Factors influencing weaning percentages of indigenous goats on communal grazing

Author: P.J. Sebei, C.M.E. McCrindle and E.C. Webb
Year: 2004
Issue: 5
Volume: 34
Page: 130 - 133

The traditional system of goat management is mainly characterised by low survivability and high mortalities of kids, which result in low weaning percentages. High mortality among kids and slow growth among those that survive are the major constraints to production. Weaning percentage is a measure of survivability of kids from birth to weaning. By examining the variables which affect weaning percentages in a communal goat farming system, it should be possible to develop an appropriate extension message to decrease kid mortalities and increase productivity. The aim of this study was to examine the factors that influence the survivability of kids from birth to weaning. The predisposing factors were used to develop extension messages for use by farmers in communal and small-scale systems. The methods in this study were based on participatory rural appraisal (PRA) and farming systems research and extension (FSR/E). Initially 20 farmers were subjected to structured interviews. Two-stage cluster sampling was done where farmers were the primary units and goats were the secondary units. The allocation procedure was based on the purposive selection of goatherds on communal grazing within Jericho (the district falls under North West Province, South Africa). Initially 20 farmers were interviewed using a structured questionnaire. Thirteen farmers with 131 does remained in the survey over the long term and were visited once a month over the course of a full year. Body condition score, weighing of kids and collection of faecal samples for evaluation of internal parasites were done. Management was observed and informal discussions conducted during the visits. Monthly precipitation and temperature data was obtained from the Department of Soil, Climate and Water. The parameters that were measured to study the relationship with mortality rates of the kids included: demographics and socio-economics of owners, nutrition, parasites (internal and external), infectious diseases, micro and macro environment (including housing scores), management, mortalities of goat kids (n = 131) over the course of 12 months. Internal and external parasites were sampled monthly and the weight, health status and body condition scores were monitored. The total mortality (n = 41) was found to be 37% of the total number of kids born (n = 131) and the survival rate to weaning was thus 63%. The majority (n = 10) of farmers were pensioners of fairly advanced age (mean = 68.9 years) who were also performing household chores. This reflects a shortage of labour. Nutrition did not appear to be a major problem. The major problems in this case were considered to be housing and internal parasites. For the appropriate and relevant extension message it is on these factors that more emphasis should be placed. It was found that a good market for goats exists in communal areas and flock turnover was about 20%. Thus, any improvement in the survival of kids would lead to a better financial return for farmers by having more goats available for sale.

Keywords: communal grazing, indigenous goats, weaning percentage
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