The Goat Competitions of Pakistan
Breeding Big, Beautiful Goats
Meet the prize-winning goat named Zamzam. This Beetal doe lives on Syed Ali’s goat farm in the town of Toba Qalandar Shah, in the province of Punjab. Syed Ali started breeding Makhi Cheeni Beetal, Barbari, and Nachi goats in 2009. His goats won the national competition in 2010, 2011, and 2015. They also claimed first in the milk competition in 2015. His favorite goat is Zamzam, who gives him 1.7 gallons of milk a day and produced 11 kids in four births. One of her kids sold for 1,500 U.S. dollars at the age of three months, which he says is the price of a stud sire. He told me Zamzam is the best goat he’s ever seen.
Goats make up an important part of Pakistan’s history, culture, and economy. Archaeological research points at the Indus Basin in Pakistan as a possible site for the first domestication of goats. The third-largest goat-producing country in the world, Pakistan has around 54 million goats and that population keeps increasing.
First All-Goat Show
In 2011, the University of Agriculture Faisalabad conducted Pakistan’s first goat show. Before that, goats were part of horse or cattle shows, but didn’t have their own. More than 700 goats competed in beauty, weight, and milk competitions. Beauty competitions, which are breed-specific, included classes for Individual, Pairs (one doe and one buck), and Flock (five does and one buck). Weight and milk competitions were open across breeds.
In 2012, the show expanded to include a goat kid competition judged by children between the ages of five and eight. Breeds represented in the main show included various strains of Beetal, Nachi, and Diara Din Pana, as well as single strains of Barbari, Pak Angora, and Teddy. At least five television stations telecast the show live.
The Dancing Goat
Although all breeds compete for weight, milk, and beauty, only one breed, Nachi, includes a “best walk” competition. Nach means dance in Hindi, and nachi means one with dancing quality. Native to Pakistan, these goats exhibit a beautiful prancing gait. Many feel no goat show is complete without a Nachi walk competition. Their beauty and unique gait make them a draw, bringing many more spectators to the shows. These goats are also judged on their ability to follow a herder. The winning doe is decorated with a turban.
Breeding for Sacrifice
Goat farmers in Pakistan face a different market than we see in the West. Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. It also honors the son who urged his father to do as God asked. Before Abraham could complete the sacrifice, God provided a lamb to sacrifice in the son’s stead. During this holiday Muslims, in Pakistan and around the world, sacrifice an animal in commemoration. The animal is divided into three portions. The first is given to the needy, the second to the home, and the third to relatives. Around 10 million animals are sacrificed each year in Pakistan*. A spirit of competition to offer larger and more beautiful sacrifices is woven into the culture. In order to earn more money per animal sold, farmers need to raise attractive bucks that will reach maximum size in their first year.
One week before Eid al-Adha, a huge competition including goats, cows, camels, and other animals occurs in Faisalabad. The main competition for goats is heavyweight male open class. One article listed the 2018 champion at a whopping 300 kg (661 lbs) for first place, 292 kg (643 lb) for second, and third place came in at 289 kg (637 lbs). Another source told me those numbers were inflated and the winning goat actually only weighed 237 kg (522 lb). Either way, those are enormous goats.
Can Goats Get Too Big?
Brokers buy promising goats and work to get them to maximum size for the competition. The goats usually leave the breeders at 100 kg (220 lbs) to 140 kg (308 lbs). Much like our practice of finishing cattle, brokers feed them large amounts of high protein feed to fatten them up for the slaughter. The winning buck I talked about only weighed 200 kg (440 lbs) before the extra feed. Syed says the unnatural extra weight puts a lot of strain on these bucks. They can’t move around as well as a normal goat. Inexperienced or uneducated brokers sometimes go too far, and the over-finished bucks are unable to bear that much weight. Some collapse and a few even die.
The New Role of Goat Shows
In 2004, Semantic Scholar published a paper on the livestock resources of Pakistan. They stated, “Sheep and goat breeds are at higher risk of losing their identity, due to indiscriminate breeding and lack of any breeding-policy, or directive from the government. In fact, government has never seriously undertaken any significant development-project or programme for improvement or selective breeding of local breeds.”
Syed is now the president of the Breeder Goat Association, Pakistan. He said many farmers and breeders in Pakistan have no knowledge of breeding standards. In 2009 there were goats that stood 48” in height, but by 2019 four-year-old bucks on the same farms only reached 42” to 43”. National and regional goat associations now work with universities to create breed standards across the country. Goat shows conducted at the University of Agriculture Faisalabad and smaller regional festivals create awareness and education for breeders.
Working for a Better Goat Future
A 2016 publication by Institute of Animal Sciences, the University of Agriculture Faisalabad on judging and selection in Beetal goats states, “As many goat farmers participating in goat shows are poor, due respect should be paid to them to encourage them to continue raising good animals. Some have no experience of presenting animals in shows which requires patience from Judges. Whereas leniency should be shown for good animals that are not so well-groomed, animals that are artificially made to look much better than they are genetically, should not be highly ranked, as such artificial and highly temporary attributes would not be passed on to the subsequent generations.”
Zamzam doesn’t know she is part of a national effort to preserve and improve Pakistani goat breeds. She just knows she is the queen of the farm and that she makes her owner proud.
*For comparison, in the US, 68 million turkeys are killed for Thanksgiving and Christmas each year. These birds are bred to be much larger and have more breast meat than wild turkeys.
Originally published in the September/October 2019 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.