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Farming with goats Part 12: Improved breeding systems and management practices

Goat care and management depend on the animal’s age, health, nutrition, and pregnancy status, as well as production needs, the environment, and facilities.

Thus, farmers must be aware of the individual needs and provide for these. Proper care practices that ensure animal well-being may be the most efficient in terms of production. If certain management practices conflict with animal well-being, it will be to the producer’s long-term advantage to adopt practices that put animal welfare above short-term financial savings.

It is recommended that a certain breeding season is practiced, allowing for improved, controlled management of the flock. This is only possible if you can prevent rams from mating with your ewes. If possible, it is best to limit the breeding season to a six-week period so that you can manage kids as a single group.

The farmer must develop a plan that best suits his/her circumstances and consider the following: When are parasites bad? When is feed limited? When is weather bad for kids? A further advantage of kidding at a specific time is that it makes it easier to identify ewes/does that do not kid and raise the kids.

The optimal kidding time is from April to September when the weather is drier and the parasite burden lower. During rainy periods, parasites contribute to kid losses. A better system (if mating can be controlled) is to mate the goats in November or December so that they kid (give birth) in April or May the following year. During this period there is plenty of grass and browse, and the kids can be weaned on maize residues. In some areas it has proved best for goats to give birth in November when there is forage available and the kids have a chance to grow before the start of the dry season. This would require them to mate around June to July.

Spring kidding

An autumn breeding season, leading to spring kidding, depends on grazing quality and fodder flow.

Advantages:

• Fertility is high

• Offspring are weaned on good quality pasture

•Young ewes are mated for the first time at 18 months in the autumn

Disadvantages:

•Kidding in September/October when dry matter availability is limited

•Internal parasites are severe during spring and summer, and kids are particularly susceptible

•Cold spells during September may cause mortalities

Autumn kidding

Advantages:

•Dry matter is abundant during kidding season (May/April)

•Internal parasite infestation is lower and the young are generally healthier

•Weaned kids can be set to utilize maize crop residues which, when supplemented with a protein/nitrogen lick, can be adequate to finish them for the market

Disadvantages:

•Lower kidding rates

•The 18-month old replacement females will be mated during a period of reduced sexual activity

The need to know your goat’s weight

For good animal husbandry, the measurement of live body weight is absolutely essential for health management, breeding, nutrition, and marketing, for example:

•To administer the proper dosage of anthelmintics and other medication

•To determine the wellbeing of the goat or the presence of problems

•To be able to feed animals properly

•To be able to ensure that young female animals are mated at the ideal weight

•To be able to sell animals at a specific weight.

Record keeping

You need to keep some records while in the field and then have more formal records or registers in the office.

Field book

A field book is a book that is used on a daily basis in the field to record incidents such as:

•Goats that have had kids (record tag number of ewes, date, number of kids)

•Livestock deaths (including cause)

•Animals that are treated for illness or worm infestation

•Flock movements (for example when they are moved between camps)

Office records

In the office, it is necessary to transfer information from the field book into official records that allow you to track information, select animals to breed with, et cetera. You can have a flip file with plastic pockets to hold your record sheets, or you can have four separate notebooks.

Updating your records involves the following:

•Update the animal register (which provides details of all animals in the herd) to show any changes in the herd. You will also need to add in any kids that have been born (once they are given an ear tag). If animals have left the herd you need to indicate why.

•Update the kidding register – which provides a record of ewes that have kidded and the number of kids they produced. You can also include the kids’ tag numbers in this register.

•Update the health register (goats that have been sick, goats that have been dewormed or treated). If you keep records of individual goats, you will know which ones to cull.

•Update record of sales – including age, sex, price obtained, whether group or individual sale.

Heartwater is a tick-borne disease, which negatively affects the livestock industry and is transmitted by the Bont tick (Amblyomma herbraeum).

Blocking against heartwater

This is a method used to prevent deaths due to heartwater. The disease has an incubation period of 14 to 28 days, with a mean of 18 days. If you vaccinate goats with heartwater (that is infect them), and you are not able to take their temperatures daily and treat them when they have raised temperatures, you can block them on day 13 after vaccination, while they are still incubating the disease and not yet showing symptoms. You inject them with a long acting oxytetracycline at the correct dose based on their weight. Alternatively: treat animals that are new to a heartwater area every 7 days for 3 weeks (that is day 7, day 14 and day 21 after entry to the area).

This was the last and final part of the Goat Farming series. We hope that you have gained insightful information regarding goat farming. Visit www.proagri.co.za to read all the articles of this series.

The information in this article is credited to Mdukatshani, Heifer International South Africa and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development who published the Goat Production Handbook in 2015.

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