General Principles of Goat Production

General Principles of Goat Production

Goats were probably the first ruminant animal to be domesticated some 8000 years ago. In the ancient civilizations along the rivers of Nile (in Africa), Tigris and Euphrates (in Asia) and Indus (in India) when populations migrated from these areas, the domesticated goats spread through the continents of Europe and America.

There are several good reasons for keeping goats even in preference to larger animals such as cattle. These include:

(a) Low purchase price

(b) Goats reproduce at an early age and have younger ones per litter than cattle.

(c) They have innate ability to survive on low quality feed or in difficult conditions or on relatively small amount of feed.

In Nigeria goat keeping is a major form of investment which keepers in rural area easily use to meet urgent financial needs. A lot of social and religious functions demand the use of goat for exchange of goodwill, marital gifts, sacrifices and ceremonies.

Goat meat is a highly cherished delicacy in drinking places and hotels because of its favourable attributes of low fat, flavour and relatively low fibre. For these and other peculiarities of goat keeping, its production is popular by its contribution to the national economy through the earning of foreign exchange from export of goat skin also known as “Morocco Leather” as well as providing employment for a host of individual being a major commodity for trade between regions.

At the end of this article, you should be able to describe the origin, distribution and breeds of goats, explain the various systems of goat production and factors influencing their adoption, explain the basic principles of goat production and apply the knowledge of feeding and grazing habits of goat for production purpose.


Origins and history of Goat

General Principles of Goat Production

Goats and sheep are small ruminant belonging to the tribe, called caprini. This tribe is divided into two parts or genera, Capra and Hemitragus. The Hemitragus, also called Tahrs, are wild goats found in Arabia, the Himalayas and south India. 

They have short stout horns, no beards, and long shaggy coats. They have only 48 chromosomes in their cells and do not cross breed with the Capra, which has 60.

The domesticated goat originates from the Capra genus and this includes five groups or species predominating in regions indicated as follows:

Capra hircus (Bezoar) West Asia

Capra ibex (Ibex) Central Asia, Near East, Alps

Capra caucasia (Tur) West Asia

Capra pyrenaica (Spanish Ibex) Pyrenees

Capra fakciberi (Markhor) Afghanistan, Pakistan

The Bezoar is thought to the main ancestor of today’s domesticated goat, but the Markhor has had a strong influence in Central Asia where many goats show the long coarse hair and scimitar type horns which are characteristic of both species.

The influence of the Ibex is seen in the prominent ‘Roman nose of breeds such as the Nubian, Jamnapari and Beetal. Distinguishing the origin of goats is not an easy task. It is practically difficult to tell the difference between a goat and a sheep. The most effective and simple away is to look at the tail. 

In good health and not under stress, a goat’s tail points upwards, that of a sheep hangs down. Goats can also have beards and the male have tail glands, which sheep do not. Horn shapes and tail or fibre covering may help classify goats, but this can be an unreliable method.


Goat population and distribution

There are some 639 million goats in the world, of which nearly 80 per cent are found in the tropic and sub- tropics. This compares with world population of 1,067 million for sheep and 1,306 million for cattle. All of these figures are estimates.


Goat Populations of the Tropics and Sub- tropics

Africa - 145m     - 41%

W. Asia – 53m     - 15%

S.E. Asia – 14m   - 4%

Indian sub – continent – 110m      -32%

Central America / Caribbean – 11m – 3%

Other Areas – 18m – 5%

The largest populations of goat are found in Africa and on the Indian sub – continent. In the tropics, 20 per cent of the ruminants are goats. It is also known that the population of goats has been growing at a faster rate than other ruminants.

Goats are found in all types of environments, from arid to humid zones. They do very well in the drier tropics, where their ability to withstand dehydration and their browsing habit enable them to survive where cattle or sheep cannot.

This means that they can exist in fragile ecosystems such as the Sahel where, consequently, they are often blamed, sometime unfairly, for degrading the natural resource base.


Breeds of Goat

There are some 300 breeds of goat, many of them located in the tropics and subtropics. They have developed not only in response to a particular environment but also because man has selected animals for specific characteristics.

These characteristics include temperament, productivity and ease of management. There has also been a great deal of crossing between breeds to produce animals that have the characteristic that are genetically controlled.

Goat breeds are not well recorded in the tropics and are often defined only by the geographical area in which they live.

Goats can be characterised by


Function milk, meat, fibre

Appearance Ear shape and length

Body size



Horned or polled shape of face

No one particular method of identification is satisfactory when taken by itself.

Description of Goat Breeds in Nigeria

Sahel Goat (W. African Long- legged goat)

This is also known as the Arab goat in Chad and the Maure in Mauritania. It is similar to other breeds in North Africa, being very long legged (70-85cm), and is found in the semi-arid areas in the north of W. Africa.

Many goats of Sahel breed are kept by pastoralists in mixed flocks with sheep. Not being trypano-tolerant the breed does not survive in forest and dense savanna where the tsetse fly, the carrier of trypanosomiasis, is found.

Males weigh 40 kg and females 27 kg when mature. They have small triangular heads, usually with horns. Their coats are short and very fine. Sahel goats are primarily kept for their meat, and little milk (less than 80 litres/lactation) is produced.

Around 40 per cent of births give twins, and under pastoral conditions the kids grow very slowly. A carcass dressing percentage of 48-50 per cent is common in adult goat. Like many desert breeds, Sahel goats have the ability to maintain their weight long periods under adverse conditions.


This distinctive re-coloured goat lives in Nigeria and Niger where it is kept in small flocks by Hausa-speaking tribes. Animal are confined away from growing crops and may be stall-fed.

The breed is well adapted to arid conditions and grows to 25 kg for females and 27 kg for males. Both sexes have similar shaped horns and males have beards. Because of the importance of the breed for their skins, the ratio of males to females in flocks is higher than in many other breeds.

The skins are of the highest quality in the tannery trade and are known as Morocco. Their ease of tanning makes them very popular for shoes and gloves. Twining is very common and a litre size of 1.8 is the average.

Milk yields of 0.5-1.0 litre per day have been recorded in experimental stations over three-month periods. Nannies with twins out-yield those with singles by some 20 per cent. When killed for meat the carcass yield is 45-50 per cent of live weight.

West African Dwarf Breed (Fouta Djallon Dwarf)

This breed is very short-legged and measure 50 cm or less in height. They are usually also in the 18-25 kg weight range. Dwarfs can be proportionately small all over or just short in the leg.

This dwarf breed is found in west and central Africa, along the Atlantic coast. It is trypanosome- tolerant and is adapted to the humid forest zone.

Goats are kept in small groups and left to roam about homesteads as scavengers. In Nigeria, few bucks are kept.

In Senegal, flocks are owned by women and numbers rarely exceed five. When crops are growing goats will be tethered. Bucks weigh 25 kg and nannies 22 kg when mature. Their height is 30- 50 cm. Both sexes have horns and toggles whilst bucks have beards.

Colours vary from dark brown to white and red. Twinning is very common, so average litter size ranges from 1.4 to 1.85kids. Milk yields reach 0.3 litre per day.

Systems of Goat Production

A number of different of goat production systems exist, including subsistence, extensive and intensive. The number of goats kept is often a helpful factor that indicates the type of system.

1. Subsistence: Subsistent farmer usually keep small number of animal and manage to use whatever feed resource are available at village level. This may involve feeding crop or household residues to stall-fed goats, tethering individual animals to verges or allowing goats to scavenge.

Tethering is common in parts of South East Asia, South America and the Caribbean where crops are grown and the goat must be prevented from damaging feed or cash crops.

Goats are tied with ropes or chains to pegs, trees or post to constrain their movement. They are moved to a fresh area of grazing once the current patch is eaten down.

Supplementary feeding with crop residues or household waste may be given, but not usually concentrate. Water is provided at night, when the goat is returned to its home.

Goat may be tethered in small groups or even led by ropes held by children or woman. In the middle East, where there is little groundcover for goat to graze, especially in the summer, small groups of goat owned by farmers growing dates and catching fish are kept in tiny shaded corrals. There they exist on a combination of cut grass legumes and leftovers from the house meals.

Also in the same region are to be found small flock of scavenging goats that, during hours, forage in dustbins, on rubbish dumps, in urban building sites, unguarded gardens and on low growing trees.

Only at night do they make their own way back to their owner’s home.

2. Extensive: Under extensive production systems, goats graze and browse large areas of land that are usually of a marginal nature, and unsuitable for other agricultural use.

This is usually because rainfall is low or unreliable. Goats can make good use of these areas provided the number of animals is controlled to match the carrying capacity of the land. The carrying capacity is the amount of forage available to sustain a set number of animals in a given area.

The size of flock within this system is often large, and other species, such as sheep, may also be grazed at the same time. Under sedentary systems the grazing available to a flock is limited by the distance it can travel daily to reach water, shelter at night and the pastures themselves.

A sedentary system is one with a fixed homestead and set grazing area. Some flocks may be moved to grazing area in different part of the country to utilize seasonal grazing or crop residues that are available only for limited period of the year. This is a migratory system which in some part of the tropics has developed over many centuries to become a very efficient way of using marginal agricultural hands.

In parts of African, Asia and India there are two traditional systems of extensive production which have utilized marginal area very successfully over long periods. These are nomadism and transhumance. Nomadism was widespread in the Sahel region of Africa and in the middle and near East but it is now becoming less common.

Nomads have camps which they move depending upon the amount of water and pasture available within an area.

As traditional livestock keepers they follow set routes within what are considered tribal lands. Modern day national boundaries are often ignored. Transhumance involves the movement of flocks between permanent settlement and temporary and seasonal pastures as well as between settlement and temporary and seasonal pastures as well as between different regional areas.

In Europe the flocks are kept in the lower plains during a winter period and moved to higher mountainous area when the climate is warm enough to allow vegetation to grow and be accessed.

Apart from altitude, transhumance also occurs between different areas with the change of season, as in the north- south movement in the Sahel.

Transhumance is found in Africa, S.E. Asia; the near and Middle East and also in the Mediterranean, Europe and S. America.

Animal from different families may be grouped together for the summer as one large flock and goat keepers may be hired if the families have other duties.

Goats are often moved to pastures at higher altitudes than cattle because they are more agile and can better use the sparser vegetable that grows at these heights.

3. Intensive: Intensive systems of goat production are those where the goats are confined and so not allowed to forage for themselves.

In Oman, large numbers of goats are reared for meat production in small group of 10-15 animals of similar ages and separated into males and female. Two hundred goats may be kept on one hectare of land with no access to grazing.

These feed lot or zero grazing systems involve feeding cut grasses (Rhodes, Buffel, and Signal) and cut legumes (leucaena, gliricidia, stylos) as well as concentrates, mineral and vitamins.

Other system include grazing improved pastures where may be used to boost yield, supplementary feeding of agricultural by products and supervise grazing of animal on limited areas.

In South India and parts of S.E Asia stall feeding of goats in crop growing areas is a very efficient method of converting poor value crop residues and tree leaves into useful feed production for humans.

It also avoids damage by the goats to growing crops.

Most intensive management involves high cost resulting from high labour cost, expensive feed, or a large investment in the inputs such as land or animals. It may be a combination of several factors to which there must be a high priced product.

Keeping number of goats confined in a limited area requires meticulous health care if disease, particularly parasite problems, are to be avoided. Care must also be taken to see that all animal are properly fed, have access to clean water and are regularly cleaned out.

Many methods of goat keeping combine the different systems of management as described here.

It is, for example, common in parts of Africa to use children, on returning from school, to shepherd goats that are confined to stall during the day.


Principles of Goat Production

Feed and Feeding

Goats are animals known to convert low quality fibrous vegetation into useful products for man. These include meat, milk, skin and manure. Goats prefer a varied diet and to be able to wander and browse a broad range of plants.

In traditional systems they make good use of the available vegetation. Because of their browsing habit they are often able to exist in areas of low rainfall and poor growth, where cattle and even sheep would not prosper. If their numbers do not become excessive, a good ecological balance can be maintained. Goats, being inquisitive eaters, will eat all types of vegetation as well as articles which have little feed value, such as cardboard and human hairs.

However, given the opportunity, they seek good pasture where they can select the grasses they prefer. They will often reject the legume clover which is favoured by sheep and cattle. This means that combining sheep and goats to graze in a single flock does not necessarily lead to competition between the two species.

Where a wide range of plants is available it is possible to keep more animals on a given area of land because each species grazes on a different type of vegetation. Goats are ruminants. This means they have four – stomach digestive system which comprises rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum in the adult goat with which they extract nutrients from fibrous materials using bacteria and protozoa that live in the rumen and reticulum.

Feed is initially chewed in the mouth and mixed with saliva before it passes to rumen. This material is returned to mouth for further chewing so that the particle size is reduced, speeding up subsequent digestion. This regurgitation is called chewing the cud. Like all ruminants goats can be seen chewing and re- chewing this material between grazing periods.

They chew the cud more at night than during the day. After thoroughly chewing cud the feed passes to rumen and reticulum, where microorganism break it into simple chemicals which are either absorbed into the body or are used by the micro –organism to reproduce.

The populations of micro-organisms break it into simple chemicals which are either absorbed into the body or are used by micro –organism found in the gut.

Digestive microbes are specific to particular diets and gradually change in response to changes in the types of feed being eaten. If a sudden change of diet occurs the system is upset because the microorganisms cannot digest the new feeds.

It takes days for the appropriate micro-organism populations to build up to cope with the new diet. The sudden introduction of a new feed can lead to scouring and loss of condition or even death in severe cases. For goat keepers, this means that any change in diet must be very gradual.

A new feed should be given in very small amounts at first, with the quantity being increased progressively over a period of days. The liquid mixture of rumen and reticulum passes to the omasum, where most of the water removed, and then to the abomasums. This stomach is very acidic and any micro-organism reaching it is killed.

Digestion from this point progresses with the addition of enzymes which are secreted from the gut wall. The digestive contents are now broken down into nutrients that are useful to the body. These are absorbed by the small intestine. This part of the gut is very long but is accommodated as a series of coils so it takes up as little room as possible.

More of the water is removed in the large intestine before the very dry dung pellets are expelled from the rectum through the anus.

Goats are able to extract almost all of the water from the contents of the digestive system, which means they can make very efficient use of whatever water is available. This is one of the reasons why goats can survive in arid regions.

It is considered a sign of good health if the dung is reasonable dry.

Feed intake

In the tropics, dairy goats will eat up to the equivalent of 4-5 per cent of their own body weight in dry matter daily. Meat goats will consume about three per cent.

In cooler parts of the world dairy goats have been known to eat up to eight per cent. Goats have a much better capacity for forage than sheep of a similar size.

How much a goat eats depends on its:



Production capacity, or

Whether it is pregnant or lactating.

Younger goats eat more than older ones because they are growing. Pregnant and lactating animals consume more than non-pregnant and non-lactating ones because they need more feed to produce milk and to enable the foetus to grow.

Goats with free access to feed will vary their intake depending on the energy available from the feed. One average bigger goats eat more than smaller ones.

All goats will eat more if the feed is in a fine rather than coarse form.

The goat keeper can influence how much goats eat by:

How finely ground the feed is

How much useful energy the feed has (measure in ME per kg DM)

If hay or straw is chopped, more will be eaten than if fed without chopping.

Finely chopped straw is often fed as part of a concentrate ration. More feed is eaten if the feed has a high energy density.

So if a high-energy feed such as or molasses is mixed with a fibrous feed such as straw, goats will eat more. Feed intake is generally measured in dry matter terms. Dry matter (DM) is the amount of feed remaining when all the water has been removed. It is used as a guide to how much fresh or moist feed can be fed.

Feeding example 30 kg goat

A 30 kg goat requires:

1. For maintenance 1.6% DM as % live weight = 0.5kg

2. For production 3.0% DM as % live weight = 0.9kg 1.4kg

If DM of feed is 25% four times as much is needed to achieve a set target figure, therefore:

• 1.4 x 4 = 6.4 kg fresh material daily


Much of the information used to calculate nutrient requirements for goats is based on research with sheep and cattle.

For goats you need a balance of five basic components.

1. Energy

2. Protein

3. Vitamins

4. Minerals

5. Water

All goats have a basic need (maintenance) for energy nutrients but some will also require additional (production) nutrients at particular times, for example, nannies in the final stages of pregnancy or when lactating or kids when they are growing. The energy from feed is used by the goat for maintenance. Maintenance energy is that amount needed to maintain the animal in a stable body condition and provide enough energy for walking.

Production is that required for growing and for producing milk or a foetus. It is required over and above the energy for maintenance.

Not all energy in feed can be used by the goat and so only the part that, the metabolisable energy (ME) part, is used to calculate how much energy is needed for a goat’s maintenance and production. Energy is measure in Mega joules (MJ) or calories.

(One calories = 4.2 joules). An average diet contains about 8.5 Mega joules (MJ) of Metabolisable Energy (ME) per kilogram of dry matter (DM).

However, the amount may range from 6 to 13 MJ/ME/kg DM. To estimate the amount of ME in a feed it is necessary to undertake a feeding trail to find out the digestibility measures of that part of the feed which is absorbed from the digestive tract into the body.

There is direct relationship with ME, shown as:

ME = 0.15 X DOMD

ME is in mega joules per kilogram of dry matter (Mj/kg DM). DOMD is digestibility of organic matter in the dry matter. Alternatively, small amounts of feed can be placed in an animal’s rumen in a small bag and the amount absorbed recorded over a period of time.

Very few of either of these measurements has been undertaken with goats in the tropics, so the amount of information specifically applicable to goats is limited.

In consequence, calculations for nutrition often have and also often based on data from the temperate regions of the world rather than the tropic.

For lactation the energy (ME) required relates to the energy content and composition of the milk produced.

Vitamins: Little research has been done on the vitamin requirements of goats and on vitamin deficiencies in tropical diets.

In many situations goats do not suffer from a lack of vitamins where they have access to pasture or rangeland. 

Most diets have sufficient vitamin A (carotene), Vitamins D and K if green vegetation is available. If vitamin B12 is deficient, as characterised by anemia, loss of appetite and poor growth goats should be given cobalt, which will assist intestinal micro flora to synthesis the vitamin.

Vitamin C does not need to be added to the diet as the goat is able to synthesize sufficient for its needs. 

Minerals: Minerals are important in the diet to keep goats healthy. There are two groups of minerals. Macro mineral nutrients (major) are in relatively large amounts while micro minerals (minor) are needed in very small quantities. 

The minerals needed in goat diets are given below: Macro Mineral Micro Mineral Calcium Iodine Fluorine Phosphorus Copper Iron Potassium Cobalt Manganese Sodium Selenium Zinc Chlorine Molybdenum Nickel Magnesium Sulphur Some soils suffer from mineral deficiencies or have minerals that are not available to plants and so are not ingested by goats.

Copper, cobalt and selenium are good examples. If goats receive insufficient copper they grow slowly and kids may be born unable to walk on their back legs.

Giving copper to the nanny can prevent this condition, but care must be taken not to overdose, since this may lead to death from copper poisoning. The only exact way of knowing whether a goat is short of copper is to take a blood sample and have it analyzed.

One method of giving copper is by an injection under the skin twice yearly. Alternatively, boluses can be given to the goat to swallow.

These remain in the stomach and slowly release copper over a six-month easiest solution to most minor mineral deficiency problems is for goats to have access to a composite mineral lick. These can be purchased from feed companies or sometimes local rocks or salt blocks are available.

In intensive systems minerals can be added to the concentrates feed. Selenium and cobalt can be added to the concentrates feed. Selenium and cobalt can be given as a liquid drench to counter any deficiency of these mineral. Calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P) are important minerals in milk production and a lack of calcium in the diet may lead to milk fever in newly-kidded nannies.

This condition can be fatal. As a guide 0.9g of Ca and P should be available per 1kg of milk produced. Mineral toxicity or deficiencies are less commonly seen in an acute form than a chronic one.

Copper deficiency, when most severe, will produce swayback in kids.

Where the deficiency or toxicity is less severs, more chronic symptoms include:


 Poor fertility

 Hair loss

 Poor appetite and growth.

Because these are also normal indications of poor nutrition and parasite infestation, identifying mineral deficiencies is difficult and best confirmed by the analysis of blood samples.

Water: All animal require access to water to enable them to perform normal body functions. This should ideally be fresh and clean. The more continuous the access the better the animal’s metabolism performs and the higher its production.

In practical terms, however, watering animals usually takes place once or twice daily or even very other day. The amount of water needed by a goat depends upon:

Amount of dry matter eaten

Whether the goat is lactating

 Air temperature

 Drinking frequency

 Water temperature.

If goats eat succulent feeds, which have high moisture content, they need to drink less than they do when fed on dry feed. 

In desert conditions they will lick the dew from the trees. If water is cool or available at all times goats will drink less.

In hot conditions goats keep cool by seeking shade under trees or rocks and will pant and sit when the air temperature exceeds 390 c. Panting causes loss of heat by evaporations of water from the lungs.

Indigenous goats have a reputation for being very tolerant to heat stress and having a reduced demand for water. Long or shiny coats are thought to help protect the skin from the sun’s heat.

Exotic breeds, on the other hand, are less adaptable and tend to eat less in hotter conditions which leads to body weight losses. Compared with sheep, goats pant less and lose less water in the faeces and urine. To achieve maximum efficiency, goats need to drink 4kg of water for every 1kg of dry matter they consume.

Water is more critical for growing kids and pregnant or lactating nannies than it is for other goats. The smaller an animal is the more water it needs relative to its size. This is because it has a large body surface in relation to its body size which makes it susceptible to heat stress.

Goats tend to thrive better than sheep under difficult range conditions because they are able to tolerate brackish or salty water which is often found in high temperature areas or near the sea.

For example, salt concentrations of 10,000 ppm (parts per million) in the water are well tolerated.

In arid regions or in the dry season the number of watering places declines and flocks may have to travel long distances to drink and then wait their turn behind herds of larger camels or cattle.

This reduces time available for grazing as well as causing overgrazing around waterholes.

Supplementation: Most farmers in the tropics cannot afford to give their goats any feed over and above what the animals can graze.

By being able to select particular plants, goats may be able to increase the quality of their diet, especially with regard to energy or protein levels.

In practice, their diet consists almost entirely of low-valve roughages. 

In these situations feeding a supplement to the diet can have a dramatic effect on productivity especially during the dry season, during late pregnancy or where animals are still fed. Supplement can be given as:

Concentrates containing extra energy (molasses, cereals)

 Protein source (legumes)

 Non-protein nitrogen (urea)

 Minerals/vitamins (salt licks).

Supplementary feeding is a costly exercise and only worthwhile if the improvement in performance gained it greater than the cost. If feeding pregnant nannies in the final month of gestation gives larger kids that grow well and can be sold for higher prices then supplementation may be worth doing.

This is especially so if the supplementation is cheap to obtain. Tree fodder is one example and agricultural by-products may be the other.

Practical feeding: In practical terms the following period are important ones to consider when feeding goats:

Bucks and nannies 1 month before mating

 Nannies for the 3 weeks after mating

 Nannies the final month before kidding

 First 2 months of lactation

 Growing kids, especially post weaning.

Only in selected situations are concentrates likely to be either available or given as a supplement. More likely supplements are legumes or crop residues. These might include leucaena, stylos, pigeon peas, sweet potato stems/leaves, groundnut haulm and cassava leaves.

When not being used for mating, bucks do not normally need supplementary feed. A small quantity of concentrate in the 3-4 week period before breeding will help build up body condition of bucks. This is important if the males have many nannies to mate or if climatic conditions are harsh. Bucks can lose a great deal of weight during the mating period.

Feeding nannies immediately before and for three weeks after mating keeps them in good condition and will help the implantation of fertilized eggs in the uterus.

By far the most critical period during which correct feeding is important for the nanny is the last month of pregnancy when the foetuses are growing very rapidly and causing a severe strain on the mother’s body reserves.

Reducing the ration immediately after kidding and then building it up again for the first three weeks of the lactation until weaning, will encourage good milk production.

If nannies are in very poor condition at weaning, supplementary feeding will enable them to regain body condition and to be in a good state for mating and conception. It is hard to justify the cost of feeding kids concentrates.

Supplementary feeding of kids after weaning will stop them losing weight that often occurs when the nannies’ milk is no longer available to them.


Feeding and Grazing Behaviour of Goats

Many parts of the tropics have long periods when little or no rain falls consequently vegetation’s dies back and surface water disappears. The quantity of the vegetation also declines, with the best being eaten first. The longer the dry period lasts the poorer the quality of the roughage becomes.

 Goats will then eat less of this material. If the nutrients in the feed are less than required for an animal’s maintenance it will begin to lose weight as body reserves are depleted.

As this happens the females will become anoestrus and so not breed. Nannies that are already pregnant will produce very weak kids. In very long dry seasons animals will die, with the youngest, weakest and oldest dying first.

Goat keepers may counter these adverse effects by feeding goats on tree leaves or legumes. This practice can lead to deforestation problems when many animals are kept. This has happened in some areas of the third world such as Nepal and the Sahel region of Africa.

Goats are selective and agile feeders. They will walk long way searching for feed and are happier having a range of vegetation available to them including trees, shrubs and grasses. Shoots and leaves are preferred to stem.

In intensive unit, if not managed effectively, goats will refuse and spoil a high percentage of forage offered. When goats are first let out on to pastures in the mornings they will initially graze unselectively but then start to wander and become increasingly selective.

Unlike sheep, goats will scatter and graze and browse individually, climbing trees or standing on their hind legs to browse at higher levels. They will stop grazing if disturbed, for example, by rain. In hot conditions goats favour grazing in the early morning and evening.

In Arabia they will graze at night if allowed, preferring to seek out comfortable shade during the heat of the day. Where goat keepers can control their animals under extensive system they may be able to use range better if they allow sheep and goats to graze together.

These two species are complementary in habit which means more animals may be kept in a set area. The sheep will graze the lower grasses whilst the goats will browse shrubs and trees.

Good goat keepers will know the browsing habits and movement patterns of the flock and their favourite watering and sheltering spots. They will allow natural resting times in the middle of a day and know when to move the flock.

Goats are much more difficult to move during cold, wet or windy periods. Goats change their feeding habit between seasons.

In the dry season they will eat bushes and trees which in wetter periods they would ignore, preferring in this season grasses and legumes. They can distinguish bitter, sweet, salty and sour tastes and show tolerance to bitter and salty tastes.

Although goats do not flock together in the way that sheep do, they do have a good herd instinct and if handled frequently become used to being moved or herded in large groups. Calling to animals in specific sound or tonation when feeding, will teach them to move together for handling.

Identifying the dominant females and males whom others will follow can also be useful.

Agro-industry by-products

Industries that process agricultural produce often leave residues byproducts that can be fed to animals. The feeding value of such by products varies considerable. Some examples are listed above but the same product’s feeding value will change with different samples feeding a product to a small number of goats to observe the effect is one solution to this problem.

Some by-products, such as molasses and cassava, are high in energy but low in protein whilst others, such as linseed meal or desiccated cotton seek cake, have good levels of both protein and energy.


Reproduction and Kid Rearing

1. Terminology Listed below are some of the most common terms used when referring to reproduction in goats:

Fertility: ability to produce sperm or ova

Prolificacy:  ability to produce young

Litter size:  number of kids born to each nanny each birth

Kidding percentage:  number of kids born or reared in relation to nannies exposed to buck

Kidding interval:  number of days between two successive kidding

Service: implant of fertilized ova that grows to foetus

Foetus: growing kid in uterus

Service: mating

Heat: oestrus

Fertility is affected by both environmental and genetic factors. For the farmer, fertility is seen as the ease with which a doe successfully conceives after kidding.

The shorter the period, or the fewer the number of services, the more profitable the exercise; and the happier the farmer.

The farmer would consider the number of services needed to get the nanny pregnant to be an indicator of fertility of the buck.

Prolificacy improves with age, with most nannies progressively giving more kids per litter up to their fifth or sixth kidding. Prolificacy is measured by litter size, kidding interval, kidding percentage or service period. 

These figures are usually expressed as per animal or for a group of animals. Thus the average kidding interval for the West Africa Dwarf is 258 days. Its litter size is 1-6 kids.


Conclusion on General Principles of Goat Production

The significance of goat production makes understanding of its management worthwhile and highly profitable. The adaptive characteristics and productivity of goats endear goat production to nearly every household in the rural area of Nigeria.

Goats are known as the poor man’s cow because of their ability to provide sufficient meat, milk, skin and fibre for smallholders unable to raise cattle. 

Greater benefits and expansion of current production status are possible if proper management is diffused among producers through informed experts undertaking animal production as a course.

This Article has attempted to provide students with basic understanding of the origin, distribution and breeds of goats found in Nigeria. The stockholding size, agricultural production system, level of investment and environmental factors underlying the system of production adopted in a place or at a particular session.

Like in other system of production, basic theoretical principles are needed to effectively and efficiently manage goat production in terms of feeding, reproduction, health and housing for improved productivity and profitability.

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