There are more than 3,5 million goats in Zimbabwe, of which 98% are indigenous breeds and owned by the smallholder farmers. The importance of goats increases as the rainfall decreases. Goats are hardy and easier animals to look after, because they can survive in harsh environments.
Goats are reared under extensive farming conditions, mainly for meat (chevon) and to a lesser extent for milk. Goats also provide skins of commercial importance, and manure for gardens and crop fields.
To some extent the productivity of these goats is low due various factors such as high kid mortality and lack of good animal husbandry practices.
- The vast majority of goats in Zimbabwe is indigenous and these are mainly the large Matebele and the Small East African (SEA) goat
•Average birth weights of kids range from 1,5 kg to 2,5 kg up to 3 kg
•The indigenous breeds are well-adapted to their respective environments
Other breeds found in Zimbabwe include exotic types, the Boer goat (mainly for meat) with a mature weight of 65 kg. The Saanen goat is for milk production and produces an average of 3,5 litres of milk per day. There is also the Angora goat for mohair production.
Management of does and bucks
Proper care of both female and male goats is an essential aspect of goat production. This includes strategic vaccinations and dosing, supplementary feeding, selection of breeding stock, kid rearing and weaning.
Management of females (does)
Young females are mated from the age of twelve months. Good nutrition ensures that the animal grows faster and is ready for mating sooner. It also increases fertility and multiple births. If does are mated when they are very young (under 8 months), they will remain stunted the rest of their lives and will have poor reproductive performance. They will also have insufficient milk to raise healthy kids. A well-managed female can produce kids for about eight years.
Gestation in goats lasts between 145 and 150 days (five months). A mature female can only mate when she is ready (“on heat”). The heat period lasts between 24 and 26 hours. During this time, she should receive the male. The presence of the male in the flock triggers heat. Coming on heat also depends on the nutrition of the animal.
Signs that may indicate that the animal is on heat:
•Shaking of the tail
•Mounting other animals
Gestating females should be separated from the main flock for close monitoring, at least two months before birth. This also reduces the loss of kids. At this stage they will need quality feed supplements to enhance feed reserves in the body. This will ensure a healthy kid and enough milk.
Management of males (bucks)
•Male goats are known to be fertile at an earlier stage than females. In such circumstances males have to be raised separately from females to avoid unplanned mating.
•Bucks have to be kept in good condition and well fed at all times.
•For breeding purposes bucks with horns have to be used, so as to avoid hermaphroditism (incukubili/bisexuality), which comes with the use of hornless/polled bucks.
•Bucks can be selected at an early age. A male kid born weighing about 2,5 kg or more could be selected for future breeding. Heavier and fast-growing bucks should be selected.
•Select bucks from twin births so as to increase the chances of twinning. Males not suitable for breeding should be castrated or culled.
The breeding system is an important aspect of goat production. It has a significant influence on immediate and long-term flock productivity.
This involves the mating of different breeds to combine characteristics found in the different breeds and to make use of the “hybrid vigour”. In simple terms this means that the offspring performs better than the parents. Crossbreeding is one of the methods used in meat and milk production. It can be disastrous if not done properly, leading to the disappearance of the existing genetic pool.
It is important for the farmers to know different mating systems that can be applied to their breeding flock.
Random mating is allowing any number of bucks to be with an uncontrolled number of females.
Advantages of random mating
3.Goats can kid any time; therefore, a farmer can sell any time.
1.High risk of inbreeding
2.High risk of spreading diseases.
Assertive mating is putting the best females with the best buck. This is better than random mating.
Advantages of assertive mating
1.High quality breeds
2.Maintain genetic base
1.Unavailability of appropriate breeding stock
2.Difficult to implement in a communal setup
3.Lack of technical skills, including records
Selection and culling
Selection is a process of choosing the animals with desirable characteristics to be parents of the next generation.
Culling is the process of removing unproductive animals (old goats, animals with poor mothering abilities, poor reproductive performance, and animals with chronic sicknesses) from the flock.
In a controlled mating system:
•A male goat should be kept with females for 36 to 42 days, the reason being that a female which misses mating or coming into heat has a second chance within the mentioned period.
•A mature buck can be given 40 to 50 females to service. A young buck can be given 25 to 30 females. The effectiveness of both male and females depends on their body condition at mating.
Below is a calendar that can assist the farmers to plan their flock breeding cycles. This helps the farmer to plan when to purchase inputs, market and to perform strategic operations.
We thank the Department of Agricultural Research and Extension, Zimbabwe in the book Goat farming as a business, who made the information available to the readers of ProAgri BNZ.