The New Zealand Goat Council is targeting existing livestock farmers in a campaign to increase the national goat herd and boost exports to one million head from the present 137,000 a year.
The campaign to get more goats on more farms is based on lifting quality meat off the commodity market and onto the added value shelf and developing local markets especially for currently discounted over 18 kilogram carcasses.
Meat New Zealand said the key to both strategies is the South African Boer meat breed imported in 1993 for its conformation, early maturity and superior growth rates.
Some 80 percent of the kill are currently feral or semi-feral animals, run wild in the hills then mustered in a couple of times a year for slaughter.
Over the last two or three years prices have virtually doubled, to around NZ$50 (US$21) for a 36 to 37 pound animal. Exports returns for goat products totaled NZ$7.87 million (US$3.35 million) with the value of goat meat increasing 7.9 percent to NZ$5.9 million (US$2.35 million).
New Zealand accounts for 8.1 percent of the world goat market and it's biggest meat customer is the United States which took 46 percent of exports at 555 tons.
Goat Council meat industry representative Brian Martin said in the long term, increasing goat numbers should improve economy of scale in the industry and thus profitability.
"Increase 137,000 goats to a million and you've got a significant industry," he said. Martin said New Zealand goat meat has a good reputation on the parketplace, although short-term there is a problem with undercutting from competitors including Australia, France and Spain.
Central Eastern Goat Council representative Ian Pirani said New Zealand goat farmers' biggest gripe is that their best Boer cross carcasses are being penalized as overweight, with a quality 40 to 44 pound animal fetching less than a 30 pound feral doe.
That frustration deepens when they see an animal bought at around 25 U.S. cents a pound which is sold as cuts at the local supermarket for up to US $4.60 a pound.
Pirani sees a huge opportunity to differentiate Boer cross carcasses that exceed specified export weights for marketing to gourmet butchers and supermarket delicatessens. (The USDA prohibits the import of goats heavier than 18.4 kilograms (40.5 pounds)).
Martin Shepherd of Pilot (NZ) Ltd., which processes close to a quarter of the New Zealand goat kill, said while there are potential positives from expanding the industry, simply increasing the volume of meat on the current commodity trade risk lowering prices by pushing product onto lower value markets such as Fiji.
Shepherd sees little advantage to cutting (carcasses) for the U.S. market where ethnic consumers prefer to select an entire carcass which is then cut by their butcher.
"Every time a knife touches a carcass it adds around NZ$1 a kilogram (20 U.S. cents a pound) in cost rather than value." he said. Shepherd said with 90 to 95 percent of goat meat destined for markets that prefer the frozen carcass form, spending more on marketing premium cuts must be carefully thought through. "At current returns I wouldn't recommend running a NZ$40 to NZ$45 (US$17) goat ahead of a NZ$90 (US$)38) lamb but if they're farmed side by side you could justify it," he said.