Dr Benda tips farmers on profitable goat farming

Goats were humanity’s first domesticated livestock. Today’s goats provide tasty milk, delicious meat and rich organic manure, among others. Besides, it costs little to buy and maintain goats, and only a modest land plot is required to raise them. Of recent, there is a considerable surge in goat farming but not everyone succeeds in the venture.

Dr Katali Benda, the goat expert at NAGRC&DB, provides tips on how to succeed in goat farming.

Goats are naturally small and can utilize limited feed resources, in terms of quantity & quality. Goats are easily convertible into money and in many places, the unit price of goat meat is higher than that of other meat sold on the market. More still, the skin of the Mubende goat makes the best leather.

But before venturing into goat farming, one must know clearly their target. There are mainly two types of goat farmers; the majority who commercially rear goats for slaughter and milk production, and a few who raise breeding stock for sale.

Therefore, the investment in goats for meat and other by-products requires minimal investment in infrastructure, with the most important investment being land. This also requires moderate levels of supervision and all that is needed is for the animal to feed and convert the feeds into meat and any other product.

Within two years, a farmer is able to raise income from the sale of meat goats and/or milk from dairy goats. On the other hand, a breeding stock enterprise is complex and not only requires sophisticated infrastructure but also close proximity to veterinary services and other inputs. On the other hand, this enterprise requires substantial initial investment and comprehensive supervision.

Since it takes three to five years to develop pedigree information and accreditation, the returns in this enterprise are long-term in nature. I recommend that you choose the type of production system that fits within your broad objectives and resources.

Always define your production objectives before embarking on goat farming. For instance, local goats such as Mubende and Kasolwe have high immunity and are tolerant to worms but on the downside, they are slow in growth and produce little milk. On the other hand, although exotic goats grow fast and provide milk that lasts for many months, their immunity is low and are susceptible to worms and disease.

When selecting the initial stock, avoid obtaining goats from open markets but from established farmers. Also, look out for age at sexual maturity, prolificacy and litter size.

Recent research shows many farmers have turned to cross breeding of local goats with exotic ones in order to improve genes and traits. But this also needs to be done carefully.

Cross breeding should be done in a scientifically controlled manner. Luckily, NAGRC&DB already has a team of breeding technicians that can help guide a farmer in this.

Natural Synchronization

Natural Synchronisation is done by farmers in order to harmonise the kidding and other critical activities at the farm. It involves sudden introduction of a male into a group of females following total separation of 3 to 6 weeks at a minimum distance of 500 meters apart. The sudden reunion will make the females to come on heat and hence mated within 3-18 days. This is done for the following reasons.

  • Choose the best mating time to maximise fertility. For instance, during the period of abundant and cheap balanced feed resources.
  • To maximise on critical farm supervision. The goat farm owner may choose to schedule their leave dates during the critical periods of the production cycle such as kidding, weaning, marketing, etc.
  • Produce according to the market requirements and consumer demand. For instance, during Eid days or to fulfil some contractual obligations for supply of breeding goats to other farmers, NGOs or Government.
  • Upgrade your flock by breeding: Some farmers tend to access original breeding stock from poorly defined sources (no records) and use them as wombs to produce the base population whose parameters can be measured from day one. Once the first batch of the base population are produced, they are recruited as the mothers while the original undefined batch is sold off as culls gradually until we have mothers whose parameters such as birth weights, prolificacy, etc. are known.
  • Synchronising the workforce. This helps the farmer to save on the costs of maintaining the workforce that’s redundant most of the time when the activities are not critical.

Reproductive Efficiency vital

In order to achieve the multiplier effect of goats the numbers must grow and in order for the numbers to grow, the goat flock must be efficient in terms of reproduction;

Do not rush the young goats into engaging in reproductive activities before they are sexually mature. For females that are well fed, at least 8mo to one year, for males one year,

Feed the pregnant goats adequately especially in the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. The reproductive function of a female goat is developed before birth. The muscle cells that allow the males attain the potential mature weight are formed before birth.

Wean the Male kids earlier than the female kids to prevent inbreeding – they tend to mature quite early

Feed the buck for at least 8 weeks before engaging it for mating especially during synchronisation. Spermatogenesis takes at least 56 days.

give special feeding to female goats a few weeks before mating, but this has to be maintained after ovulation to increase embryo survival.

There is also need to supplement the nannies/does towards the end of pregnancy in order to improve milk and colostrum production as well as facilitate muscle cell development for male kids.

There is need to strategically supplement does/nannies with high-level proteins during the organ development phase of the embryo.

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