GOATS are an essential part of small ruminant farming systems and are raised for meat, milk, fibre, pelts and skins.
The relative importance of each of these products varies from region to region and is largely determined by ecological and economic factors.
Any attempt to improve performance under prev- ailing conditions must take into consideration their specific purpose in production system and performance potential under varying management levels.
If goat production improvement is to be successful, it must produce results relevant to the production system and increase economic returns to the producer.
Current prices for goats and lambs meat are very good because goats mature quickly and have a short growth. Farmers can bring products to market very quickly and improve their cash flow. This also means that herd and flock sizes can be rapidly increased. Return on investment is usually better for small ruminant enterprises than for cattle..
The goat wealth is in the hands of poor people and its farming carried out as a way of life instead on commercial scale. Entrepreneurs do not operate their units at efficient level due to lack of knowledge about modern farm practices.
No efforts have ever been made to alter their practices. The goat owners can commercialise their farming units by adopting modern technology.
Goat farming has a great scope in sub-tropical climate with the network of canal, forest areas, and pastures within valleys, grasses along the canals and at roadsides, good sunny days, ever increasing population and efficient labour force.
Rearing of goat has greater advantages over other livestock. Shorter gestation periods, high frequency of multiple births, high adoptability to different environments, feeding on a variety of plant species, low water requirements, small size and early maturity of small ruminants give goats distinct economic advantage over other animals.
They can be raised even on marginal lands and meagre resources.
Goat not only supplements the farmer’s income but also compliments the crop production business. It provides means of subsistence to the poor and helps in overcoming under employment in rural areas and enhances nutritional values of food thus improving the socio-economic conditions of rural community.
According to the Livestock Census 1996, goat population was 24 per cent of the total livestock. The population increases much higher due to migration in drought time as its meat is preferred over beef and mutton. There are several constraints hampering the development of meat production.
A total of 852,000 households mainly landless farmers are reported to own goats which mainly are raised for meat production.
Goat meat, milk and the converted dairy products are valuable goods. Its skin is of secondary importance because of economic reasons. Goat farming forms an integral part of agricultural production system as they are the main source of animal protein for people particularly in rural areas.
The animal converts otherwise, unusable vegetation on non-cultivated poor grazing lands and pasture to milk, meat, fibre and skins. Realizing the importance of goat farming system in Sindh a diagnostic survey was initiated by the Technology Transfer Institute (TTI) PARC, Tandojam to find out its potentials in Sindh.
Goat is a poor man’s cow because of its ability to provide meat, milk, skins and fibre for the farmer with a little surplus left for sale. There are many reasons why goat farming is more suitable than cattle for smallholders:
* The goat is cheaper to buy and replace, and easier to obtain than the cattle.
* Its reproduction begins at an early age and is more frequent.
* It produces manageable amounts of meat, milk, skins and fibre for family consumption or sale.
* It has an ability to survive on low quality foods or in difficult conditions on relatively small amount of food.
* It integrates well with both crops and other livestock production.
* Its size makes it ideal for women and children to keep or assist with.
The principal task of poverty alleviation and development is to increase farmers’ income. There are many blocks to this effort in poverty-stricken areas such as remote location and difficult natural condition, inconvenient transportation, information obstruction, industry singularity, lowly educated labour, restricted conditions for industry and commerce, and farmers’ lack of ways for income increase.
However, these areas though underdeveloped are abundant in resources for animal rearing. The natural condition is quite suitable for goat farming.
Goat farming is an intermediary business that supports crop farming and in initiating processing industry. It promotes the development of related industries such as slaughterhouse and meat processing, hide processing, clothing manufacture, packing, transportation, and communication.
Goat development enables a part of agricultural land to turn into nutrition producing. Goat farming through grass planting reduces grain production and increases livestock income.
In mountainous areas, it not only utilises the increasing grass resources with the national policy of returning cropland to forests and grassland but also enables farmers to make more money by getting motivated. It is an effective way to solve the ecological deterioration problem resulting from the uncontrolled crop farming.
Indigenous goat breeds are used in most underdeveloped areas with little crossbreeding improvements. Such breeds are not selected well resulting in closed-flock breeding with falling productivity. Fine quality goat breed development is a key to development and poverty alleviation.
Goat normally breeds thrice in two years by producing two or three kids at a time. According to survey results, 60 per cent goat gave twin births; 29 per cent single and 11 per cent triplets.
Traditional backyard rearing and extensive grazing in big herds are still practiced. Advanced technologies like compound feed and kid fattening are seldom conducted.
Management varies according to climatic conditions, available vegetation and resources, disease control and supplemented feed. It was found that 50 per cent animals were fed from field; 20 per cent used stall feeding; and 21 per cent grazing and stall feeding.
Feeding types of goat found that 51 per cent feeding was depended on tree leaves, cut fodder and kitchen waste; 29 per cent on tree leaves and 20 per cent on cut fodder.
Disease prevention and control are neglected which causes a vicious cycle that goats get fat in autumn, become skinny in winter and die in spring. Survey results indicated that the average mortality rate in adult was 14 goats with the loss of Rs2,107 per goat per year while seven kids die thus incurring loss of Rs696 per kids.
There are also problems of small output rate and low reproduction rate.
Goat farming plays an important role as they do not require costly inputs. They are the main source of animal protein for people particularly in rural areas. Goat farming should be based on rational exploitation of local resources, never sacrificing the environment.
Goat farming in agricultural areas should make full use of crop residues and planted grass while in pastoral area, over-grazing should be avoided. In mountainous area, goat can graze in hilly slopes and pastureland.
Crop residues, tree leaves and planted grasses can also be utilised. Goat development should increase the number of animals but greater importance should be attached to quality.
The development scale is determined by effective exploitation and sustainable utilization, realising the integration of goat farming development and ecological protection.