They consider the product different from rangeland goat meat in taste and fat content.
“We’ve grown up with sheep and we started out treating the goats like sheep and found some things work the same and some things are a bit different,” she said.
Ms Bonython said they had needed to shore up their fences and adjust to working with a horned animal.
“We’ve learnt a lot on the way and been lucky that the people we’ve bought does from have been supportive and given us tips,” she said.
Along with their change in operation, they have also had a change in their diet.
“We wouldn’t have eaten much goat meat before,” Ms Bonython said.
“But now we have goat in the freezer, so at family functions are more likely to have a goat roast instead of a lamb roast.”
Ms Bonython said they had been approached by representatives of Barossa Foods as a way of growing niche products in the region, with assistance for their website and label development.
Their next move is a study tour, using a Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources sustainable agriculture scholarship, to meet with existing growers in Vic.
Ms Bonython said she wanted to learn more about how to expand their paddock-to-plate operation.
“Things are changing so people don’t just go to the supermarket to buy their meat,” she said. “They want to know where it has come from.”