By Umar Nsubuga
It is a dusty day and the grass is drying up. But along the village paths in Lugusulu sub-county, Ssembabule district, goats roam around freely, as if they own the dusty paths.
It looks like there are more goats than people in the neighbourhood! The word embuzzi (Luganda word for goat) means ‘something that gets lost all the time’, but in Ssembabule, goats find their way around.
In fact, they do not just find their way around, but also help ‘thicken’ the sizes of their owner’s wallets. The goats come in different colours and sizes.
And in their midst, a kid is delivered every hour, every day. The kids jump around and run all over the place as their ‘elders’ feed on green mutuba tree leaves.
The mutuba is an indigenous African tree, from which the bark cloth is made. It is rarely affected by the dry season.
Ssembabule district is located within the livestock-keeping area, known as the cattle corridor.
Phoebe Kagambe Kusiima, a famous farmer in Rwentale-Kamata village, Kigoyera Parish, Kyarusozi sub-county in Kyenjojo district says for many years, she kept the East African indigenous breeds that were not commercially viable.
“They take long to mature and weigh less kilograms,” says recalls.
She, observes that, compared to cattle, goats are much easier to keep, hence making them a good money maker.
But with the introduction of the hybrid varieties 10 years ago, I started keeping goats for money. This was possible because my husband Professor Edmond Kagambe helped me to get these breeds.
“When I started serious farming, I realised that I could not sustain it if I was the only ‘bull’ in the kraal,” she says.
“I wanted everybody near our farm to keep goats because I knew it was the only way we could create a powerful marketing bargaining tool,” she says.
She then decided to partner with her neighbours to breed many, as a result, she sells improved goats to fellow farmers. The results have been tremendous. Now Kagambe, whose contribution to the agriculture sector in the district is unrecognisable for over ten years. She is now famous for her goats.
Improving the local indigenous breeds by crossing them with better breeds, like the Savanna, produces good results on the farm. She now maintains over 200 goats. They are mainly two breeds in her flock.
“I have the South African Savannah and Boers,” she says.
With the average cost of each of the goats at sh200,000, Kagambe’s goats’ enterprise is valued at over sh100m. Other than Kagambe, there are over 20 other farmers in the district, with an average of 150 mature goats, each.
Kagambe says the hybrid goats have got differences, compared to the local goats that she keeps. They grow fast. If well fed, a pure Savannah can weigh at least 20-30kgs of body weight in six months.
“I sell goats for slaughtering in their third to the fifth months of age when they produce the best quality and least fatty meat,” she says.
Whereas, an indigenous goat attains 10-13kgs of body weight or about eight kgs of carcass weight in over two years, she narrates.
Additionally, the improved goats deliver more than one kid during every delivery. This has helped her stock grow faster.
“A goat can deliver three times in two years. If it delivers two kids on two occasions and then one kid on the other, it means that one goat has given you five goats in two years,” she says.
Young females are mated from the age of 12 months. Good nutrition ensures that the animal grows faster and is ready for mating.
“If young goats are mated when they are very young (less than 8 months) they will remain stunted the rest of their life and will have poor reproductive performance,” she says.
A well-managed female can produce kids for about eight years.
If you have 20 goats delivering during the same period, you are likely to have 100 new goats in two years.
She explains that by the time the first 20 goats are making their third delivery, their first kids will also be delivering and by the end of the third year, a goat keeper who started with 20 female goats would have over 300 goats.
That is how her stock has grown. To keep 100 goats, a farmer needs at least five acres of land for grazing. Care for goats like resting on a higher ground is important, she say. This is why a good goat house must be raised from the ground by at least two feet.
“Their hooves are badly affected by water, so the higher ground helps them stay above the wet ground during the wet season,” Kagambe explains.
She says goats require care, just like other animals.
“Do not take them to eat when the grass is still wet. They hate wet grass and suffer from respiratory infections,” Kagambe adds.
“The ideal time for releasing them to the farm is after 11:00am, after the dew from the grass has dried,” she says.
Additionally, goats are also immunised periodically from diseases. Kids are vaccinated at 5 to 6 weeks of age.
Kagambe says this required the intervention of a professional veterinary officer.
Kagambe also advises that farmers not to ignore abortions in a goat herd. Isolate the goat from the herd and keep it in a quarantine for further examination, she observed.
Be aware that infected male goats and poisonous plants can cause gradual abortions or stillbirths in the herd. Be selective of the male breed you are keeping at the farm and must be disease free.
“Always consult your local veterinarian when you suspect infectious abortion in your goat herd,” she notes.
“You should also give them deworming drugs every three months,” Kagambe advises.
Regular deworming of goats is important in reducing incidences of death and slow growth within your herd.
Cost easily recovered
According to Peter Mubiru, a veterinary officer, a mature Savannah male goat costs as much as sh2m, while a female goes for as much as sh600,000.
But with the fast growth and multiple deliveries, the cost is easily recovered. Mubiru said with the Savannah, a farmer has got a 70% chance of getting at least two kids per delivery.
This is in addition to faster growth rates. Comparatively, while a local goat takes over a year and a half to reach meat maturity, a pure Savanna takes five months to do so.
“At that time, it will have at least 45kgs of live weight or at least 35kgs of carcass weight,” Kagambe explained.
Since a kilogramme cost about sh10,000, a farmer can sell a five-month-old goat at sh300,000. Beyond Kyenjojo district and in urban areas like Kampala, a kilogramme of goat meat nowadays costs between sh13,000 and sh16,000. And there is no shortage of customers.
“The price is higher than that of beef because its supply is low and yet the demand is high,” says Hajji Ibra Ssempala, a butcher in Bukoto, a City suburb.
Ssempala, narrates that only two years ago, a kilogramme of goat meat was sold at less than sh7,000.
“But then, the Sudanese market opened up which pushed prices higher,” he says.
Failure to meet the increased demand in the market creates the need for more investment in goat farming in the country.