Goat Husbandry Techniques Around the World
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Raising goats can be a rewarding experience, especially watching newborn kids frolic about with boundless energy and vigor. It’s worth all the time and hard work in keeping a herd safe and healthy.
Sometimes the task can be overwhelming when feeling alone and isolated. COVID-19 is an example, bringing about cancellations with many events: state and county fairs, animal shows, club meetings, and farm visits. Nowadays, the world waits in limbo, giving new meaning to patience and persistence during a pandemic.
Another challenge is access to viable veterinary care. Not everyone can readily call an animal clinic to set up farm visits for routine checkups, let alone when emergencies occur. Imagine the situation in other countries. It can be a daunting experience.
It doesn’t matter if one lives in the Texas Panhandle, along the coast of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Canada, or at the foot of the Andes in Argentina, people want the same for their goats — to be safe and healthy.
Animal husbandry techniques require commitment and resilience, tending to a host of tasks involving feeding and housing of the herd, monitoring health issues, breeding and birthing logistics, general maintenance/repairs, cleaning, manure management, fencing, and safety/protection issues.
Involved and Informed
Thanks to modern technology, it’s possible to connect with others across the nation and around the world. One can gather information from breed associations, veterinary resources, universities and teaching hospitals, and individual goat owners.
“It’s exciting to see individuals in different countries communicate and exchange ideas,” says Beth Miller, DVM, professor, consultant, and president of the International Goat Association, “One interesting situation recently has been the use of Zoom sessions. We’ve actually had the capability of using this online format for three years, but never really tried it until the pandemic caused conference cancellations. Like many other organizations, we use Zoom for meetings, but it’s inspired us to develop specific educational tools for our members, bringing experts together online to discuss various health and operational issues. Now we wonder how we ever managed without Zoom.”
For more information: IGA www.iga-goatworld.com
Some international ideas:
- Hawaii: Our 50th state, but worlds away from the mainland in terrain and weather conditions. Julie LaTendresse with Goat with the Flow — Hawaii Island Pack Goats, uses what grows naturally in the rainy and wet tropics on the big island: cassava leaves and bark for foraging, and the anthelminthic properties help destroy internal parasitic worms. Veterinary care is scarce in the rural areas on the island, so Julie relies on alternative medicine.
- India: An extreme opposite in weather is the dry and arid state of Rajasthan in the northern part of the country. The dry season is relentless, lasting up to 10 months, resulting in barren land without any foraging resources for goat herds in the area. Herdsmen are hopeful, thanks to BAIF Development Research Foundation, a charitable agricultural organization that helps individuals obtain a better quality of life through improved health, food security, and animal health.
Research shows that a local tree, Prosopis juliflora (English tree) produces giant, dangling pods in the spring, packed with protein and sugar. The pods are picked, dried, and stored in anticipation for the dry season. It has helped everyone survive, since the goat herders couldn’t afford to buy feed in the past. The abundance of pods has been instrumental in does getting pregnant and producing more milk, plus the overall health of the herds has greatly improved.
- Africa: In the country of Zambia, a bright young man, Brian Chibawe Jahari, goes the extra mile in helping local goat farmers in between his part-time work as a supervisor for Zambia Sugar Company, overseeing the harvesting of sugar cane. As a trained agriculturalist, Brian volunteers his time, showing villagers how to construct raised goat houses to avoid the perils of hoof rot that’s prevalent in rainy, wet conditions. Below the structure is a concrete edged slab that collects the manure from above for use in local gardens and fields as a soil amendment. His efforts have helped many individuals with valuable information and inspiration.
- Jamaica: Thanks to the efforts of the Small Ruminants Association of Jamaica, goat farmers are learning how to run a successful operation. Association president, Trevor Bernard, has a passion for visiting farms and building relationships, filming educational videos so others can learn about goat house construction, feeding and health issues. The organization also buys items wholesale: medical supplies, vitamins, disinfectant sprays, and antibiotics so members can purchase items at reduced costs.
“A major goal is helping farmers produce more meat goats for our hotel and restaurant industry,” explains Trevor, “eliminating the need to import animals from other countries. We’re also assisting those interested in operating dairies, with the hope of increasing milk production on the island. Another concern is helping members protect their property from thieves stealing their goats — a huge problem in the area. We highly recommend that individuals get involved with local, regional, and international goat associations. Together, we can make a difference.”
- Switzerland: High in the Alps, geissenbauer (goat herder) Christian Näf and his wife, Lydia, understand isolation when tending to their dairy herd. Every summer they trek high into mountain meadows so their goats can forage on tender alpine grasses. It’s an age-old tradition of Nomad farming that the Swiss have accepted as a way of life. A rustic cabin and shed provide shelter and a place to produce their delicious cheese that they hike back down the mountain to stock their store in the town of Göschenen. One needs to be self-sufficient and innovative in keeping the herd healthy far from any veterinary care, or dashing to the corner for supplies. One learns to be a jack-of-all-trades far from civilization.
- Australia: Anna Shepheard, Federal Publicity Officer with the Dairy Goat Society of Australia agrees, “Get involved, ask questions, and let your association help. An example here is snakes … big ones in our country. Besides providing information on eliminating hiding places on one’s property, we have suggested getting a flock of guinea fowl to scare off the reptiles. They’re amazing, fearless birds, sounding off an alarm that sends the predators slithering back into the bush. We also recommend considering guardian animals, such as alpacas, donkeys, or dogs like the Maremma, a loyal breed that lives among the herd, providing constant protection.”
No matter the location, one doesn’t have to feel alone, even when miles stretch around the world. Reach out, and start a conversation. Not only is it a lesson in learning, but an opportunity to foster new friendships while helping goats thrive.
Originally published in the July/August 2021 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.