It is dusty. The grass is drying up. But along the village paths in Lugusulu, Ssembabule district, goats walk around lazily as if they own the village paths. The word embuzzi means ‘something that gets lost all the time’, but in Ssembabule, goats find their way around.
The kids jump around, run all over the place as their ‘elders’ pull at green mutuba tree leaves. The mutuba is an indigenous African tree from which the barkcloth is made. It is rarely affected by the dry season.
Ssembabule lies in mid-southern Uganda. It lies within the livestock keeping area known as the cattle corridor.
Traditionally, Ssembabule kept goats. But for many years, they kept the indigenous breeds that were not so good commercially.
However, it was because of the introduction of the hybrid breed about 10 years ago that residents started keeping the goats for money.
George Tushemereirwe grew up seeing goats. “We used to keep goats at home,” he says.
In 1994 after completing Senior Four, he decided to start real commercial goat-keeping. He selected 20 good local goats as the core for his enterprise. There was a lot of grass and the land was big enough, which enabled them to grow well. His farm is located in Nkoma village, Lugusulu sub-county, Ssembabule district.
Tushemereirwe kept the local goats until 2009, when he got hybrid breed goats on his farm, courtesy of a project managed by Ssembeguya Estates in Ssembabule district. The project is partly supported by the Government of Uganda.
“They were mainly Savannah and Boers,” he says. The goats started cross-breeding with his local breeds. Tushemereirwe now has over 400 goats. They are mainly three breeds. “I have the Savannah, Boers, Togenberg and local goats,” he says.
With the average cost of each of the goats sh150,000, Tushemereirwe’s goat enterprise is valued at over sh60m. Other than Tushemereirwe, there are over 100 other farmers in the district with an average of 350 goats each.
Multiplying the goats
In 2009, Tushemereirwe’s goat-keeping was boosted with over 100 goats, courtesy of Ssembeguya Estates. The goats where distributed to over 100 farmers around Ssembabule with each receiving at least 100 goats. They have since multiplied. These goats changed the face of his stock.
“They started breeding with the local varieties that I had and soon the stock improved further,” he says.
Tushemereirwe says the hybrid goats have got numerous differences compared to the local goats that he kept.
“They mature fast. If well-fed, a pure Savannah will weigh at least 20-30kg in six months,” he says. An indigenous goat attains 10-15kg in over two years. Additionally, the improved goats produce more than one kid every delivery. This has helped his stock grow faster.
“A goat delivers three times in two years. This means that if it delivers two kids on two occasions and then one kid on the other, this means that one goat has given you five goats in two years,” he says. If you have 20 goats delivering during the same period, you will have 100 new goats in two years,” Tushemereirwe explains.
He adds that by the time the first 20 goats are making their first third delivery, their first kids will also be delivering and by the end of the third year, a goat keeper who started with 20 goats would have over 300 goats. That is how his stock has developed.
However, Tushemereirwe warns that as the goats deliver, farmers need to remove their fathers from the stock in order to avoid in-breeding.
“You can either sell them off and buy new ones or exchange them with a fellow goat keeper,” he says. The he-goats are also sold off either for meat or to other goat keepers.
Tushemereirwe says goats require care, just like other animals. Goats eat most of the leaves in Uganda, including the mutuba tree leaves. This makes feeding them easy.
“Do not take them to eat when the grass is still wet. They hate wet grass,” he says. The ideal time for releasing them to the farm is after 11:00am after the grass has dried up,” he says.
Additionally, goats are also immunised against diseases.
Tushemereirwe says this requires the intervention of a professional veterinary officer.
He also advises that farmers must look out for abortions in goats. “You should also give them deworming drugs regularly,” he counsels.
Cost easy to recover
Bonny Kitaka, a veterinary officer who works at Ssembeguya Estates, says a pure mature Savannah he-goat costs as much as sh2m, while a female goes for about sh600,000. But with the fast growth and multiple deliveries, the cost is easily recovered.
Kitaka says with the Savannah, a farmer has got a 70% chance, while a local goat takes over a year-and—a-half to reach meat maturity. A pure Savannah takes five months to do so.
“At that time, it will have at least 45kg of live weight or at least 35kg of carcass weight,” Kitaka explains. Since a kilogramme goes for around sh10,000, a farmer can sell this five-month-old goat at sh300,000.
Kitaka says because the pure Savannah is still expensive in Uganda, farmers can improve their breeds by cross-breeding them with local breeds, for example, the Mubende goat.
The Mubende goat, said to have originated from Mubende, a district that neighbours Ssembabule, is one of the most popular local goats.
He explains that if you cross-bred a savannah with another goat, you will get 50% Savannah. And again, if you cross bred the off- spring with a Savannah, you will get 75% Savannah. Further multiplication of the 75% with a pure savannah will give you a pure Savannah.
“Gradually, you can build your stock into the pure Savannah through cross breeding,” he says.
Ssembeguya says this is a model that worked in Ssembabule and that it can work elsewhere.
“There is a ready market for goats all over the country,” Tushemereirwe says.
He sells most of the goat meat to butchers around Ssembabule and Masaka districts.
“Whenever I want money, I just call the trader and sell them the goats,” he says.
Tushemereirwe sells at least 100 goats every year at an average sh200,000 each. “However, I do not sell the pure breeds to butchers. I only sell them to other farmers who want to breed.”