Breed Profile: Beetal Goats
Versatile Indian and Pakistani Goat of the Punjab
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Breed: Beetal goats are likely named for the city of Batala, India, around where purebred animals are still found. They can be known by other names relating to their geographical location, for example, Desi, Amritari, or Lahori.
Origin: Native to the Batala area in the Gurdaspur district of the Punjab region, near the border of India and Pakistan, and distributed throughout the Punjab, in both countries, and into nearby states, such as Haryana, India.
Cultural Context in the Punjab
History: In Gurdaspur and Amritsar, India, along the Indo-Pakistani border, goats are mainly kept by the Sansi nomadic people, who are landless. Traditionally, herds browsed forested areas, which no longer exist. Sansi keep small herds of about five animals, which are mainly stationary these days. Goat owners take their does out to browse roadside and canal embankments, while bucks often remain corralled. Goat keeping is poorly esteemed in the area, but it presents a low-input source of income for impoverished communities, as goats sustain themselves on sparse vegetation.
In contrast, goats are popular in Pakistan as an economical source of meat and numbers are growing. Villagers keep goats for subsistence living or as a side business. They also have a role in clearing fields after crop harvest, and make colorful participants at agricultural shows. Goats are important to rural villagers, particularly for women and landless or marginal small-scale farmers. Herds are generally small, under 50 head, of which Beetal make up 4%. Distinct strains of purebred Beetal are maintained in several locations within the Punjab province.
Outside of purebred herds, Beetal goats kept by subsistence farmers are frequently crossbred. Beetal are also used to improve small and medium-sized breeds in India and other South Asian countries. They have been crossed with Swiss dairy goats for milk and meat.
Conservation and Diversity
Conservation Status: In India, the population is decreasing rapidly due to loss of grazing land in the Indian Punjab. They declined 23% from 1990 to 1997 and numbered just a few thousand by 2013. However, Beetal are popular in Pakistan, and listed “not at risk” by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), numbering about 2 million in 1996 and 4 million in 2006.
Biodiversity: Purebred lines display varying traits between distinct bloodlines. Pakistani breeders have differing breeding priorities, as dictated by market preferences for appearance. For example, Faisalabadi breeders favor udder shape, ear size, teat size, and body length, while Makhi-Cheeni breeders favor body length, color, height, and nose shape. Both Nuqri and Rahim Yar Khan breeders rate nose shape as their number one priority. Such physical traits sell best at local markets in the absence of production records. Outside of dedicated breeders, genetic erosion in the general population is caused by crossbreeding, mainly due to a lack of regard for native breeds.
Characteristics of Beetal Goats
Description: A large goat breed with a short, lustrous coat and long, hanging ears, 10–18 in. (25–45 cm) long. The prominent nasal bridge gives a distinct Roman nose that is profound in some lines, although bite should remain aligned. The Roman nose is more pronounced in males, ending abruptly. Both sexes have horns, although there are some individuals. Horns are small and thick, lying horizontally backwards, close to the body, sometimes with a slight twist. Teats are funnel-, tube-, or bottle-shaped, rarely the conical teats favored among breeders. Males have a dewlap (loose skin under neck). Neither sex has a beard.
Coloring: Black, brown, red, or white, sometimes pied, spotted, or mottled. Different pure strains bear characteristic coloring:
- Faisalabadi: mainly black or red with white markings;
- Makhi-Cheeni: white with red/gold speckles or golden with white speckles;
- Kali-Cheeni: white with black speckles;
- Nagri: dark brown with black extremities;
- Nuqri: white with pink skin.
Height to Withers: Depending on region, does average 25–35 in. (64–90 cm), bucks 32–43 in. (81–110 cm).
Weight: Depending on region, does average 77–132 lb. (35–60 kg), bucks 126–220 lb. (57–100 kg).
A Hardy and Versatile Breed
Popular Use: Multipurpose—milk, meat, and skin.
Productivity: Does are prolific breeders, averaging 1.66 kids per litter, kidding yearly from about 17 months old. They produce 2–6 pints per day (1–3 liters), averaging 3.8 pints (1.8 liters) for 150–170 days (averaging 161). They are productive for 4–6 lactations, yielding 330–660 lb. (150–300 kg) per year with 5% butterfat. Males are taken for meat at 3–12 months old.
Adaptability: Well-adapted to the dry conditions and tropical climate of the Punjab. They are heat tolerant and cope with local extremes of temperature, from 35ºF in winter to about 108ºF in summer (2ºC–42ºC). They cope well with the varying climates of India and Pakistan.
- Kashyap, K., Jain, A., Kasyap, S., Verma, U., Yadav, A., Dubey, A., and Sori, S., 2020. Genetic resources on goat in India: A review. International Journal of Fauna and Biological Studies, 7, 2A, 27–33
- Khan, M.S. and Okeyo, A.M., 2016. Judging and selection in Beetal goats. GEF-UNEP-ILRI FAnGR Asia Project, University of Agriculture Faisalabad (Pakistan).
- Muhammad, M.S., Abdullah, M., Khan, M.S., Javed, K. and Jabbar, M.A., 2015. Farmers’ preferences for goat breeds in Punjab, Pakistan. Journal of Animal and Plant Sciences, 25(2), 380–386.
- Ramzan, F., Khan, M.S., Bhatti, S.A., Gültas, M. and Schmitt, A.O., 2020. Breeding objectives and selection criteria for four strains of Pakistani Beetal goats identified in a participatory approach. Small Ruminant Research, 106163.
- Tantia, M.S., Vij, P.K., Sahana, G., Jain, A. and Prasad, S.K., 2001. Beetal goats in their native tract. Animal Genetic Resources, 31, 65–74.
- Waheed, A. and Khan, M., 2011. Genetic Parameters of Body Measurements and their Association with Milk Production in Beetal Goats. Advances in Agricultural Biotechnology, 1, 34–42
Lead photo of Makhi-Cheeni Beetal does from Syed Ali’s Goat Farm. Photo courtesy of Syed M. Ali.
Originally published in the November/December 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.