Goat keeping is widespread in Uganda. Goats are kept mainly for home consumption as source of income and for socio-cultural values.
However, the utilisation of goats as a means of improving household income is always constrained by low productivity. The majority of goats in Uganda are characterised by:
- Low birth weights.
- Low growth rates.
- High pre-weaning kid mortalities (37.5%).
Goat meat on high demand
Urbanisation has increased as has the population, and this has brought with it higher incomes and demand for meat. The price for goat meat (sh18,000) represents the highest cost per unit of meat sold on the market.
Goat meat (chevon) is preferred to beef because of its palatability and delicacy and is on high demand regionally and outside Africa, especially in the Middle East.
Being a low labour activity, goat rearing accrues more returns than most enterprises. Besides, small scale farmers are not able to raise cattle due to lack of land and capital, so many resort to goat keeping.
The small size of goats and high reproduction potential offers more production per unit of investment and the smaller carcasses are easier to market.
The feeds offered to goats by most farmers are of low quality and quantity, especially during the dry season. Sometimes farmers tether goats for just a few hours a day with a rope that is barely two metres long and rarely translocate them to fresh grass, resulting in undernourished goats.
To avoid this, farmers are advised to increase feeding time to at least eight hours a day. They should also consider feeding the goats at night and in the morning when pastures are still wet.
Goats cannot eat dirty feeds, so farmers should ensure that the feeds are put in racks or tied to a pole. The feeds should contain several kinds of nutrients. For example, a mixture of browse fodder trees like Moringa oleifera, calliandra, grillicidia, Leuceana and Sesbania can provide the essential nutrients.
This is a cheap alternative to the expensive ready-made concentrates (feeds).
Inbreeding in goats which is a result of uncontrolled breeding between biologically related goats reduces the viability of goats and resistance to diseases.
Inbreeding is where a farmer keeps a buck for the goat herd for a long time without changing it. Because of its associated disadvantages, farmers are advised to use one buck for only a year, after which a new one should be brought in either through exchange or buying.
This is the selection and retention of goats with good genetic traits like good weaning weights, birth weights, multiple births, milk yield among others.
Farmers should always retain the best selected breeds for high flock performance.
This is the mating of two different breeds and this combines the adaptability of local breeds with the high production potential of exotic breeds.
Farmers are advised to match exotic animals with local breeds otherwise goats will experience difficulty kidding (dystochia).
The most common exotic meat breed used for crossing in Uganda is the South African Boer goat. Boer goats are white with a brown head and neck, prominent horns, broad drooping ears, well-muscled and with study legs. They have a twinning percentage of 50% and 7% triplets.
They can endure difficult conditions, are early maturing with a high fertility and with good management, kidding is possible every eight months. They have low fat meat and respond well to concentrate feeding, although browse is preferred.
Crossing local breads with Boer goats improves the growth rates and conformation of our local goats and the offspring are superior to both parents.
Exotic goats versus cross breeds
Imported exotic goats normally experience high mortalities and lowered fertilities due to low resistance to tropical diseases, harsh environment and low levels of management standards (feeding and hygiene).
Where farmers have attained a good level of management, they are advised to go for the 75% crosses where they will achieve optimal production rather than maximal production expected of exotics.