Ideally, land managers need to understand how goats are affecting resources and impacting on their enterprise so that they can determine how to maximise the benefits of control compared with the costs of the chosen management technique.
A strategic approach to feral goat management at a local and regional level is recommended.
It is important that the advantages and disadvantages of each control method be carefully considered before use and the relevant codes of practice followed. Usually no single control method will be suitable or efficient for long-term sustained management operations and so a combination of techniques must be used.
Fencing to control goat movements is expensive and difficult to maintain. Goats are intelligent, inquisitive animals and will test fences. Any faults in a fence will soon be detected. Goats will test the lower wires of a fence or look for gaps created by surface irregularities or wash-outs. Goats can also climb, so fallen timber, rocks and strainer posts make easy escape routes. The electrification of wires with standard energisers has been successfully used to modify existing fences to hold goats.
NPWS research in western NSW has demonstrated that goats rarely travel more than 3 km from a water source and are therefore highly dependant on artificial watering points such as earthern tanks and bores, which have been created to water stock. Strategic closure of on-park artificial watering points, and goat-proof fencing on NPWS boundaries near watering points has significantly reduced immigration into parks from surrounding properties and led to a huge decrease in goat numbers on some key national parks.
Mustering can reduce goat populations and has the advantage that costs can be offset by the sale of captured goats. Goats can be managed as a resource in this way by balancing impacts with economic returns. Many land managers muster opportunistically when they notice a large group of goats on their land. This can be particularly successful during dry periods when goats congregate in large groups near water.
Helicopter or light aircraft are often used to flush goats out of rough country. It has been estimated that an experienced highly skilled pilot can muster 80% of goats in an area of rough hills. In more open flat country, people can easily herd goats into yards on horse or motorbikes, usually with the help of working dogs.
It is important that before the mustered goats are transported from the property that all requirements and documentation are completed to comply with the National Livestock Identification System. For further advice contact your Local Land Services.
Feral goats in semi-arid areas must drink during dry times. Therefore, traps at watering points can be effective methods of removing goats. Traps are goat-proof fences surrounding a watering point and incorporating a one-way gate.Such gates will include spear gates, one-way swinging gates or jump-down ramps.
These traps are expensive to build but can be used over a long period of time and are particularly effective during periods of drought. They can be ineffective where extensive permanent bodies of water are present.
Traps must be cleared regularly to avoid starvation and stress in captured goats. The sale of these goats can offset the building and maintenance costs of these traps.
Shooting feral goats from the ground is most successful in the more open pastoral areas, especially when goats are forced to visit water points. However, too much harassment can prompt some goats to find alternative water sites or to drink at night.
Ground-based shooting can be useful when targeting particular goats. Hunting of feral goats is mainly of recreational value.
Despite its high costs, shooting from helicopters can be an effective means of removal of feral goats, particularly in rugged terrain. Costs will vary with the initial density, habitat, weather and type of helicopter used. This method has been used to manage goats at both high and low densities. An aerial shoot can be particularly successful for removing survivors of mustering or trapping campaigns. It should be noted that survivors of populations that are repeatedly controlled by aerial shooting become wary of helicopters and, while initial cull rates may be high, as few as 21% of known animals may be culled in later shoots.
The Judas goat technique utilises radio-tracking equipment to locate herds of feral goats. A captured, or 'Judas', goat will be fitted with a collar, to which a radio transmitter is attached.
Goats are strongly social species and within a few days the Judas goat will join up with a herd of feral goats. This group can be located with the radio-tracking equipment and shot by hunters, either on foot or from helicopters.
If the Judas goat is not shot it will move away and locate other groups of feral goats. If it is shot, the radio transmitter can be recovered and fitted to another goat, which is then released. Male, female and domesticated wether goats have been used successfully as Judas goats. Sterilized female goats that have had prolonged oestrus induced with hormone implants have been used successfully overseas.
This method is used to find groups that are difficult to locate by normal shooting methods. These are usually low-density populations or goats that have survived other control methods have become particularly wary.
No poison is approved for use in the control of feral goats in NSW. Poisoning has seldom been successful in attempts to control feral goats because of their large-area movements, the hazards the poisoning techniques pose for non-target species and the difficulty of standardising the bait.
Further information is also available at PestSmart Connect