Africa contains one-third of
the world's population of goats and one-sixth of the population of sheep. On
average there is one goat or sheep on every ten hectares of land in
Africa. Meat production in
Africa from goats and sheep combined, is estimated at 1.15 million tonnes. This is
approximately one-sixth of world production. Milk from these animals, at just under two million tonnes, is approximately one-seventh of
world production and skins represents about one-sixth of world production.
Clearly goats are a very important part of African agriculture and as goats
become increasingly integrated with crop production on the majority of small
Africa their roles in food production, income and utilisation of
crop residues become more important.
and sheep have the ability to provide sufficient meat, milk, skins and fertilizer
for a smallholder's own use, with perhaps a little surplus left for sale. There
are many reasons why small ruminants are more convenient than cattle for the
They are cheaper to buy and
replace and easier to obtain than cattle.
They reproduce at an
early age, more frequently and have more young.
They produce manageable
amounts of meat, milk, skins and fertilizer for family use or sale.
They can survive on low
quality foods or in difficult conditions on relatively small amounts of food.
They integrate well with
both crops and other livestock production
Their small size makes
them ideal for women and children to keep or assist with
Small ruminants also
provide a ideal form of investment that avoids the risk
of loss in unstable economies and a means of easily realisable cash for farmers
with no access to banking facilities.
Africa, goats are kept for milk
as well as for meat. Goat milk is very digestible and is especially good for
the children, the elderly and the sick. This is because the fat is distributed
in small globules throughout the milk making it much easier to digest than any
other ruminant milk. The meat is also low in fat and therefore easily
digestible. Despite their hardy reputation however, goats do not like getting wet and chilled.
They are very susceptible to pneumonia, probably more so than sheep,
and this can be a major cause of death in flocks.
Choosing a breed
this is probably more dependent on what is available locally than anything
else. Local breeds are adapted to local conditions which often make them more
disease or worm-resistant than imported breeds. However, if an improvement in
milk or meat production is desired then keeping exotics or crossing with
exotics for those desired characteristics is an accepted practice. But if local
breeds are crossed with exotic breeds the 'up-graded' progeny will require
better feeds and greater health care since they will not tolerate poor feeding
and diseases as well as local breeds.
comprises all aspects involved in the rearing of animals including their
feeding, breeding, health, housing and general husbandry. Different types of
production management are:
Provided there is adequate land, free grazing allows animals to select and eat
the best food available. They can select the most palatable vegetation, and
their food intake is limited only by the time allowed for grazing. Labour input
is low with animals let out of their enclosure in the morning and shut in again
at night. The disadvantage of unsupervised grazing is that animals can also
access vegetation they are not supposed to eat such as growing trees and
neighbour's vegetables. Free grazing animals are also easily stolen, killed on
the road or eaten by predators so losses can be high.
requires the highest labour input and can be a problem where labour is also
required to carry out other farming and household tasks. This can be overcome
by neighbours amalgamating groups of animals and taking it in turns for one
person to supervise all the animals. Grazing should be of an
eight-hour duration to allow adequate intake of food.
requires little labour, but animals should be tethered on areas of good quality
fodder and should be moved two or three times each day so they can have
sufficient vegetation to select and eat.
known as 'cut-and-carry', this system is quite labour intensive as enough fresh
food must be cut and carried each day to provide a proper level of food intake.
Household waste can also be fed under with this regime. The system requires a
high level of management to ensure the animals are kept clean, well fed and
well watered but it allows for much closer monitoring of animals for breeding
and sickness. Keeping animals on slatted floors, which is the
best method, allows them to remain drier and cleaner and greatly reduces worm
infection. This system also prevents losses due to theft and predation.
age at which goats are ready to mate depends on breed and their level of
nutrition and therefore bodyweight and condition. Male kids in good condition
can sometimes reach puberty as early as three to four months. If they have not
been castrated males should be separated away from the females before this time
in order to prevent early mating which weakens them. Semen at this stage is not
particularly viable. Females goats in good condition
can also reach puberty at three months (nine months for a ewe) but poor feeding
will result in later puberty. Females should not be mated until they are
physically large enough to cope with both the pregnancy and rearing of the
young. If mated too young the female may remain stunted and any young born will
tend to be small with a lower chance of survival. She may also have difficulty
in conceiving again. Good feeding is essential throughout pregnancy
particularly in the last few weeks and the early part of lactation to ensure
that young are healthy and strong and the milk supply for them is plentiful.
which have continuous access to good quality food are less likely to become
ill. A number of factors affect the health of small ruminants, the most
important of which are feeding and general management. Other factors include: Intensity
of production; Age of animals; Breed; Weather/climate;
with other animals. Prevention of diseases is much more effective than trying
to cure sick animals. Good husbandry and understanding the main diseases facing
goats and sheep and taking preventive steps will reduce the risk of animals
becoming sick. Many diseases can be vaccinated against, these include: diseases
like pulpy kidney, enterotoxaemia, blackleg and also foot-and-mouth disease.
Maintaining clean housing and grazing reduce parasite and disease build-up and
the regular treatment of stock with anthelmintics will further reduce parasite
and disease challenges.
type of housing required will depend on the type of management system under
which the animals are kept. Where flocks are grazed out during the day, only
rudimentary night time shelter that provides protection against the weather and
predators needs to be provided. Other systems require a higher level of
construction and management. All housing needs to be well ventilated, light,
well drained and easily cleaned. The following points are important in
Sites should be well
Rammed earth floors must
be dry and drain well. Bedding should be of dry straw / wood shavings.
Raised slatted floors of
wood or concrete should be constructed so that the gaps are narrow enough to
prevent young stock getting their feet trapped
material for the construction, particularly of the roof is preferable.
Galvanised tin, whilst allowing for water collection, creates very hot
conditions underneath it
Goats will chew housing materials, any timber used must be free of toxic substances
or lead paint.
Housing must be cleaned
regularly to avoid build-up of dung with its infections and parasites
Housing must be large
enough to take all animals comfortably as crowding leads to bullying.
addition to the daily tasks of feeding, watering, cleaning and checking the
general health of the stock, the hooves of goats need to be trimmed regularly
depending on the terrain used by the animals. Hard, stony ground will wear down
hooves quickly compared to pasture. Animals should be checked for ticks and
maggots and any found removed either individually, or by use of appropriate
insecticide for heavy infestations. Any wounds caused by them should be treated
with appropriate antiseptic. Regular worming should also be part of routine
ruminants are hardy and adaptable animals. As with any form of farming, careful
attention to detail and good management are essential if animals are to thrive
and provide farmers.
Bank for the Poor
Rural Radio Resource Pack