Worm infestation is a serious problem facing goat farmers. Goats get exposed to worms mainly through mixed grazing, poor hygiene, and overcrowding.
Farmers should endeavour to see that their goats do more browsing than grazing, that is feed them more on tree leaves than grass.
They should also divide the goats into smaller groups according to age and size to avoid congestion and maintain high standards of hygiene on the farm. Worms multiply faster during the rainy season.
Young goats (kids) and newly kidded mothers (does) are particularly susceptible to worms. They should therefore be de-wormed more frequently.
However, while regular de-worming is recommended, farmers need to know that overusing de-wormers can undermine the animal’s natural immunity.
Chemical de-worming requires specialised equipment and skills than a farmer needs to acquire through training or by learning from more experienced colleagues.
Farmers should use both chemical and non-chemical means to fight worms in their goats.
Non chemical means include avoiding early morning grazing, avoiding swampy areas, maintaining high hygiene standards, encouraging browsing and stratifying (splitting) the herd.
Dam can lead to high kid deaths
The mothering ability and capacity to produce milk for the kids increase with the age of the mother goat (dam).
Young goats giving birth (kidding) for the first time (primiparous) tend to neglect their kids resulting in high mortality rates from the third day up to weaning stage.
Farmers are therefore advised to pay extra care to first time mother goats to ensure their kids are not abandoned or starved.
Young female goats which are overfed while in kid (pregnant) or mated to an oversized buck also tend to experience difficulty when giving birth (kidding), also leading to higher mortalities.
Farmers should give extra attention to young mother goats (does) to ensure their kids get some colostrum (A special nutrient in the mother goat’s milk, which boosts the newly born kid’s immunity).
Farmers can use a feeding bottle to give newly born kids, especially twins and triplets, at least 60mls of colostrums to boost their immune system.
In a situation where the mother (dam) of multiple kids has no milk, fostering can be done. Premature breeding can be prevented by separating the buck (male) and castrating the unwanted ones.
The ideal breeding time should be based on the goat’s body weight (75% of mature body weight which is 21 to 24 kg) and not age.
In-breeding leads to high kid deaths
Most farmers in Uganda keep the same buck for 3 to 5 years. The buck ends up servicing its daughters, which is very wrong.
Farmers should not keep a buck for a small flock of three to five goats, as it will be underutilised and it is not economical. One buck for 20 females is what is recommended, and the buck should not be kept for longer than a year on the farm.
Goat farmers in the same area can work out an arrangement where they swap bucks every year, to avoid inbreeding.
Improper housing can be dangerous
Kids should not be allowed to roam freely as this exposes them to the cold, accidents and theft. They should instead be kept indoors.
Housing structures for goats have to be constructed properly otherwise they can become a source of disease.
Diseases associated with poor housing include pneumonia, coccidiosis, mange and worms. Farmers should try to use goat houses with slatted (with gaps) floor at least for the kids.
For mature goats, the floor should slant a bit to facilitate the draining away of urine and faeces.
To avoid rot and termite attacks, use live tree poles like Ficus Natalensis (mutuba).
The roof can be made of a combination of papyrus mats and polythene material or grass thatch.
Give the goats enough space and ventilation: the wall should be 1 meter high and 1.9m2/ adult Doe, 1.5m2/non pregnant goat and 0.3m2/kid.
Kid deaths higher in rainy season
Season changes influence kid mortality through feeds and diseases.
Kid mortality is higher during the rainy season, with the animals suffering from pneumonia, cold, parasitic and bacterial diseases and worms.
To avoid all these, farmers need to ensure that their goats are housed in a dry and hygienic environment.
Negative effects of multiple kidding
While farmers love goats that produce multiple kids, this has disadvantages.
Multiple kids, especially when they are more than two, tend to be delicate, leading to high mortalities.
Two kids per doe is the ideal number, because those that give birth to three or four tend to lose some and end up with one. It is better to produce one kid with a high birth weight right instead of four light ones and end up with one again.
Farmers need to put in place a good management system, if they are to benefit from the increased litter size.
Always look out for starving kids by observing their stomachs.
Effect of weaning on kids
Most farmers in Uganda wean their goat kids at any age after six months. In meat goats, the practice should be to delay weaning to allow the kid to have maximum benefit of the mother’s milk.
However, if the kids suckle for too long, the mother also takes long to come back on heat.
The kid’s rumen (stomach) also takes long to develop, which might have a long term effect on its growth. However, suckling for six months on a good nutritious diet for the mother has no effect on the heat.
It is a good practice not to wean kids by age but rather by weight when there are 25 to 30% of mature body weights.
Those which are lighter should have extended suckling.
Overall, successful goat farming will depend mainly on good breeds, feeding, housing, disease control and marketing strategies. These factors are inter-related and affect productivity.