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Goat production guide – Part 5: Turn your goat farming into a commercial business

Transforming from a subsistence or emerging farmer into a commercial farmer does not only mean that you will be working with higher volumes, but it also requires you to adapt your management practices to enable you to stay in control of your growing flock.

Some general management practices will be discussed here, namely condition scoring, ear tagging and record keeping. This will ease your way in expanding to become a commercial farmer.

An ear tag applicator such as this one can be used to tag each goat so that all the relevant information can be displayed.

Condition scoring

Farmers should be concerned with the body condition of their breeding animals. The term body condition refers to the body fat content of an animal.

Ewes should neither be allowed to become too thin nor too fat. Failure in reproduction, low twinning rates and low weaning rates will result if ewes are too thin. Overly fat ewes can suffer pregnancy toxaemia, but fat ewes are rarely a problem.

This is a standard way of assessing the condition of individual goats on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is very thin and 5 is obese. It is a way of telling whether your goats are getting too little feed or too much.

A condition score of 3 is ideal for weaning, breeding, and kidding.

You assess three different things:

•Backbone

•Rib cage

•Loin eye area (either side of the backbone above the tail).

Farmers can choose between either metal or plastic ear tags for their goats. Some choose to use both as an added measure in case one of the tags fall off.

Ear tagging

A simple system for giving your goats ear tag numbers:

•Decide on a letter for each year. For example: 2014 is A, 2015 is B, 2016 is C

•Then give each kid born that year a number – so A1, A2, A3, A4, et cetera. It is easy to sort goats when ewes and rams are given different coloured tags.

A goat’s age can easily be determined by checking its teeth. A young goat has “baby teeth” before the permanent incisors emerge, while an adult goat shows permanent incisors.

Record keeping

To be able to manage your goats, you need some basic system of record keeping. Your system should be able to give you the following information:

•The exact number of goats that you have (broken down into different age categories)

•The dates when your ewes gave birth and the number of kids born

•The number of goats that die (and the age when they die and cause of death)

•The exact goats that have been treated (for what and with what)

•Information on the mother of any particular kid

•When a particular ram was brought into the herd

•The age of any particular goat (the year it was born)

•The number of goats sold, time when they were sold and prices obtained.

General animal health programme according to age.

Checking age of goat

The age of goats can be determined by looking at their teeth:

•The first permanent incisors come through at approximately 15 months of age – thus the goat will show 2 teeth.

•The next two incisors come through at 21 to 24 months of age – thus the goat will have 4 teeth.

•The next two incisors come through at approximately 30 months of age – thus the goat will have 6 teeth.

•The last two teeth come through at approximately 36 months of age – thus the goat will have 8 teeth (it is said to be full-mouthed at this stage).

General animal health programme in accordance with the season.

Treatment calendar (including vaccination)

This programme needs to be tried and adapted where necessary because of the unique conditions of any particular site. General animal health programmes structured according to the goats’ age or the season can be followed.

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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