WHEN Barossa Valley agricultural science teacher Tracy Bonython bought 10 Boer does in 2014 to breed goats for her students to show, she never thought it would be the start of a gourmet paddock-to-plate business.
Fast forward five years, and Tracy and her husband Owen operate Bon Chevon, supplying goat meat to high-end restaurants and direct to consumers through farmers' markets.
"After the students took the wethers to the Royal Adelaide Show in 2014, we offered goat meat for sale through the school - there was a lot of interest and we realised there was a local market for goat," Ms Bonython said.
The Bonythons began building a commercial herd and in 2016 started supplying their first restaurant, Fino Seppeltsfield in the Barossa.
Today they run 100 Boer does on their property at Ebenezer, producing about 200 kids a year.
The goats add diversification to the mixed farming operation the Bonythons run in partnership with Ms Bonython's parents.
The Bonythons retain their top 10 per cent to 15pc of females as breeders and supply whole chevon carcases (six to eight-month-old animals) and occasionally capretto (milkfed kids weighing about eight kilograms to 12kg) to restaurants. They recently added iconic Adelaide restaurant Jolly's Boathouse to the list.
Bon Chevon has also just joined the ranks at the Barossa Valley Farmers Market.
We are at capacity on our current farm, so would like to expand in the future to grow our business.
"We've had a lot of local interest in goat meat so we partnered with a local butcher, Barossa Hill Butchers, to provide retail packs, which is an exciting step for the business," Ms Bonython said.
The Bonythons join their does separately as two groups of 50.
They join one group in November to kid in early April and would usually join the second group in March. But, last year they pushed joining back to May for an October kidding to ease grazing pressure in winter.
They would eventually like to introduce an AI program to shorten the kidding period for more consistent turn-off.
The Bonythons have trialled three joinings across two years - to kid in April, December and August - but found although the does maintained condition, it was difficult to get kids to their target weaning weight of 25kg. They started using stud bucks in 2018 and hope improved genetics and better seasons will lift birthweights to assist this goal.
Although they achieve 200pc kidding, kid mortality is an issue and the Bonythons are looking to the findings from Meat & Livestock Australia research for strategies to reduce losses. They have also invested in an alpaca to protect the herd from foxes and are seeing the results.
A breeding goal is to lift lean meat yield. They find that a 50kg liveweight wether dresses at 48pc, so they are targeting carcase traits with buck selection to increase frame size, yield and eating quality.
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The very dry 2018 tested their management. A focused pasture program has been important to manage grazing pressure and bridge feed gaps and they recently hosted on farm trials for the Barossa Improved Grazing Group MLA-funded resilient pastures project.
The Bonythons have taken a measured approach, growing the business slowly as they learn the ropes.
They are excited about the future of their business and the wider industry, with a growing push for goat meat domestically.
"We are at capacity on our current farm, so would like to expand in the future to grow our business," Ms Bonython said.
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It is the family's first experience with goats and they have drawn on resources such as MLA's Getting into Goats and the Goat Industry Council of Australia to source information and connect with other producers.
Ms Bonython will speak at the inaugural National Goat Roadshow SA event on Thursday, September 26.
The roadshow focuses on improving on-farm practices and business management skills in the Australian goat industry, as well as profiling the range of new resources and tools produced by MLA.
Topics focus on driving business management; productivity gains through animal health; producer case studies and an industry expert panel session delving into the practical details of managing goats - carcase selection, animal selection, biosecurity, caprine arthritis encephalitis, code of transport and profitability.
- Details: To register for the National Goat Roadshow call 08 8332 3277.
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