Quick Start Guide to Raising Goats in Zimbabwe

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Quick_start_guide_to_raising_goats

Earlier this year I interviewed Hopewell Chin'ono, an emerging farmer and journalist, about goat farming in ZImbabwe. My first question for him was why goats.

You see the reason I asked that question is because I had not seriously considered commercial goat farming. Growing up we had a few goats on our farm, but they were more pets than anything else.

In our interview with Hopewell, he talked about importing $600+ full-blood Boer goats from South Africa, and investing a significant amount of money into his goat operation. It got me intrigued and thinking perhaps I had been mistakenly overlooked goat farming. So I decided to do some research.

I spent last few months since that interview reading books, magazines, articles and listening to talks and discussions on goat farming. I discovered that there is a lot of potential in the underserved, and largely underdeveloped goat market.

You can read my interview with Hopewell here and also check out his Facebook page for goat videos and updates from his farm.


So why goats?

There are a number of reasons to consider raising goat. There is an increased demand for goat meat for export. Zimtrade did a market study and found that there is an increasing demand for goat meat regionally (Angola and DRC) and internationally (Middle East). This demand they state can provide an alternative source of export income making up for Zimbabwe's declining beef exports.

But they are other reasons besides the export market for goat farming.Goats are useful and versatile animals They can provide meat, milk and milk products, fibre and manure.

Around the world, goat farmers are renting out their goats for clearing land instead of using heavy equipment or pesticides. Rent-a-goat services are popping up in places like Australia and the United States. The University of Arkansas recently wrote a report on the business of using goats for clearing invasive species and land. The report is entitled "Using Goats for Brush Control as a Business Strategy". This could be a service local goat farmers could look into providing.

Emerging farmers in dry, low rainfall areas can also benefit from goat farming. In these dry, rural areas where limited grains and vegetables grow goat farming can be explored. Hopewell raises his goats on his family's rural village farm in Murewa.

Let's get started

We are going to cover all aspects of goat farming including choosing goat breeds, housing, feeding, caring and marketing your goats.

Choosing Your Goats

Choosing the right breed is important task and is one of the first decisions you make.There are a number of factors you need to consider when selecting your goat breed or breeds.

First you need to decide if you want your goats to provide meat, dairy or wool. Then you need to make sure your decisions matches with the available market.

You can talk to other farmers on online farmer groups and read up on goats to help you start make a decision.

Other attributes to consider when choosing your goat breeds are the breed's mothering abilities, adaptability, affordability, growth rate, carcass characteristics, milk quality, and milk quantity.

When you are ready to buy your goat you need to research and find a good breeder. When picking a breeder choose a farmer that has good records (e.g. birth weight, kidding). Go with an experienced farmer or worker to observe and inspect the goats before you purchase them.You should make an effort to avoid any animals that have any health problems. These will spread the disease to the rest of your herd. 

If you are looking for exotic breeds such as Boer goats or Kalahari reds you may have to import them from South Africa to get the best prices. When you are importing the goats from South Africa make sure you select a breeder with good records. If you are choosing high-grade breeds it might be useful to choose registered goats. Obtain the necessary paperwork for importing your goats from the government vet doctor. When you transport your goats from South Africa make sure that you give them enough time to adapt to your farm before breeding them.

While exotic breeds such as Boer goats can run as high as $600 or more per goat, most indigenous goats cost around $30-50 each when purchased locally. You need to get does (female goats) they produce kids and milk, and you also need good quality bucks for them to breed with to produce fast growing, healthy kids.

You should not purchase just a single goat. Goats are herd animals and do not do well alone. Also, profitable goat farming requires economies of scale. So you do need to invest in more than just a couple of goats.

Meat Goats

Meat goats are bred for meat production. They typicallyt require a larger space than do milk goats. They are usually large in frame and are bred for muscle and carcass development.

Here are some of the meat goat breeds well suited for Zimbabwe:

Boer_goats_in_Zimbabwe

Boer Goats: originally from the Eastern Cape, South Africa. They get their name from the Afrikaans word for farmer. Boer goats are the most highly productive meat breed and considered superior to most breeds. They have good bone structure, large body size, heavy weight and are fast growing. These hardy animals are adaptable to a wide range of pastures. They have long hanging ears, backward-curved horns, white bodies, and coloured heads. You can find Boer goat breeders on the SA Boer Goat Breeders' Association page.

Kalahari Red Goats: these goats were originally bred from indigenous goat stock. They are highly adaptable to harsh conditions and are hardier than Boer goats. They are totally red in colour. They are slightly lighter in body weight than Boer goats. They have excellent mothering and milk capabilities.

African Pigmy: originally bred from African and Caribbean goats. These dwarfed goats thrive in hot climates. Though they are not dairy goats they do produce milk.

Dairy Goats

Know_your_dairy_goat

The key difference between meat and dairy goats is that dairy goats have udders. These goats are built and bred for milk production. 

Goat milk is a great substitute for cow milk especially for people with cow allergies. Goat milk can also be used for goat products such as cheese, yoghurt, beauty products and buttermilk.

The factors to consider when selecting your dairy goats are good udders, butterfat content and the quantity of milk they produce.

Dairy goats need to be routinely milked. You should establish a milking routine and stay calm during milking so that your goat doesn't knock over the milk bucket. Milking goats takes time and practice.

Here are some examples of milk goats for Zimbabwe:

Saanen: originally bred in Switzerland. These goats are white in colour with short hair and horns and upright ears. They are large, big boned animals. They are also great milk producers and can produce up to 7 litres per day. Their milk, however, is low in butterfat. Butterfat (milk fat) affects the texture of the goat's milk.

Toggenburg: originally bred in Switzerland. Toggenburg goats are adaptable to both temperate and tropical climate though they do better in cooler climates. They are a medium size, sturdy breed that ranges in colour from fawn to dark chocolate brown. Their milk is high in butterfat content. They can produce up to 5 litres of milk per day.

Nubian: these are dual purpose goats. These goats are often referred to as the " Jersey" of the dairy goats for their milk quality. They are a cross breed between African and Indian goats.  Their milk is creamy and high in butterfat.

Nigerian Dwarf: this is a miniature dairy breed originally from Nigeria.  They have been used to develop a number of other small breeds.

Alpine: excellent dairy goats. Their milk has good butterfat content making it ideal for cheesemaking. 

Fibre Goats

Fibre goats are bred primarily for their fibre. A common breed of goat for fibre is the Angora goat.

Angora: originally bred in the Angora region in Asia. They are pure white goats that are raised for their fleece. Their fleece is known commercially as mohair. Mohair is one of the world's most exclusive natural fibres. They are delicate creatures and require a lot of maintenance and nutrition.

Indigenous Goats

Indigenous_goats_in_Zimbabwe

These goats are well adapted to harsh environments. They are bred mainly for meat. You can improve the quality of your indigenous goat flock by cross-breeding them with quality breeds like Boer goats. The advantage of indigenous goats is affordability and availability.

Housing Your Goats

Before you bring home your goats you need to have a shelter available for them to live in, as well as a fenced off paddock. The structure of the shelter does not need to be anything fancy, but must be adequate to keep your goats protected, dry and safe. It should also have good ventilation. You can build a new structure or convert an unused existing structure such as a shed or chicken run.

The goat housing keeps your goats safe from the elements (rain and wind) and also safe from theft, especially at night. You need to take animal security seriously when raising goats, especially expensive goats. Stock theft can be a big problem in a lot of farming areas. It is for us in Ruwa. Some security measures you can put in place are livestock guardian dogs, security lights and/or security guards.

Your goat housing should be fitted with feeding, watering and mineral troughs. 

Within the goat house, you need to provide stalls for breeding, weaning, storing hay and for quarantining sick animals. You will need to provide separate stalls for bucks, does with kids, does and castrated males. Bucks (male goats) should be at least 400ft away from does (female goats). This is to prevent inbreeding and breeding out of season. Make sure that your stalls are not overcrowded and each goat has adequate space.The floors in the housing can be dirt or concrete. Concrete floors are good for easy cleaning of manure and when disinfecting.

Provide access to the outdoors in a fenced off pasture area. The outdoor space should have a good quality fence such as diamond mesh fencing. The fence must be at least 1.5 m high because goats like to climb. A fence that is too short or with large holes won't work. They will either jump over it or stick their heads through the holes. Fencing should be budgeted for because it can be a significant part of your farming costs.

Feeding Your Goats

Goats require good nutrition to stay healthy. They are browsers and grazers and can usually sustain themselves on forages such as shrubs, leaves, sapling, pine trees, woody plants, rye grass pastures and weeds. While they browse and graze, goat prefer browsing trees over grazing pastures.

You need to rotate your goats when they are grazing. They can quickly deplete a pasture if grazing is not well managed. Shift them to a new pasture as soon as they exhaust the area they are on. Replenish your pasture by improving the soil and planting new grass seed. The Grasslands Research Institute in Marondera is a good source of grass seed for your goats.

Hay: hay such as lucerne (also known as alfalfa) is a good source of supplemental feed for your goats especially in the dry season. It is relatively inexpensive to grow or buy. It also helps prevents goats overgrazing the pasture and keep them healthy. Hay helps fill in any deficiencies in your goats' diets. Do use it in moderation though.

Store your hay in a dry place out of the reach of goats. If left alone goats can gorge and overfeed themselves to death. When feeding your goats put the hay in a hay rack or manger to limit waste and contamination.

Grains: Goats also need grains as supplements. You can buy commercial grains including maize grain, oats and sorghum in mash or pellet form. These grains help ensure your goats get adequate nutrients such as protein, minerals, vitamins and trace minerals.

Sweet Feed: hay pellets with molasses are a treat for your goats. Sweet feed helps your goats stay healthy, and improves milk production in milk goats.

Salt and minerals: provide your goats with salt and minerals in loose or block form. Salt encourages water consumption which is very important for goats.

Water: provide your goats with access to water in a shaded area. Put the water in a water trough. The water must be kept clean and changed regularly.

The nutrition cycle of your goats will change depending on their stage in production. Lactating goats should be fed high-quality hay and a grain ration to support their health and milk production. Good feed is critical especially close to kidding and post kidding. 

Weaning goats are weaned at about 2-3 months when they should be slowly transitioned to a creep feed ration.

Goats require structure and routine when feeding. The routine helps them anticipate what comes next. Provide them with a fixed schedule daily and monitor their eating weekly. 

Caring for Goats

The best way to care for your goats is to provide them with good feed like we discussed above and also practice preventative care.

Preventative care measures include: vaccinating your goats, managing ticks, lice and flies by dipping, and practising rotational grazing, cleaning stalls regularly, maintain good hygiene, dose and deworm goats regularly, isolate any sick animals. 

To manage your goats without overwhelming yourself set up a working facility to handle labour intensive tasks such as catching, sorting, hoofing, dehorning, shearing and castrating. There is equipment on the market that can help facilitate these tasks. 

Another important task for managing your goat farm is keeping good records. The records you keep should include your goat's birth date, birth weight, sire and dam, milk records (if relevant), treatment records, service dates etc. 

Record keeping will help with a lot of tasks including managing breeding and kidding. It also helps prevent in-breeding. In-bred kids typically have poor health and need to be culled. Tattoo your goats for easy identification and monitoring for better record keeping. Ear tags can be a temporary measure before tatooing them.

If you want to grow your goat herd you will need to breed your goat. Most commercial goat farmers have a set breeding season and schedule instead of year-round breeding. Time your breeding season with the market and availability of feed. When you are ready to breed select does that are ready in terms of season, age (around 6 months with good nutrition) and size. Coordinated breeding can reduce your work load.

Does have a gestation period of 150 days (5 months). Some goat breeds produce multiple kids. During gestation (pregnancy) you need to provide your goats with  adequate feed. When goats are kidding (giving birth) they need a quiet place and good management to avoid abortions. 

At the end of the season decide which goats to cull based on performance. Do not breed the same doe again too soon after kidding, or you can wear her out. Limit breeding does to no more than 3 times in 2 years.

Good management will increase your goats' survival rate and keep your goats healthy.

Common Problems and Diseases

Goats are prone to more internal parasites than any other herd animal. Some of the more common infections you may find in goats are pneumonia, tetanus, botulism, heart water, coccidiosis, worms, scabies, live fluke disease, arthritis and mastitis. 

Monitor your goats regularly for any signs of illness. Some signs of illness include a goat standing apart from the other goats, looking listless and dull, coughing, diarrhoea, high or low body temperatures.

If you notice any of these signs of illneess isolate the sick goat. Get some advice from an animal health advisor, extension agent or veterinarian on how to treat your sick goat (s) based on its symptoms. Make sure you explain fully the symptoms if they are unable to see the animal in person.

It is important to develop a good relationship with an experienced goat veterinarian. This person can help you with vaccinating your goats, selecting goats, and also provide you with documentation for your goats.

You should also maintain medical supplies on farm (a vet kit). This kit should include things such as ear tag applicator, gloves, mask, gauze swabs, knapsack, digital thermometer, hoof trimmers, antiseptic soap, syringes and blades. Companies that specialise in animal health such as Fivet and Farm and City are good places to visit for buying these supplies.

Marketing Your Goats

You need to have determined if there is a market for your goats. Determine when in the year the prices are the best for slaughter animals. Decide which goat market you want to target: slaughter market, meat market, value-added market or breeding market.

Timing is important for selling your goats at the prime selling stage and time. Your goats need to have reached market weight for their breed in time for slaughter time. Use a calendar to keep track of important dates. Religious holidays and observances such as Eid, Easter and Christmas are important for selling goats. Prices during these times are higher than other times of the year.

The Muslim community is a good target market for live goats and goat meat (chevon). You should look into halaal (humane) on-farm or off-farm slaughter if you are considering supplying this community.

If you have a critical number of goats you can set up and sell at auction on or offline. In-person auctions require coordination with the police and the government vet service to clear the animals. You can also sell using an online auction platform like the Remote Livestock Marketing System (RLMS).

Another market opportunity is to sell breeding stock to other farmers. You can use online and print classifieds, farmer magazine ads and social media to market your breeding goats.

The market for goat milk and goat products such as cheese is still a small, niche market so requires some legwork to find a consistent buyer. It also requires some promotion to educate consumers and stimulate demand.

Composted manure is good for citrus farming. You can sell your composted goat manure for a little bit of money to citrus farmers.

You can coordinate with other goat farmers to aggregate your goat meat to provide a consistent supply of goat meat to butcheries and supermarkets. It will also help you meet large volume orders. The market infrastructure for goats is still largely underdeveloped.

Budget

Your budget for goat farming includes variable and fixed costs. These include housing and equipment, goats, supplemental feed, labour, fencing, insurance and transportation.

Conclusion

Goat farming can require a lot of hands-on work to manage a commercial operation well. The hard work pays off in the form of meat, milk or fibre. There is also a need to continue to better coordinate and formalize this industry.

Let us know in the comments if you are a goat farmer and what your experience has been raising goats.

Further Reading





image sources: Hopewells' Goat Farm ZW; Dairy Goats Kenya

2 comments:

  1. Thank you very much for the article. It was very helpful and gives just enough to get one's interest. I am originally from Chakohwa along the Mutare Masvingo road. It is a region 5 area and we used to keep goats at our rural home for meat purposes (during Christmas or whenever the whole extended family was around)

    I am very interested in starting a goat farm in the VUmba area. The area is in region 1 and totally different climatic conditions. My email address is tfmurimwa@gmail.com please get in touch with me offline so I can discuss further.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please feel free to reach me at eleanor@emergingfarmer.com. I will be happy to point you to other resources for getting started again with goats. Also, happy to help you think through if goats are right for your farm.

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