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Goat theft a 'significant hit' to landholders already struggling through drought

Sophie Volker, Friday September 7, 2018 - 17:13 EST
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Police say goat theft will not be tolerated. - ABC

Imagine you're a farmer struggling through this unrelenting drought, and a herd of wild goats wanders onto your land.

By law, you're allowed to harvest them and sell them to make a profit. It could even earn you enough to pay your kids' school fees for another year.

It's enough to allow you to take a breath in these unforgiving, dry conditions across the entire eastern seaboard of Australia.

So imagine, then, the heartbreak when someone steals that herd of goats from your property and makes $40,000 profit for themselves — illegally.

That's exactly what happened at a property in south-west Queensland recently, when a man stole a herd of Rangeland goats near Roma and sold them fraudulently.

He was recently sentenced in the Roma District Court to two years imprisonment, suspended for three years, for the offence.



'Substantial hit' for landholders

Police are warning the theft of Rangeland goats will not be tolerated, and offenders will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

It's a "substantial hit" for landholders who are already struggling, according to Roma's Major and Organised Crime Squad (Rural) Detective Inspector Mick Dowie.

"These goats feed across properties and if a landholder comes across a mob of goats on their land, they're entitled to muster and harvest them," Inspector Dowie said.

"I've often heard people from out south-west Queensland refer to them as 'school fees', because it gives them that bit of extra income to pay for things like school fees.

"It is a serious crime, and it does really impact significantly on landholders, so we're just warning people and urging people that unless you have lawful justification to take Rangeland goats, you're committing a serious offence.

"People are selling them for money. They go through what's called a depot, and they send them off to a meatworks. It's a huge export market to the Middle East."



'Theft at its worst'

Goat theft is a common problem across rural Queensland and New South Wales because Rangeland goats roam and are exempt from ear-tagging laws.

Philip Linn, goat trader and director at Ausgoat, said the strong export demand for Rangeland goats is the main reason these thefts continue to occur.

The breed is making anywhere between $60 and $120 per head, with $80 per head being the average sale price.

"People rely on Rangeland harvesting, especially in the western zones," Mr Lin said.

"If people go and take somebody else's source of income, that is theft at the worst [but] there are only a few depots that are illegally buying goats without National Vendor Declarations.

"They're paying cash, and it's wrong, it's just so wrong."

Inspector Dowie said because they were wild goats, it could be a difficult law to enforce but he said it was a crime police are taking very seriously.

"If people are doing the wrong thing, we will investigate it and if the evidence is there, we'll charge them and put it before the court," he said.


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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