Three Decades – from Then to Now
In 1985 Geof and Celia Burnett-Smith migrated from the family farm in Zimbabwe to Adelaide in South Australia.
Their reasons will now be well understood with Zimbabwe recognised, worldwide, as a fearful and embarrassing spectre of corruption and greed.
With the grim reality of losing their Motherland – Rhodesia – never far below the surface, the Burnett-Smiths set about turning Geof’s vision for their future into a reality.
Whether vision, or dream, the concept of transferring hardy and productive livestock genetics from Africa, into local Australian breeds, seemed a remote concept to say the least.
The breeds in Australia at that time largely originated from northern climes, the European breeds being the source of domestic livestock in Australia. However, despite the clear benefits that the hardy African animals could bring to Australia, old traditions die hard, particularly with established pastoralists.
Indeed we found it a it tough call to oust traditional farming species and practices and introduce the new.
After much research and many dry gullies explored doggedly by the Burnett-Smiths, the vision was finally made possible by the State Government Insurance Commission of South Australia (SGIC). With their Venture Capital and support, the Burnett-Smiths orchestrated and carried out an extensive transfer of caprine embryos from Africa to Australia. The exercise was required to conform to a 5.5 year quarantine isolation period, known as a Scrapie Freedom Assurance Program (SFAP) under the auspices of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS). The clock only started ticking on this lengthy process once the animals resulting from the embryos, were born.
Decade 2 :
In September 1995, on completion of the stringent SFAP exercise, the gates were finally opened at Terraweena, Keith, South Australia and the animals were free to move – throughout Australia and throughout the world. A welcome and much heralded moment indeed.
Our jubilation was short lived. In 1996, direct imports were approved by AQIS, from South Africa to Australia with a nominal quarantine period of merely a few weeks in South Africa.j
Although clearly a commercial travesty for Terraweena who had carried out the hard yards, the final outcome has been a triumph for Australia with animals now close to rivalling the quality of those in Africa.
During this period, Boer Goats became commonplace in Australian pastures and exports were carried out to China, America, Malaysia, India, New Zealand, Taiwan, to name but a few destinations.
This decade offered enormous prospects to the goat meat industry in Australia at that time. There already existed a voluminous (but low quality) demand for goat meat, largely to America, which was being serviced by culls from other goat breeds and the feral population.
Despite the evident demand for their meat, the local perception of goats being ‘vermin that required removal by any means’ proved to be deeply seated and seriously impeded the recognition and development of the commercial Boer Goat industry.
Decade 3 :
The end of 2004 was a watershed for the Australian Boer Goat industry. Which way would it go? Would it survive? Would the $4,000,000 venture capital invested into the project by SGIC be justified?
It seemed unlikely at that point, but the Burnett-Smiths, in conjunction with other family members and a dwindling number of stoic and like minded breeders, believed they saw a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and ‘hung in for the long haul’.
After a few more bleak years, with the commercial arm of the beleaguered Australian Boer Goat industry failing to gain meaningful acceptance for its own product, the attention of influential organisations like the MLA was finally captured and resources allocated, at last, to the development of the goat meat industry in Australia.
This groundswell of opportunity, interest and application, culminated in a Select Boer Buck Trial, running through 2012 – 2013, that was conducted by Dr Colin Ramsay, in conjunction with MLA and a group of leading and dedicated breeders.
Between them, in varying degrees, the group donated use of facilities, genetics, time, expertise and an entirely open door approach to evaluation of certain bloodlines available in the marketplace.
Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) are now being conducted as a matter of course by these progressively minded breeders. This means that discriminating buyers can make informed decisions on bloodlines and selection of breeding stock.
The second half of the decade has seen meat goats and goat meat becoming a serious force to be reckoned with in relation to alternative, more traditional industries.
By 2015, demand, from Australia, for goat meat (both volume and premium), live goats, genetics, germ plasm (embryos and semen) and expertise has reached a record high.
Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) have finally involved themselves and the future is rosy in caprine circles in the Land Down Under.