Breeding goats for intensive management
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CTA. 1991. Breeding goats for intensive management. Spore 33. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to cite or share this item: https://hdl.handle.net/10568/45512
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Traditionally goats have been herded or allowed to roam free range. Their high reproductive performance and ability to survive and even thrive on poor quality feeds not generally eaten by other species has made them attractive to resource-poor...
Traditionally goats have been herded or allowed to roam free range. Their high reproductive performance and ability to survive and even thrive on poor quality feeds not generally eaten by other species has made them attractive to resource-poor farmers in marginal areas. Their critics accuse them of eating everything and causing degradation and even desertification. But goats can also be managed intensively to provide a useful income as well as more grazing control and less environmental damage. Come 95% of all goats are found in developing countries, one third of them in the ACP States. Nigeria has 26 million goats, Somalia and Ethiopia 18 million each and Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Sudan and Tanzania all have large numbers. In the Caribbean and Central America, Mexico has 10 million goats and Haiti one million. There are also large populations in relation to country size in the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad and other Caribbean islands. In Oceania there are smaller but still considerable numbers in Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Vanuatu. It is in low income countries, which often have limited supplies of animal feed, that the goat comes into its own. Goats are owned' often in small flocks, by more households than any other ruminant species. Partly due to their lowly social status, they are owned by women and children. However, landless owners often allow their animals to scavenge and such opportunistic feeders can cause damage to crops and trees and ill-will among neighbours. Where goats are kept penned and fed on a cut-and-carry system there can be many advantages. It has been shown in numerous studies that indigenous goats will have more young than sheep, will rear twins more successfully and will produce surplus milk for their owners. In some developed countries, particularly in the Mediterranean basin, the goat has long been managed in such a way that it produces a considerable proportion of the region's milk and milk products. Kept in raised pens on slatted floors, goats can be kept free of internal parasites, which they avoid under traditional free-ranging conditions but suffer from if kept on restricted pasture. Pens can be made to allow easy access. Animals are more easily monitored, poor performers can be culled and breeding is more easily managed. Intensification initiatives In the ACP countries there are several intensification initiatives, mostly related to milk production. Almost all aim to improve productivity, not by selection within indigenous breeds, but by outcrossing or absorption by exotic breeds. These initiatives have had varied success. In the relatively dry areas of eastern Rwanda, for example, crossing Alpine and Anglo-nubian with indigenous Small East African goats led to neither increased milk nor meat production. This was mainly due to high mortality in the exotics but also because of inadequate feed supplies. In Ethiopia the use of Saanens on small Afar goats has been studied for several years: in the very dry Rift Valley the first cross goats were unable to survive but backcrosses to give 1/4 Saanen x 3/4 Afar genotypes survived well. Encouraging results from crossbreeding have also been obtained using the Mozambique Landim goat. Here 3/4 Landim x 1/4 Alpine produced 60% more milk than Landim, and halfbreds more than three times as much. Success by small producers Success by small producers has been achieved in Burundi where, in the densely populated highlands, there are 20,000 goats of mixed Alpine and Small East African (Burundi) blood. Goats with 75.0 and even 87.5% Alpine blood are managed by local farmers but it is probable that in the long term not more than 62.5% Alpine blood will be best for the prevailing management, feed and health environments. Introductions of exotic blood in Burundi resulted in increased lactation length and persistence as well as higher yields. Much of the excess milk is converted to cheese thus generating cash in addition to providing better nutrition. Improved human nutrition and increased income are also the aims in western Kenya, where a dual-purpose goat is being developed from a blend of two local (Small East African and Galla) and two exotic (Toggenberg and Anglo-nubian) types. There are many other cases of intensification, for meat (in Dominica for example), for milk (Norwegian goats in Tanzania) and for dual or multi-purposes (Anglonubians in the south-eastern highlands of Ethiopia). In Dominica mixed groups of local goats and sheep are crossed to exotic breeds and kept in locally designed raised pens with slatted wooden floors. They are but one of several enterprises on small (2ha) plots where farmers have been settled on old lime estates. The goats and sheep are fed grass cut from under lime trees and on dried lime peel, a residue of lime processing. In northern Tanzania some workers on sisal estates keep goats in similar raised slatted-floor pens close to their houses and cut forage from roadsides and field boundaries. What is clear is that the interest and enthusiasm for goat keeping are there and that further research on nutrition and health will result in the development of more productive intensive systems with benefit to small farmers - and the local environment.
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